Title: No Matter What the Future Brings
Pairing: Rick/Victor Lazlo, Rick/Captain Renault
Disclaimer: If they belonged to me, I’d be dead
now. Seriously, Howard Koch gets all the credit for this, as well as Warner
Summary: Of all the gin joints in the world, the love
of Rick’s life has to turn up in his. But is it who we always were led to
believe it was?
Warnings: m/m, m/f, spoilers for the movie
Notes: Do I really need to mention that racial
epithets are appropriate to the time and place, and do not reflect the beliefs
of the management?
No Matter What The Future Brings
It was his nose mostly, I think. Straight. Patrician.
The first time I saw him, and saw that nose, I fell.
I was working as a professor at the time. Strangely enough,
so was he, although our jobs were nowhere near the same.
He was a guest lecturer at City College of the City of New
York, while I…well, I was tickling the ivories in the parlor of a bawdy house
on 118th Street.
I was trying to pick out the notes to a piece of music a
colored boy had given me back when I was a doughboy. Joplin was his name, if I
Some gentlemen callers staggered through the door, pulling
at their coats in a vain attempt to straighten them and trying to look sober.
All except one, who was sober.
I glanced at Jake, our bouncer, and he gave me the nod,
letting me know he had his good eye on them. Jake only had one good eye, but
when he turned the burnt side of his ruined face toward you, it didn’t make
any difference. He was a man not to be fucked with.
Our latest callers paired off with some of the girls and I
went back to diddling with the tune. There was that one bridge that I just
couldn’t seem to get my fingers to reach.
“May I?” a lightly accented voice asked.
And there he was.
I managed to grin around the cigarette dangling from my
mouth, the long trail of ash never quite reaching the point where gravity took
over and spilled it to my lap. I nodded toward the space next to me on the bench
and he slid down and flexed his fingers.
Long, graceful, with neatly trimmed nails, they hovered for
a moment over the keys, and then settled to strike a chord.
I winced at the sounds he was producing, and he smiled and
shrugged, and leaned against the keyboard.
“I’m not very good,” he said apologetically.
“No, you’re not,” I laughed, and thrust out a hand to
him. “Rick Blaine.”
“Victor Lazlo.” His warm, dry palm grasped mine and my
eyes shot up to his in surprise.
I disengaged from his grip before I could betray my
interest in what he made me feel. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
I wanted to groan. That was a really bright remark.
He pondered a beat, then responded as if the fate of the
world hung on his answer. “No, I am Czech.”
“Czech…mate?” I teased, but he took me seriously. I
was to learn that he had no sense of humor.
He shook his head. “I forget you Americans are so insulated. Czechoslavakian. It’s a fair-sized country in eastern Europe.”
“I know, it declared its independence from
Austria-Hungary in the last couple of years, didn’t it?” I could tell I
surprised him. Just because I worked in a whorehouse didn’t mean I wasn’t au
curant with current events. I read the Tribune! “So, what are you doing here
in the States?”
“I have been invited by the City College to speak of what
is happening in Europe, of the strikes, and the battles and the terrorism that
is going on. Georges Clemenceau asked me to try to awaken the American people to
the dangers that are lurking on the horizon!”
“The Tiger? You know the Tiger?”
“You have heard of him?”
“You bet your ass! I saw him when I was in France. I
would have sold my soul to meet him, but my regiment was assigned elsewhere and
then they found out I was underage and…”
“You fought in the War? C’est impossible!”
“Why is it impossible? Because I work where I work? I
think you’re a snob, my friend!”
He looked at me from under his eyelashes and a slow smile
warmed his features. I felt my heart stutter in my chest. “I think you’re
correct. Forgive me, mon vieux?”
My mouth went dry and I nodded, my head jerking as if it
was on a string. “Care for a drink?” I tried to ask casually.
“Isn’t Prohibition in effect in this country?”
“Sure, but who pays attention to that?”
“You break the law so casually?”
“What you have to do is know the laws so you can break
He looked so stern, and I wanted to be inside him so badly
I almost came right that minute. Then his face relaxed. “This is true.”
“So you’ll have a drink with me?”
“If you’ll let me buy.”
For a moment I forgot to breathe. No one had ever offered
to buy me anything before.
“Sure.” I was at a loss at how to deal with this.
“Just as long as you realize I’m not that kind of guy!”
He went very still. “What kind of ‘guy’ is that?”
I had been trying to keep it light, but somehow only
managed to put a strain between us. “I…I only meant I don’t roll over for
just a drink. I…didn’t mean to insinuate…”
He rose to his feet, making a production of checking the
time. “That’s quite all right, it’s getting late. I should be going.”
I grabbed his sleeve. “Your friends are still occupied,
and it’s not that late. Let me buy you a drink.”
He thought about it, then relaxed and sat back down beside
me. “Cointreau, perhaps?”
I looked at him blankly.
Still no response from me. A small smile curved his lips
and I lost myself in the wonder of contemplating his mouth. What would it feel
like, under mine?
“I’ll have whatever you’re having, Richard.”
“Rick. My friends all call me Rick.” I was growing rock
hard in my trousers.
He leaned closer to me. “But I want to be more than your friend…Richard.”
I sucked so hard on my cigarette that the ash trembled once
and then finally spilled down my vest and onto my lap. The smoke clogged my
lungs and I began choking on it.
And then his lips were on mine and he was inhaling the
smoke I was coughing out, swallowing it deeply.
I had never been kissed by another man before, and I
shivered. The sensations caused by his mouth had me sagging bonelessly against
him, needing something, needing… more.
One of the benefits of my current job was access to the
girls. And when the nights got too lonely to bear, sometimes I took advantage of
that outlet. But none of them, pretty and skilled as they were, had ever had me
so hard I thought I would explode.
My hands sought his shoulders and I pulled him closer to
me, trying to get inside his skin.
“Ah hem!” The extremely loud sound of Jake
clearing his throat brought me back to reality and I shied away from Victor
Lazlo so abruptly that I lost my balance and fell off the piano bench. “You
might want to take that out back, kid. If Miss Claudie ever caught you
canoodling with one of her johns, you just might be out on the street!”
The Czech said nothing, waiting to see what my move would
“You gonna keep this to yourself, Jake?”
His ruined smile had a sadistic twist to it. “Sure kid.
But you can bet your ass it’s gonna cost you!”
I climbed to my feet and dusted the cigarette ash off my
trousers. Then I walked to the bouncer, my right hand extended in a conciliatory
manner. His smile widened in satisfaction and he took my hand.
My grip tightened, not painfully, but just enough to hold
him in place. I swung from the shoulder and planted my left fist in his face.
His lips split and blood dripped down his chin. I hit him again, and this time
the cartilage in his nose crunched. One more blow, this time to his glass jaw,
and I released my hold on his hand.
He staggered back, stumbled over his feet and fell to the
oriental carpet Miss Claudie favored. She wasn’t going to be too happy with
him. Blood could be so difficult to get out of that type of rug!
I leaned over and hissed in his ear, “*This* will cost me
nothing, Jake. And if I ever hear of this incident getting out, I will
come back and personally destroy the other half of your face. When I get
finished with you, your own mother will cringe in horror! Have I made myself
“Yeah, I hear you!” he said grudgingly. I turned to
pick up my music and Victor cried a warning.
I swung around and the full weight of my body was behind
that last punch. Jake went down for the long count. I pulled back my foot to
plant a solid blow to his ribs, when Victor placed a gentling hand on my arm.
“You’ve won, you don’t need to kick him.”
“You don’t understand. He would have done that, and worse to me!”
”But if you do that to him, that will make you as bad as
“And I would be so disappointed in you.” That
last was spoken quietly.
I gnawed indecisively on my lip. And then he smiled, and I
knew he had won.
“I have to get out of here. When Jake comes to, he’ll
lose no time in telling Miss Claudie what I’ve done.” I headed for the back
of the house where the tiny room I called home was situated.
“You’ve lost your job, because of me?” He was
following me down the dimly lit hallway.
I shrugged. “This isn’t my first job. It won’t be my
last.” I was on my knees, my rump up in the air, as I searched under my bed
for the grip I had brought to the whorehouse with me.
“What an absolutely delicious ass you have, Richard!”
His long fingers stroked up the crevice between my buttocks and a sound that was
half moan half whimper whispered from my throat. “Do you like that, cheri?”
Like it? I had never felt anything close to that in my
life. My knees slid farther apart of their own volition and my ass raised higher
as I pressed back against those probing fingers, wanting to feel them inside me.
He pulled me out from under the bed and rolled me onto my
back. In the dark of my room, his eyes were like shadowed pools of midnight,
glittering feverishly into mine. Slowly he lowered his head until his breath
washed over my lips. His hand was between my thighs, cupping the arousal that
growing more insistent by the minute, then abandoning it to squeeze and roll my
“I can give you so much more, Richard!” he said softly,
and then he kissed me. His lips pressed against mine until I parted them and he
gained entrance to the moist heat of my mouth. His tongue surged in and lazily
licked and stroked my tongue. I couldn’t breathe.
Victor Lazlo pulled away from me, watching in satisfaction
as I ran my tongue over my lips, tasting his passion.
And then we heard the slightly drunken giggling as one of
the girls saw her john to the front door. And I was jolted back to reality.
“I have to get out of here! Jake is going to try to beat
the shit out of me if he catches me here when he comes to!”
I climbed to my feet, pulling the grip up after me. For
some reason my fingers were all thumbs and it took longer than it should have
for me to pack. Finally I just dumped shirts and trousers and underwear into the
case any which way and snapped it shut. Victor was holding the sheet music, and
I extended my hand for it.
He looked down at the scales and notes and clefs, then
raised his eyes to mine and smiled. He turned on his heel and walked out of my
“Hey!” I bolted after him, lugging the grip.
“And of course I’ll return it to you. When I get you to my place, Richard!”
Note: A fin is $5 and a sawbuck is $10
I wanted to nip into Miss Claudie’s office and rifle the
contents of her safe, lightening them by just a little bit, but Victor
wouldn’t allow me to follow my own inclinations.
“That would not be the proper thing to do, Richard!”
“But she owes me a week’s salary!”
He just kept insisting that breaking and entering into my
former employer’s safe was not honorable.
And while I had done some things in my life that were not
strictly by the book, I had never yet crossed the line. I found I wanted him to
…think well of me.
So I trailed after him out onto the street with only a fin
and a sawbuck in my pocket, and no prospect of a job.
That didn’t worry me much. I was old enough now so that I
could join the U.S. army. They needed soldiers, to patrol the Canal Zone, the
Philippines, the southwest border. How different could our army be from the
I stood on the curb, hesitating as he hailed a cab. Did he
really want to take me back to his room?
He gazed at me blandly. “Well, Richard? Get in!”
When he said my name in that tone of voice, he didn’t
have to order me twice. I was in the cab and waiting for him before the words
were out of his mouth.
I wanted to pull him into my arms and feed off his mouth,
but this time I used a little discretion, and just sat back and devoured him
with my eyes.
He was leaning slightly forward, talking in a low voice to
the driver. He looked over his shoulder and saw me watching him, and I heard him
catch his breath.
“Tell me something, Richard.”
“Sure.” I shifted restlessly on the back seat, my
trousers suddenly too snug for comfort.
“Have you done this before?”
“Done…what?” I hedged, shooting a cautious glance at
the driver’s head.
He said something in a language I was unfamiliar with. I
had picked up some French when I was in the Canadian army, and the neighborhood
I grew up in was such a melting pot that I couldn’t help but learn a
smattering of German and Italian. But this was a language that might as well
have been Greek, for all I understood it.
The cab pulled to the curb and Victor smiled tightly as he
reached into his pocket for the fare. I followed him onto the sidewalk and stood
there doubtfully. He tipped my chin up just a bit. Although I had gained my full
height when I was still a kid, it had taken me a long time to get comfortable
“Stand straight, Richard,” he murmured. “You can be
so much more than you allow yourself to be. Ah, come this way.” He led me up
the steps of the brownstone and into the building.
I wandered about his room, examining it with some interest.
It contained an iron bedstead, a nightstand and a simple chest of drawers. The
lavatory was down the hall, and if you needed to bathe, the public baths were a
couple of blocks over.
“What about your friends?” I asked, a little tense,
trying to make conversation. I always was uncomfortable in those moments before
I actually got down to the business at hand.
“Merely colleagues,” he corrected. “They wanted to
show me a good time in the big, bad city.”
“And did they?”
“Show me a good time? No, I think they were having a
better time than I was. That is, until they took me to Miss Claudie’s Bawdy
House!” He smiled teasingly at me.
“Won’t they be worried about you?”
He shook his head, his eyes fixed on my mouth, and my lips
“They teach at the college where I have been invited to
speak. I’ll see them again on Monday. I sincerely doubt they’ll even miss
me. They perceive me as an alarmist, and are uncomfortable in my company. They
refuse to face reality, and so dismiss what is happening in Europe.”
“What is happening in Europe?” I asked
distractedly, not really caring. I was enjoying the feel of his fingers
threading through my hair, flexing against my scalp. I closed my eyes and almost
times are ahead, my friend, for us all! Many have died, and many more to come! I
fear this is just the beginning!”
“’Every man’s death concerns me, for I am involved in
“You know Donne?”
“Why does that surprise you?” I was getting impatient.
“D’you think, because I’m American, I haven’t read Donne, or I’m
ignorant of what’s going on in Europe?”
“Not many in this country do. That is why I was asked to
come here. We are going to need help so desperately!” He didn’t want to talk
politics any longer; he licked the side of my throat.
And I lost my train of thought. His fingers were busy with
the buttons of my vest, and I leaned against him and spread my legs, rubbing my
urgent arousal against him.
I relished his hands on my body, one firmly kneading my
ass, the other stroking the front of my trousers.
With a soft groan I reached up and bit at his mouth.
“Kiss me!” I whispered. “Kiss me as if there was no tomorrow!”
My trousers were somehow down around my ankles and I was
bare to his touch. “You never answered me, mon coeur. Have you done
I shook my head. I didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to
think. This act would put me beyond the pale. I heard, the time I spent in the
army, what men had called those who preferred their own sex, and I didn’t want
to consider what making love with another man would make me. I just knew that I
wanted it, had to have it, with the Czech.
And so, that night he made me his. On the simple iron bed
in that sparsely furnished room, he took me in his mouth and suckled me to
completion. While my body was still quaking from the aftershocks of his
lovemaking, he turned me onto my stomach and pressed a well-lubricated finger
past the tight ring of muscle that guarded my opening.
Then, for the first time, I felt him begin to slide his
prick into me. “Cheri, I will make this so good for you!” he vowed. The
sting was fleeting. When I would have moaned a protest at the discomfort, he
turned my head and took my mouth, filling it with his tongue, stifling my gasps.
I was determined to tolerate it without complaining, but then he crossed
something inside me and I felt as if he had set me on fire.
He did it again, and I needed more of that feeling. I got
my knees up under me and thrust back, trying to match his rhythm.
I was hard once more, and he took me in hand, his fingers
sliding and stroking. He fastened his teeth on the back of my neck and with a
hoarse groan, he began to come, the heat of his climax a burning torment inside
me, until I too began spilling myself over his hand, over my abdomen, over the
I collapsed under him, his weight a warmth and a comfort
against my back. “Will you let me stay the night?” I mumbled wearily as I
tried to catch my breath.
“Of course, cheri. And for as long after that as you
A grin was making its way across my face when I tumbled
headlong into a dreamless sleep.
I was alone when I awoke, but only as long as it took for
him to fetch us two steaming mugs of coffee. He set the mugs down on the
nightstand and sat beside me on the bed.
“How are you feeling this morning, mon coeur? Sore?”
“Just a little,” I conceded, not wanting to discourage
him if he chose to use me again. “Nothing to signify. And you, mon ange? Are
you sorry you hooked up with a professor from a whorehouse?”
“You speak French!”
“Un peu,” I said, holding my thumb and index finger a hairsbreadth
“Richard, you enchant me!” His mouth came down to claim
mine. “I regret nothing!” he whispered against my lips.
And the coffee grew very cold.
Note: lucifer is a match
“Where are you going?”
I grinned at my lover, lying there in the bed we shared,
then turned back to the mirror over his dresser and continued fussing with my
“Gotta go look for a job, cher homme. Can’t have all
your friends thinking you’re keeping me.”
“Would that be so bad?”
“What, your friends thinking I’m a tramp?”
He shook his head. “If anything, they’d think you’re
a gigolo, and that I am quite the, how do you say, dapper dan? to have someone
as tasty as you in my life. But they don’t: they think you’re the most
fascinating creature they’ve ever come in contact with. You made such an
impression on them at the cocktail party last night.”
I’d agreed, reluctantly, to attend the party the chairman
of his department was hosting. With some of the money I had on me after I left
Miss Claudie’s, I was able to purchase a presentable suit jacket. My trousers
were still good, and the vest was my good luck charm: I bought it with my last
army paycheck and had landed a decent job not long thereafter.
“You’ll have a good time, Richard, I promise you,” my
lover said as he crossed the threshold of the chairman’s home.
“If you say so, Victor.” But I was withholding judgment
at that point. A lot of rich, college boys had come uptown to Miss Claudie’s
to spend their daddies’ money, and I had helped Jake toss out more than one of
I paused to marvel at him as he walked up to his sponsor,
his hand outstretched in greeting. Graceful, polished, cultured, he was
everything I wasn’t. I shook a cigarillo from the slim pack I carried in my
vest and dipped my head to touch the tip to a lucifer, never taking my eyes from
the scene before me.
Students and instructors alike hurried to his side, anxious
to speak with him, to touch his arm, to bathe in the aura of the man. They might
not pay any heed to the message he was trying to get across to them, but the man
himself they liked and respected.
Some, perhaps, even wanted the fine body concealed by the
sedate suits he wore.
I allowed a small smile to curl my lips and went to join
him. One of the young men, who had been standing a little closer than I thought
proper, caught that smile. He backed away involuntarily, and my smile broadened.
He could look all he wanted, but the man was mine.
I spent the evening fetching him drinks and hors
d’oeuvres, saying little, observing much. He was a man others would follow,
would be willing to die for. I knew that, because it was what I would do without
a second thought.
“They were watching you, you know. You…intrigued
I snorted at him. “More likely they wondered why you kept
someone around who couldn’t hope, in this lifetime, to match your savoir
faire.” I walked over to the bed and leaned over to cup his chin in my hand. I
tilted his head up and caressed his lips with my own, pressing lightly until he
opened to me. We were both breathing heavily when I drew back. Serious now, I
continued. “I won’t be an embarrassment to you, cher ami. And…I
need to know I can pull my own weight in this relationship.”
“Richard, how many times must I tell you that you can do
anything you set your mind to? Did you not run away to join the Canadian army
and fight in the Great War? And exactly how old were you at that time?”
I shuffled my feet, uncomfortable with his praise. I had
only done that because the young man next door, whom I… admired… very much,
had grown impatient with President Wilson’s isolationist policy. Determined to
fight the Huns, he had crossed the border and enlisted. His letters home were
filled with such romance, and derring-do.
And then came word that he had been killed in the Argonne.
I left for Canada the next day.
I lied about my age, and they chose to believe me. Basic
training was duck soup compared to the treatment I got from my old man. At least
no one there beat me with his belt.
Then we shipped out.
And I learned the truth about war. It was not romantic in
the trenches. There was no derring-do. War
was dirty and bloody and cold and wet, and the good ones died young. While
bullets whizzed past my head, cutting my comrades to doll rags; while gas
canisters exploded around me, and they dropped like flies, choking on their own
vomit; while bombs shattered the stillness of those endless nights, I survived
without a scratch.
“Richard, where have you gone?”
“You were a million miles away.”
“Sorry.” I turned to leave the room, but he caught my
hand and pulled me to a halt.
“Cher amour, many men died in that war. But many men
lived. You must not blame yourself because you were one of the lucky ones.”
I stood frozen in the middle of the floor, ignoring
everything he said as inconsequential except for the first words he uttered.
Love. He called me his love!
This was the first time it had ever been mentioned between
us. With a low sound, I ripped at my tie, tossing it to the floor and threw
myself at him. We fell backward onto the bed and I made myself hold still when
all I wanted was to bury myself deep inside his heart. I couldn’t take my eyes
from that finely etched mouth.
Victor let his tongue slowly moisten his lips, and I moaned
helplessly. I dropped my head and copying his movements, I licked his lips. His
breath rushed out to wash into my mouth. Almost frantic with need, I grabbed his
hand and brought it to my crotch. I could feel his smile as he stroked me
through my trousers, his nails lightly digging into my hardened flesh.
It never failed to take me by surprise, that someone as
refined as he could want a mug like me. But he wanted me. The insistent erection
pressing against my hip left me in no doubt of that.
While I struggled with the buttons on my trousers, Victor
wrestled my vest and shirt off. His fingers scraped oven my nipples, then traced
the vee of hair that arrowed down past my waist. Spreading his hands to my hips,
he eased my drawers down and paused to fill his hands with the heat and length
“Take me, Richard! All this time, you’ve let me take
you. Now I want you to take me!”
“Victor,” I whispered hoarsely, shivers rippling the
muscles of my abdomen. “Are you sure?”
In answer, he raised his hips and pressed my hand to his
puckered entrance, and we moaned in unison.
Together we slicked the cold cream over my weeping prick.
Together we smoothed it over his opening, preparing him. I bit at his shoulder
as I slid into his impossibly hot passage, inch by excruciating inch.
I was babbling all the while, telling him how much I loved
him, vowing to be with him forever, swearing eternal devotion. He turned my face
toward his and took my mouth. My hips pounded forward, out of control, and I
came apart in his arms.
It was only as I collapsed onto him and felt his hardness
that I realized I had left him unsatisfied. “Victor…”
“Shhh, p’tit amour. It is all right.”
I knew better than to argue. Instead, I eased myself gently
out of him and continued to slide down his body. The head of his prick was a
deep purple, and precome was beading at the tip. I touched the tip of my tongue
to it, tasting him, and it jerked and quivered. With broad swipes, I painted the
base and the sides.
Victor fell back onto the pillows and his hands clutched
feverishly in my hair. And when I took him between my lips he made a soft
keening sound that pierced me to my heart. I worked him until he was on the
verge of coming. He tried to pull away from me, but I refused to let him.
And then he was erupting in my mouth, and I swallowed, and
swallowed, while he thrashed his head and gripped my shoulders so tightly I knew
he would leave bruises.
It was unimportant. I wanted to be marked by him. I wanted
others to know that I was his, if only for this moment.
It wouldn’t last. I knew that. It couldn’t.
A man as important as he…well I was lucky having him love me for however long that might be.
Note: Eddie Bartlett and George Hally are characters from the movie, The Roaring Twenties, played respectively by Jimmy Cagney and Bogie.
Do It Again is an actual song from that period and the lyrics quoted are as accurate as memory, and Carol Channing, can make ‘em.
The combination to Eddie Bartlett’s wall safe is actually Humphrey Bogart’s birthdate.
I watched casually from the postage stamp sized stage as
the crew began cleaning up. Smitty and Dutch were behind the bar, washing the
glasses and stacking them neatly for the next night. Fast Franky lounged by the
door, keeping an eye out for the coppers.
As well as rival gangs. Mr. Bartlett, our boss, had been
having problems lately with the man who was supposed to be his friend, George
I’d been working at Eddie’s Garage for the past
six months. I got the job in the speakeasy shortly after Victor had me move in
with him, and I felt really good about contributing to our finances. I just
served the drinks, and once in a while bounced the rowdies, but with tips, I
brought in more than Victor was making.
There actually was a garage fronting for the speak,
and cars up on jacks, or with pieces scattered around them added to the illusion
of a legitimate business. The password to get in was “I need a fill-up.”
Sam, the colored boy Mr. B had recently hired, smiled up at
me from his seat at the piano and tickled the ivories. “Can I play a song for
you, Mr. Rick?”
I pulled the toothpick I had been chewing on out of my
mouth and grinned at him. “I’m just Rick, Sam. You don’t work for me.”
He smiled sweetly at me. “Can I play a song for you, Mr.
Rick?” he repeated.
I laughed and gave up. Ever since I had saved him from
getting the stuffing beaten out of him, he had become my shadow and insisted on
calling me mister. “Sure, Sam. Whatever is your pleasure.”
“You a sentimental man, Mr. Rick?” His fingers wandered
over the black and white keys. “You got someone at home who loves you?”
“Yeah, I guess you can say I do.”
One of the girls in the show let me know she wasn’t too
busy to find some time to spend with me, if I was interested. She was a nice
kid, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I just told her my dance card
was all filled up.
Everyone in the speakeasy assumed I had a skirt at home. I
just let them go on believing that.
Sam rolled his eyes at me and began to sing.
“Oh, do it again. I may say
‘No, no, no, no, no!’
“But do it again.
“My lips just ache to have you
take the kiss you promised, but then,
“Do it again, just do it
Eddie Bartlett walked in from his office and stopped to
listen. “Nice, Sam. Very nice. I’d like to hear that included in tomorrow
night’s show. If there is one.” That last was said so softly I wasn’t sure
I heard correctly.
“Sure thing, Boss.” Sam closed up the piano and took
his pay. “Night, Boss. Night Mr. Rick.”
“Night, Sam.” I pocketed the money Mr. Bartlett handed
me and was about to follow the piano player into the night, when the boss
touched my arm. “Yeah, Mr. B?”
“I need you to do me a favor, kid.”
A wry smile kicked up the corner of his mouth. “Don’t
you want to know what it is?”
I shrugged. “You pay my salary, you call the shots.”
“An attitude like that could get you killed.”
“Then I’ll die young and leave a good-looking
He doubled his fist and punched my shoulder gently.
“C’mon in my office.”
I followed him into the back room and he closed the door.
That got me nervous. Mr. Bartlett was known for always keeping that door open.
The girls appreciated it, and since he never used the couch in there for
anything but sitting, the guys didn’t care.
He saw how tense I was getting. “Relax, Ricky. I’m not
about to chase you around my desk.”
“Mr. B?” Until I knew exactly what his intentions were,
I was not about to open my mouth and put my foot in it.
“I know I’m talked about behind my back. I know what
they say about me.”
He might know, but I had no idea what he was talking
about. I told him so.
“You mean you haven’t heard the men say I don’t care
for women as much as I should?”
I was getting worried. “Mr. Bartlett, they don’t talk
to me about anything. If they did, I wouldn’t listen. It’s not my business.
I just do my job and go home.”
He took a seat behind his desk and looked at me, his eyes
suddenly so tired. “They talk about you too, you know.”
“Oh?” I tried to make it sound noncommittal.
“It’s hard finding a dame who inspires such fidelity.
They can’t understand that.”
“I guess I’m lucky,” I said cautiously.
“Yeah. Lucky.” He gazed off into space, forgetting for
a minute that he wasn’t alone.
“Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, Mr.
Bartlett? My gu..gal at home?”
He pulled a gun out from his desk and laid it on the
blotter, and I stiffened. He laughed shortly. “I’m not going to shoot you,
Ricky. I need you to do something for me.”
“You already know I will.”
He opened the gun and made sure the barrel was loaded and
there was a round in the chamber. “You know George Hally?”
“I’ve seen him around.”
“He’s muscling in on my territory. I’ve got to stop
him. I need you to watch my back.”
“Why me, Mr. Bartlett?”
“Because you’re the only one I can trust not to shoot
me in the back.”
I could accept that. If he sailed the same side of the lake
as I now did, I was probably the only one working for him who wouldn’t take a
shot at him for it. “When are we doing this?”
He pushed the gun toward me and took another one from the
I swallowed hard. “I guess I won’t have time to run on
home and kiss my sugar good night.”
“Afraid not, Rick.”
“Oke.” I sucked in a deep breath. “Then what are we
We walked out into that snowy night.
I stumbled back to the speakeasy, bleeding from the wound
in my side. Mr. Bartlett was dead on the steps in front of Our Lady of Lost
George Hally was dead as well. I managed to get off the
shot that did him in, but not before he fired at my boss. One of his stooges
nicked me in the side, but I got him as well.
I stumbled after Eddie Bartlett and caught him as he fell
to the snow-covered sidewalk, cradling him in my arms.
“Ricky. It’s curtains for me!”
“No, Boss, no! You’re gonna be fine. This is just a
“No, kid, this is the finish line for me. Listen
carefully.” He coughed and a stream of blood trickled from his mouth. “In
the wall behind my desk is a safe. The combination is 1 left, 23 right, 99 left.
Take what’s inside… and get… out of… town.”
His sightless eyes stared up into the chill of the night,
the snow drifting down onto his face. I passed my fingers over his eyes and
closed them, then gently eased him to the concrete.
The shrill whistles of the beat cops tore through the
night, and I staggered to my feet and stumbled I into a dark alley until they
passed me by.
Somehow, I made it back to the Garage and emptied
the safe as the boss had requested.
“Sam! What are you doing here?”
“I come in early every day to practice.”
“Go home, Sam. You’re out of work.”
“Dead, Sam. Get out of here!”
“You need some help, Mr. Rick. I’ll see you home.”
I knew it wasn’t a smart idea for him to see where I
lived, but I was getting stupid from fatigue and blood loss and the events of
the night, and I couldn’t remember what the reason was.
He got me back to the rooming house where I shared a room
with Victor. The steps seemed higher than Mount McKinley. I pushed away from him
and swayed slightly. “Thanks, Sam. I’ll see myself in.”
“No, Mr. Rick. You need help,” he insisted. He got his
shoulder under my arm and got me up all those the stairs and down the hall to my
Outside the door, I tried to send him away again. He
ignored my protests and fished the key from my pocket. The door swung open, and
I knew suddenly that there was no one else in there.
I forgot all about the colored boy. “Victor! Victor!”
The drawers that held his clothes were open, and empty. I sank on the bed
and buried my head in my hands.
“This was on the dresser, Mr. Rick.” Sam had lit the
lamp and held out a folded slip of paper. “I didn’t read it.”
I looked at him blankly, then took the paper and smoothed
“Richard,” it read. “I have just received word from
Czechoslovakia that things are becoming desperate there. I must leave at once,
on the tide. I waited for as long as I dared. But you didn’t come home. I must
go. Je t’aime, cher ami. Victor.”
I crumpled the paper and fell back on the bed, losing the battle to stay conscious.
Sam and I had been to so many places over the years that
followed that the memories of them started to run together, like a poorly dyed
suit in the rain
He patched me up and got me to his place, three steps ahead
of the enforcers George Hally’s boss sent to rub me out.
I would have shot it out with them. I didn’t care; what
did I have to live for any longer?
But Sam packed up his belongings and got us on the first
boat out of New York harbor. It was heading south, for the Caribbean, but it
could just as well have been heading for Sumatra.
By the time we got to Martinique, I was in a little better
shape, physically as well as emotionally. I no longer felt that if I hadn’t
given in to my physical limitations, I could have reached the docks in time to
see my lover one last time before he sailed on the tide.
I no longer thought of him every minute of every day.
We bought a beat up old boat and took on fishing charters.
And we began to do a little smuggling on the side. Rum from Curacao and
Trinidad, Kahlua and Blue Aggave from Mexico, the rotgut that Cuba produced, Sam
and I ran them all to the Florida Keys and delivered them to some of the
bootlegging contacts I got from a slip of paper in Eddie Bartlett’s safe.
Then we started smuggling human cargo as well, getting them
off the tiny islands that dotted the Caribbean and to safety in South or Central
And when it got too hot for us there, we moved on.
To China, where we battled with Chiang Chai-Shek against
To Ethiopia, where we ran guns to the natives in their
rebellion against Mussolini’s army.
To Spain, where we fought on the side of the Loyalists.
And always, Sam was by my side. And the memory of Victor
Lazlo became bittersweet. Now I only thought of him once a day.
All day long.
It was my idea to go to Paris.
The Nazis were massing at the boarder, and I had heard the
Gestapo had a little list, with my name on it. So I spent my days sipping
Absinthe in La Belle Aurore, a small café in Monmartre, while Sam earned some
extra francs playing there in the evenings.
He had come across some new music from the States, and he
was practicing it that afternoon.
“You must remember this…
“A kiss is just a kiss…”
And then she walked in.
Tall for a woman, slender, with an aura of sadness about
her. And a nose that made me catch my breath. I sat there with my drink halfway
to my mouth, and just watched.
Her walk was elegant, the brown shirtwaist she wore
rippling around her knees. “Gin and bitters, Henri.”
“Mais oui, mademoiselle.”
I sauntered over to the bar. “Henri’s been holding out
on me,” I remarked casually.
She ignored me.
“He never mentioned a dish as lovely as you frequenting
his establishment.” I was nothing if not persistent.
“I don’t think she wants to know you, Mr. Rick.” Sam
was grinning at me.
“Sam, why do I keep you around, when I can replace you
with a puppy?”
Something caught her attention. Her eyes flickered from me
to Sam and back again. I took that as encouragement and extended my hand.
“I’m Rick Blaine. That’s Sam over there, but you needn’t pay any
attention to him.
“Rick? This is short for Richard?”
“Why, yes, but all my friends call me Rick.” Some of
the light went out of the day, as I recalled the one who never called me Rick.
She seemed to make up her mind, and placed her slender hand
in mine. “I am Ilsa Lund.”
Henri set her drink before her, but before he could take
her francs, I put a hand over them and pushed some coins in his direction.
She picked up her drink and toasted me with it. “Skal.”
She swallowed wrong and began to cough. “You speak
Russian?” she gasped out.
“You recognize Russian?”
“I am Scandinavian. Russia is right next door to us.”
“Ah. Perhaps you’ll let me buy you another drink, and
you can tell me what a lovely woman such as yourself is doing…”
“Oh, please!” she cut me off. “Don’t ask what I am
doing in a place like this!”
“Well, no,” I responded mildly. “I was just going to
ask what you were doing in Paris, with the Germans getting ready to come
knocking on Vichy’s door.”
She flushed and bit her lip. “I beg your pardon.”
“Not at all. These are trying times. If you don’t want
another drink, then perhaps I can buy you dinner. Henri is sure to know of
someplace nearby where they serve a decent hamburger.”
“You’re very bourgeois, Mr. Blaine.”
”Yeah, I know. And please, call me Rick.”
“Rick.” She seemed to roll it around on her tongue.
“No, you do not appear to be a ‘Rick’. I believe I will call you
This time it was I who choked on my drink.
Warning: there be m/f ahead!
Note: The song lyrics are from Poor Butterfly, and I’ve fudged them, just a little.
“You goin’ to see Miss Ilsa again today, boss?”
I examined the knot of my tie in the mirror and then gave
it a brief tug to the left. “Yes, I think I am, Sam. She’s a honey, isn’t
“She sure is. I’m glad you’re getting over …what
you’re getting over.”
I went still. Was I finally getting over Victor
Lazlo? After all these years?
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was no choirboy. I enjoyed
watching a shapely ass. Sometimes I’d even do more than watch. But we were
never long enough in one place for me to form a lasting relationship.
That was just an excuse, though. I knew it. So did Sam.
That’s why I don’t drink whiskey anymore: I’m a maudlin drunk. One night
while we drifted in the warm blue seas of the Caribbean in our boat, the
Caribbean Queen, I got snockered and spilled out the pathetic story of my one
and only venture into love.
“You were there at the finish, Sam,” I said when I
finally reached the end of my tale. “By the time I got home that night, he was
“I envy you, Mr. Rick,” Sam told me. “I’d give my
right arm to have a love like that!”
“No, you wouldn’t, Sam. It hurts too much!”
“You hurt, boss, you know you’re alive. Maybe someday, I’ll
love someone like that.”
“I wouldn’t wish that on you, pal. It’s bad news!”
Sam just shook his head. “Maybe someone’ll love me
like that!” He cast out another line, and gave me a sly glance. Humming
softly, he began to sing,
“Poor Butterfly, 'neath the blossoms waiting.
“Poor Butterfly, for he love him so…
“But if he don’t come back, then I never sigh or cry.
“I just might die. Poor Butterfly.”
I threw my boot at him and he laughed. And then a sailfish
hit my line and nearly took me overboard, and we never spoke of it again.
Sam wanted me to fall in love again. And it looked as if
there might be a good possibility of that with Ilsa Lund. There was something
about her that drew me, more than anyone since Victor Lazlo. For the first time
in longer than I cared to think about, I found myself whistling as I went
through my day.
I would meet her at La Belle Aurore in the late afternoon,
and we’d sip cocktails and listen to Sam as he played Gershwin and Porter. And
I wondered what it would be like to fall in love with a woman this time.
Sam was late getting to work that day. I wasn’t too
concerned; I was pretty sure that he had finally found that love he was
searching for, with a Russian expatriate named Sasha, whom I occasionally
But when he bolted into the café, he was as pale as I’ve
ever seen a colored person get. I was half out of my chair when he grabbed my
“You got to leave town, boss. Word just came over the
radio. The Germans will be crossing the border tomorrow. They’ll be in Paris
by the end of the week at the latest!”
Ilsa turned to me and I suddenly held an armful of
shivering woman. “I’m frightened, Richard! I’m so frightened!”
I tipped her head up and looked into her velvety soft eyes.
“There, now. Here’s looking at you, kid!” For the first time, I kissed
her. Her lips were soft and warm and trembled under mine.
“Take me home, Richard. Please!”
“Sure, kid. Sure. Sam, we’d better get out of France.
Go to the Gare de Lyon. See about getting us tickets for the train to
I nodded, then changed my mind as stray curls caressed my
“Make it four, Sam. See if Sasha wants to join our merry
Henri, the owner of La Belle Aurore was swearing colorfully
behind the bar. “Nom d’un nom d’un nom!” he concluded.
Ilsa gave a little spurt of laughter against my shoulder.
“I could never understand how name of a name could be considered a
“That’s the frog-eaters for you, Butterfly. Let’s
“M’sieur Rick, a moment, s’il vous plait!” Henri
thrust a bottle of champagne into my hands. “Please, take this. I will water
my garden with it before I let those lousy Gerries have one drop!”
“Thanks, Henri. We’ll be back for more later.”
He waved us off and I managed to hail one of the few cabs
that were available. We sat in white-knuckled silence as the driver took the
road to her apartment in typical Parisian cabdriver fashion.
Ilsa’s apartment was in La Villette district and we
arrived there more quickly than normal, but this one time saw no reason to
She got out of the cab ahead of me, and I followed her up
the narrow stairway that ran along the outside of the pension to her tiny
apartment on the top floor. Her hips moved smoothly, with scarcely a wiggle, and
I was drawn to the taut, boyish flanks that were level with my field of sight.
My mouth went dry. I wanted to fondle them, explore them,
part her buttocks and lose myself in the wonder of them.
I hadn’t felt that heart-stuttering emotion in—too many
years. I struggled to bring my quivering prick under control as she slid her key
in the lock and let us into her rooms.
I kicked the door shut, took the key from her fingers and
tossed it on a convenient stand that held some flowering plants. Ilsa bent to
retrieve a sealed envelope from the floor and dropped it next to the key.
She flowed into my arms and her mouth was on mine, her lips
parting to accept my questing tongue.
I tried to be slow, to be gentle, but it was what neither
of us wanted.
Her fingers were busy with my shirtfront, pushing aside the
material, smoothing up under my sleeveless undershirt. I muffled a groan as she
ran her nails across my flat nipples.
“Richard!” she murmured plaintively, and I started out
of my haze of pleasure, realizing I was letting her do all the work. I undid the
fastenings of her skirt and allowed my hands to follow it down and off her hips.
My fingers lingered at her knees as the skirt pooled on the floor around her
Her legs were bare. She wore no stockings. Or bloomers. My
breath snagged in my throat as I stroked back up her thighs and I found the
heart of her, so hot, and wet, and slick.
I dropped to my knees and pressed my face to her humid
curls. She shuddered as my tongue teased past her guardian folds and caressed
the erect little nub that contained such exquisite sensation.
Her fingers were wound in my hair, urging me closer to her heat. “Love me, Richard! Love me now!”
I surged back up to my feet and took her into arms that
held on too tightly, but she didn’t complain. In fact she held me just as
tightly. We stripped off the rest of our clothes and tumbled onto the bed.
Ilsa pushed me flat on my back and straddled my hips.
Starting at my jaw, she pressed kisses to my fevered flesh. She worked her way
down to my collarbone, and left love bites in the thin skin. Her nimble tongue
teased my nipples, and my fingers clenched impotently as she drove me wild.
Scooting lower down, she explored my navel and then the
wiry hair at my groin. And when she finally took me in her mouth, I nearly came
off the bed from the sensation. She worked my prick as if it was a sweet that
she just couldn’t get enough of.
“Ilsa, please! I’m going to come!”
“Richard, let me…”
Before I knew what she was doing, she had crouched over me
and was lowering herself onto my turgid length.
But my prick was pressing urgently against her snug
asshole, and before I could change the position, I felt the ring of muscle give,
and I slid into her.
I was lost in the feel of being in an ass again, after all
the barren years, and it only took a couple of hard thrusts before I was
spilling myself in her tight channel. I squeezed and rubbed and scraped that
tiny knot of flesh between her thighs, and felt her inner muscles begin to
ripple with her orgasm.
She collapsed on my chest, her climax milking the last of
my come from me, her breath sobbing out.
It had been a long time since I had done that, but not so
long that I didn’t recognize the feel of a lubricant easing my way in.
“You had planned on this, hadn’t you, Ilsa?” I asked
quietly. “Who taught you to go Greek?”
“Did I please you, Richard? Did you like what I let you
do to me?”
I nodded my head.
“Life is too short, especially in these trying times.
Don’t question my gift to you.”
My softened prick slid free and she rose to her feet, just
the merest bit unsteady.
“I’m going to get cleaned up. Why don’t you get us a
couple of glasses from the kitchen and we’ll start on Henri’s champagne.”
“Will we do this again?” I asked cautiously.
Her smile was soft, and just the tiniest bit teasing. “If
you so desire, Richard.”
I heard the water running when I returned with the glasses
of champagne. I set them down on her dresser, and walked casually around her
room, trying to get a feel for the essence of the woman who was picking the lock
of my heart.
Draped over a chair was a man’s vest that looked vaguely
familiar. Before I could examine it more closely, Ilsa came back into the room,
her skin rosie and flushed. She picked up her wine and smiled flirtatiously at
“Here’s looking at you, Richard!”
Warning: m/f again
I was sipping the last of the champagne off Ilsa’s petal
soft skin, my hand busy between her thighs. She shifted languidly.
“No more, Richard, please! I’m so tired!”
I waited until she reluctantly opened her eyes to look at
me. Then I brought my fingers to my mouth and licked them off, one by one, and
“That is not fair, Richard!”
“All right, Butterfly.” I was inordinately pleased with
myself, and leaned over to snatch a quick kiss. “I’ll let you be. I need to
get back to my apartment and make sure Sam’s packed everything. Get your
things together and meet us at the Gare de Lyon.”
I dragged on my clothes and slid into my jacket. She caught
my sleeve and pulled me down to her. Her lips caressed mine. “Kiss me,
Richard. Kiss me as if it were the last time!”
Lost in a fog of Cupids and valentines, I didn’t realize
it at the time, but there was desperation in that kiss.
I didn’t really need to check on Sam. We had been
together for such a long time that I trusted him to have everything ready for a
quick getaway. And we always traveled light. We had to make tracks fast too many
times to be caught unprepared.
What I needed was to find out how soon Ilsa and I could be
married, and who could marry us. I was willing to enlist someone on our journey
south. I figured if a ship’s captain could do it on the sea, then why not the
train’s engineer on dry land?
I had to laugh at how nonsensical I was being. I was almost
giddy with the joy of being in love.
Sam wasn’t in the apartment when I got there, but the
Russian was. I pulled up short.
“M’sieur Rick.” He looked at me uneasily.
“Sam not back yet?”
“No, M’sieur Rick. He go to get the train tickets. He
get one for me too.” He said defiantly and waited for my response.
I pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered it to the
Russian. He shook his head. I took one for myself and lit it.
“I take it you’re coming to Marseilles with us.”
“If you don’t mind, M’sieur?”
“That’s got nothing to do with me, Sascha. I’m not
the one you’re going to be sleeping with.”
He looked green, and my hands curled into fists. I was
ready to tear him apart. “Have you been toying with Sam? If you aren’t
serious about him, I swear to God I’ll rip out your heart and hold it in front
of your eyes so you can watch it beating! He’s a good man and doesn’t
deserve to be fucked with!”
“You…do not object to me taking Sam from you?”
I opened my mouth to make a scathing retort when I caught
myself. Had Sam told the Russian we were lovers, perhaps to make him jealous? I
scowled at Sascha.
He touched my arm hesitantly. “M’sieur Rick, I must
know if you object to Sam being with me.”
“Just don’t hurt him!”
Sam came bustling through the door. Ignoring me completely,
he took Sascha in his arms and kissed him passionately. Then he let him go.
“Oh, hi boss.” He pulled out the tickets and waved them before me. “Got
“He coming with us?” I nodded toward the Russian.
Sam’s smile was sweet and filled with satisfaction.
“He’s a good bartender, boss. I figure maybe we’ll get us a saloon
somewhere, like we used to talk about, and settle down. Be nice to live a quiet
life, for a while, doncha think?”
“Yeah, Sam, it’ll be swell. Now let’s get out of here
before Hitler’s storm troopers show up sooner than we expected.”
Sascha took the bags and headed down to where the private
car Sam had commandeered waited. I caught Sam’s eye and signaled for him to
“Why did Sascha feel it was necessary to ask for your
Sam blushed. It was hard to tell with his dark skin, but a
tinge of red colored his cheeks. He ducked his head. “Sascha just sort of
thought there might be something between us.”
“And you didn’t encourage him to believe that?”
His dark eyes watched me from under his lashes. “Well…I
didn’t exactly say no.”
I snorted and clouted him on the arm. “I don’t want
Miss Ilsa to even think there was ever anything like that between us!”
“You going to marry her, Mr. Rick?”
“Yeah.” I contemplated the thought of spending the rest
of my life with the Scandinavian beauty. “Yeah, I kinda think I am!”
It was raining by the time we got to the Gare de Lyon, a
steady, dismal drizzle that threatened to become a downpour. The train station
was mobbed with people desperate to make their way south, away from the menace
of the approaching Nazis.
Sam saw how fidgety I was getting, constantly pulling out
my pocket watch and checking it against the big clock in the station. “I’ll
take the car to her pension, Mr. Rick, and see what’s holding her, okay?”
“Thanks, Sam.” I continued pacing as he hurried away.
Ilsa was cutting it extremely fine. The last train would be
leaving for Marseilles sooner than I liked.
Sascha was getting nervous as well. He took a cigarette
from me and smoked it halfway down before requesting another. Soon he stood
there with a cigarette in each hand and one dangling from his mouth.
“Okay, Tolstoy, let me take that,” I said as I relieved
him of the one in his left hand. I began smoking it myself, only then realizing
that I was now holding two cigarettes.
We grinned sheepishly at each other.
I looked at my watch again, and saw that we only had a
couple of minutes before train time. I swallowed hard and prepared to head back
to the city. And then Sam was shouldering his way through the crowd.
He was alone.
“Where is she, Sam? What happened?”
“She’s gone, Mr. Rick. She checked out of her rooms
before I got there. The old lady who ran the place gave me this.”
I opened the note and felt as if I had been kicked in the
gut by a mule. She couldn’t go with me, and I must never ask why. But I had to
trust that she loved me, would spend her life loving me. “God bless and keep
you, my only one!”
Blindly I looked at Sam. Standing there in the pouring
rain, I was once again alone.
Sam grabbed my arm and started dragging me into the train,
as the conductor issued the last call. “Come on, Mr. Rick. We got to get on
this train! Mr. Rick!”
He and Sascha got me on board and I stood in the
entranceway, staring through the rain, which had become a deluge. I blinked as
the water hit my eyes and my lashes spiked.
My hand closed on the note she left me, crumpling the
rain-soaked paper, and I tossed it to the platform.
Then I turned and let them lead me to the compartment I had planned to share with Ilsa Lund.
Note: 1. Lyrics this time are from Never Gonna Dance from the movie Swingtime.
Note: 2. Also, from here on there will be frequent quotes directly taken from the script.
Note: 3. And just as an aside, I haven’t been able to find out the color of Claude Rains’ eyes. If they aren’t brown, that’s my error.
Marseilles to Oran.
Oran to French Morocco.
Across French Morocco to…Casablanca.
It was one of those bright, sunny days, when the light is
so pure and piercing it hurts the eye. The palms in the courtyard afforded a
meager amount of shade, only a token’s worth. The fronds hung in the still
air, motionless, as if too enervated by the heat to do anything more.
I sat under one of the Palmyra palms. My chair balanced on
two legs, my feet propped on a table, I was sipping at some fruity, alcoholic
concoction that Sascha had devised to cheer me. Sam sat nearby at his rolling
piano, tinkering with a tune a visitor from the States had given him in trade
for some hauntingly sweet melody the Yank could weep over.
“Though I’m left without a penny,
“The wolf was not smart, he left me my heart.
“And so, I cannot go for anything but the la belle,
“La perfectly swell romance, never gonna dance…
“Never gonna dance…”
“That’s a shappy shong, Sham.”
“You drunk, boss?”
“No, it’s a fucking lisp!” I drew in a deep breath.
“How long has it been, Sam?” I held my drink up and examined the muted
orange color studiously.
Sam didn’t pretend not to understand me. He sighed and
ran a riff over the keys. “It’s a year, boss.”
My eyes felt hot and burning. “Just a year. Just one
fucking year. It should be so much longer.”
I tossed back the rest of the drink. Sam put his bench on
top of the piano and prepared to roll it back into the main lounge of the Café
Americain. “I’m gonna get you some coffee, Mr. Rick. We gonna be opening in
a few hours. Won’t do for you to be too drunk to keep out the deadbeats.”
“You mean like that German banker?”
“No. I have the unhappy feeling he means me,
Ricky. Sam does not like me, I’m afraid.”
I stopped myself from spilling the drink down my front, but
only just. “Fuck you, Renault!”
“Oh, yes, please, Ricky!”
My chair teetered for a moment, almost toppling, then
settled on the tiled floor with a thud. I searched the Prefect of Police’s
brown eyes. They returned my gaze blandly, and I shook my head, deciding I must
not have heard what I thought I had heard.
“What can I do for you, Louie?”
He huffed and took a seat next to me, stripping off his
dress gloves and dropping them on the table. Fussily he toyed with the
knife-crease in his uniform trousers. “You know I hate when you call me that,
I arched an eyebrow at him. He knew that as much as he
hated being called Louie, I hated being called Ricky. Sounded like a
He relented with a laugh. “Oh, very well. Rick.
I’m bringing a young lady here tonight, and I would appreciate it very much if
you wouldn’t make a pass at her.”
“Come on, Lou--is.” I grinned at him. “You know very
well we don’t have the same taste in dames.”
He winced. “She’s not a dame, Rick. And she may
not be to your taste, but you’ll be to hers!” His eyes swept over me,
seeming to linger just below my waist.
I blinked to clear my vision, and his eyes were steadily on
mine. I shook my head again.
“Oh yes,” he continued mournfully. “I don’t know
what it is about you, Rick…”
I could hear how much he wanted to add the y, but
the look in my eye must have threatened dire retribution.
He didn’t smile, but I knew there was one hidden deep
“I’m just a simple saloonkeeper,” I told him.
“Whatever the many things you might be, Rick, simple is
not one of them!”
“A compliment, Louis? I’m gratified.”
“You needn’t be. It wasn’t meant as one.” He waved
the conversation aside as inconsequential. “Just stay away for an hour or so.
If she gets one look at you, she’ll fall madly in love, and I won’t have a
warm bed in which to spend the night.”
I shook out a cigarette and offered the pack to the Chief
of Police. He declined with a smirk and withdrew one of the slim Egyptian
cigarettes he preferred from a breast pocket.
“Where am I to spend a couple of hours, Renault? The Blue
Parrot? Ferrari would like to slit my throat for getting the Café before he
could make his move.”
“Spend it with Yvonne. She’s quite lovely you know, and
very…talented, shall we say?”
The smoke of our cigarettes hung between us, giving me the
opportunity to examine his compact frame. His trousers clung to his muscled
thighs snugly, and his jacket discretely draped over his lap. I was struck by a
sudden desire to see what it hid.
I turned my head away and took the cigarette from my lips.
I touched a finger to my tongue, seeking the flake of tobacco that clung to it.
That unexpected desire shook me.
“Have you taken to pimping for Yvonne, Louie?”
“You disappoint me, Rick.” I opened my mouth but he cut
me off. “And yet, if I were a woman, I would be madly in love with you myself.
If I were not around, of course.”
“You know, Louis, that half-way makes sense! All right, I
apologize for the insult to Yvonne. I meant to strike at you, not at her.”
“But why, Rick?”
I contemplated the glowing tip of my cigarette. “Let’s
just say I have no use for a crooked cop, and leave it at that.”
“Don’t you like me, Rick?” For a moment his mask
dropped and hunger burned in his eyes. And then his lashes lowered and he
resumed his air of casual venality. “I have to make a living, Richard. God
knows the French government doesn’t pay me enough to indulge even my simplest
I was on my feet, almost shaking in rage. “Don’t. Ever.
Call. Me. Richard!”
He became very quiet. Then he gathered up his gloves and
rose gracefully. “Of course. I beg your pardon. Rick.” He turned to leave,
but paused at the door that led to the street, not looking back at me.
“You’ll give me those two hours?” He was regarding his hands as he
smoothed the gloves over each finger.
I hated when I lost control. Only two people had ever
called me Richard. I had loved them both, and they had both left me.
Louie didn’t deserve the sharp edge of my tongue, though.
Reluctantly I conceded the match to him. “Come in around ten. But if you’re
still here at midnight, you’ll just have to take your chances.”
I was no longer watching him. I jumped when I felt his hand
on my shoulder. “Thank you Rick,” he said softly. And then, “Just let me
know if there’s ever anything I can do for you.”
He was halfway out the door before I could catch my breath.
The skin under my shirt burned from the heat of his touch.
“How about asking for a smaller kickback?” I called
“Anything but that, my dear Rick!”
His laughter drifted back to the courtyard.
And I had to adjust my trousers, which had suddenly become too tight.
Note: Song lyrics, I Only Have Eyes For You by Ben Selvin.
I was going over the books in my office, and I had left the
door ajar. No one was supposed to be in the Café Americain at this time of day.
I revelled in the quiet of the early afternoon.
In a couple of hours Carl, a former professor of the
classics from Heidelberg would come in. He ran the restaurant aspect of my
business, and kept it nicely in the black.
Emil, my head croupier, handled the gambling. He was away
on a trip to see his family in Corsica, and perhaps talk them into coming back
with him. German sympathizers were cropping up all over the place, and it might
not be safe for them to remain there much longer.
A headache was nagging behind my eyes. I hadn’t been
sleeping well. I was used to the dreams of the two lovers who had broken my
heart, but now I dreamt of a brown-eyed Frenchman who was corrupt to the bone.
And at night, when all my defenses were down, I found that irresistible.
I chewed on the end of my pen and gazed off into space,
lost in a haze of…something. I was not willing to consider it too closely.
There was hushed whispering out in the corridor. “*Do
it*, Sam! Please!”
“Sascha!” Murmurs thickened by passion slid past the
door and went right to my groin. I had had no male loves since…
I looked down at my crotch, where my prick tented my
A muffled thud painted pictures of impassioned lovers
straining against the wall outside my door, of hands held prisoner and lush lips
capturing heated moans.
I groaned under my breath and pushed my chair back, quietly
going to the door and closing it. Sam and Sascha. The piano player and the
bartender. I didn’t have the heart to interrupt their embrace.
But I envied them!
I was lost in the most marvelous fantasy. The Prefect of
the Casablanca Police was on his knees beneath my desk, licking a path from my
quivering erection to my navel. That wasn’t where I wanted his tongue, though.
I groaned and rolled my hips up, seeking to thrust deeply into that hot, wicked
But it was my hand tightening on my prick. I brought myself
me to a shuddering orgasm.
How long had I sat there, rubbing the hardness in my
trousers? My pants were sticky and uncomfortable. I was about to rise and make
my way to the rooms above the café.
Herr Rick!” My headwaiter beat an urgent tattoo on the door.
I sank back into my chair and stayed seated behind the
desk. “Come in, Carl.”
“I’m so sorry to disturb you, Herr Rick, but Captain
Renault is outside, and he insists on seeing you.”
Oh shit! And here I sat with a lapful of come! I pulled a
face. “What does he want Carl?” Perhaps the little Austrian could hold him
off long enough for me to change my trousers.
“I’ll tell you what I want, Ricky.”
I folded my lips together and tried not to shift too
obviously in my chair. Carl looked distressed at not having shielded me from the
importunate Frenchman. “It’s okay, Carl. Why don’t you go ahead and
interview that Dutch banker who wants the job of pastry chef.”
“Sure, Herr Rick. I see if he’s as good in the kitchen
as he claims he was in his bank!” He went bustling out of my office, quietly closing the door behind him.
I determined to outwait the man who stood, negligently
stroking his fingers over the discrete nude that graced a table by the window. I
had found the little bronze in Oran, just before we boarded the boat to French
Morocco, and bought it on a whim. Her curves concealed by the long, flowing
waves of her hair, her averted face shielded by her upraised arms, she
represented what I kept hidden from the world. And myself.
After a few minutes, I reached for the bottle of Vichy
water that my staff always made sure was nearby during the daylight hours.
A thought struck me, and casually I knocked my hand against
the glass, spilling it onto my thighs. “*Merde*!”
“You seem to be all thumbs today, Rick.”
“Yeah, well, you know some days are like that! You’ll
excuse me for just a moment while I go and change my pants?” I eased to my
feet and shook the water from my lap.
“Suppose I accompany you, you dear Ricky?”
“You…want to come up to my room?” I risked a glance
“Oh, not in the manner of Mae West, I assure you.” His
eyes laughed at me as he noticed my disgruntled frown. “Or perhaps…in
exactly that manner?”
“You’re a card, Louie.” I turned my back sharply and
went up the stairs that led to my rooms. “I’m not going to run away, you
know. What did you want to see me about?”
I pulled open a large closet against the inner wall and
took out a hanger that held a pair of casual pants. Sitting on the edge of the
bed, I slipped off my shoes and then stood and stripped off my soaking trousers.
“Do I know that?” he asked himself pensively. “What
would you do if I said I wanted to kiss you, Rick?”
I almost fell on my ass. My lips suddenly felt full and
tingly, and I wanted his mouth on mine.
“I’d probably knock you down that flight of stairs.
You’re a notorious womanizer, Louie. And the last time I looked, I was the
“Of course.” That was all he said. No words to excuse
his outrageous question. No obfuscations or flimsy explanations. He just
dismissed it and went on to other matters.
And I didn’t know if I should be relieved or
“The Vichy government is starting to get curious as to
how I run things here in Casablanca.”
“Why do I get the feeling this is going to wind up being
expensive for me?”
“Not at all, Ricky. I am here to tell you that I will no
longer be collecting a weekly…donation from you.”
“Oh, I don’t think this is going to be good for me, or
the Café Americain. What am I going to be paying you, Louie?”
“Nothing at all, my dear Rick. You will just let me win
I swore under my breath. Renault liked the roulette wheel
too much. He’d be taking me for much more than the three hundred francs I had
been paying him off.
“There’s more?” I asked wearily.
The bastard smiled at me and nodded. “You will tear up
all my vowals and all my bar bills.”
“Why don’t you just sink your teeth into my throat and
drain me dry, while you’re at it? Bloodsucker!”
His eyes suddenly grew hot, and sultry.
I wanted to hear him say, “Your blood is not what I want
to suck, Ricky!” I could picture him down on his knees before me, taking my
hardened prick from my trousers and licking the tip before swallowing me to the
I blinked and shook my head, and returned to the real
“Oh, I would like that, Ricky. I’d like that very
much! However,” and now he was all business once again, “that would be like
killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.”
I finished fastening my trousers and stepped into my shoes,
and looked up to find his eyes on my crotch. “Louie…”
His brown eyes dragged up over my body in a gesture I could
almost feel. And damned if my prick didn’t harden in serious interest.
He turned away and headed for the stairs, waving casually.
“I must be going. I’ll be in later tonight, with a very lovely blonde. I’d
be most grateful if she lost!”
I ran my hand over my hair and went to pour myself a drink.
That night, with the Prefect of Police in the gambling room
with his blonde, I stood next to the piano as Sam played.
“You are here, so am I.
“Maybe millions of people go by,
“But they all disappear from view.
“And I only have eyes for you.”
And I watched that door.
Note: song lyrics It Had to Be You, and some song Sam sang in the Cafe, but I have no clue who wrote it, or what it's called, unless it's Though My Hair is Curly.
I stiffened, then determined to ignore the persistent
My shoulders slumped. He wasn’t going to go away.
Wondering how my name, which had no esses, could sound so
sibilant, I turned to face the oily black marketeer.
“Oh, hullo, Ugarte. Was there something you wanted?” I
could have winced. Poor choice of words.
His black, olive pit eyes lit up. “Oh yes, Rick! I thought you would never come around to my way of thinking!”
”Excuse me?” I asked cautiously as I lit a cigarette. “And just how did you assume I had done that?”
“You asked if there was something I wanted! You,
Rick! I want you!”
Idly I regarded the fist my right hand had folded into.
“Ugarte, if you were the last man on the face of the earth, and my only hope
of living just one more day was to let you fuck me, I would not want you!”
The little man’s face fell. But then he brightened once
more. “Suppose I let you fuck me, Rick? Would that be more
acceptable to you?”
I leaned close enough to smell the odor of the poppy petals
he loved to chew. “Ugarte…”
He interrupted me, seizing my arm. “Don’t tell me
you’re not like that, Rick. I see the way you look at our gallant Prefect of
I made my face blank. “I don’t know what you’re
talking about, Ugarte. And I have a business to run.”
“You really don’t like me at all, do you Rick?” For a
second he looked as if he might cry. “You despise me?”
I contemplated the glowing tip of my cigarette. “If I
gave you any thought at all, I probably would.”
“But why, Rick? I provide a service here in Casablanca,
just as Ferrari does.”
“But Ferrari has a kind of style you have to admire. He
may charge all the market can bear, but at least he isn’t a cut-rate
parasite!” I looked at the little man in his slightly soiled white suit.
Pointedly glancing down to where his fingers were pressing tightly around my
arm, I said, “Now take your hand off me, Ugarte. If you’d like to play at
one of the tables, then I suggest you go on into the gambling room. Otherwise, I
am not open to any of your slimy invitations.”
I shook free of him and he met the look in my eyes.
Ugarte’s eyes widened as he backed away, and then
scurried around me and disappeared through the door Abdul, my best bouncer,
“You okay, boss?” Sam paused beside me. He was
I knew what he was concerned about, and it was only partly
to do with Ugarte. It had been three years since Paris. “I think I need a very
hot bath. I can feel his touch all over my body, to the bottom of my soul!”
A warm breath washed over the back of my neck.
“Oh? Should I be jealous, Ricky?”
My eyes slid shut. I wanted to lean back onto that compact
frame, letting him support my weight. When I opened my eyes again, Sam was
grinning like an idiot, and I struggled to wipe the sappy smile off my face and
get myself under control.
I licked my lips, then glanced over my shoulder at the
Chief of Police. “Haven’t you anything better to do than creep up on me,
Louie?” I asked shortly. “One of these days you’re going to get me
nervous, and I just might shoot you.”
He stood very close to me. “Would you shoot me, Rick?”
“Count on it!” I snapped.
Captain Renault stepped back a pace and began peeling off
his kid gloves. “Are you trying to frighten me, Ricky?”
“Could I?” I wondered.
He sent my own words back to me. “Count on it!”
He turned to go into the other room, and I felt a twinge of
disappointment. I enjoyed sparring with Louis Renault, and I didn’t want our
war of words to stop. He paused at the door and looked back at me. “Oh
Ricky.” His velvet brown eyes were alight with humor. “You do know I
am an inveterate liar, don’t you?”
Abdul opened the door. An ocean of sound seemed to flow out
and then ebb as it drew him out of my sight into the smoke-filled room. I
Sam had his piano set up and accepted a drink for one of
our regular patrons. “Got anything new, Sam?”
“Well, it’s new to Casablanca, Mr. Hemingway.” His
teeth shone whitely in his dark face and he began to sing.
“It had to be you, it had to be you.
“I wandered around and finally found somebody who…
“Could make me be true, could make me feel blue.
“And even be glad, just to be sad, thinkin’ of
Sam caught my eye and looked stricken. He turned as pale as
a colored boy could and his fingers crashed to the keys in a discordant jangle.
He downed a gulp of his drink, and then began banging out another tune.
“Though my hair is curly…” He ran his hand over his
slicked down hair.
“Though my teeth are pearly…” He flashed a mouthful
of teeth in a nervous grin.
I shook my head and walked to the bar, motioning for Sascha
to pour me a drink. Yvonne was sitting with her back to me, but I could tell by
the set of her shoulders that she knew I was there.
“Where were you last night, Rick?” she asked softly.
“That was so long ago I can’t remember.” I signed a
chit that Emil brought to me and spoke quietly of a pickpocket who was making
the rounds of the nightspots.
Yvonne turned, her mouth taking on a bitter twist. “Will
I see you tonight?”
“I never make plans that far in advance.”
Tears began to roll down her face. “Sascha! Pour me
“You’ve had enough, ‘Vonne. You had best go home
now,” I told her.
“How dare you tell me what to do!” The anger I knew was
lurking beneath the surface erupted. She struck out at me.
My fingers closed around her wrist and I jerked her toward
me and off her seat. “Let’s get your coat, darling. It’s time for you to
She suddenly seemed to cave in on herself. “Oh, what a
fool I was to fall for a man like you!” She wept.
“Sascha, get a cab.”
The bartender had been watching the theatrics with
“Sascha, no!” Yvonne batted her tear-drenched lashes at
him, unaware that his interest lay elsewhere.
He grinned at her. “Yvonne, I love you, but Rick pays the
We followed him out to the street. “See her home,
He looked glum. “Yes, boss.” He thought I wanted him to
baby-sit my former lover.
“And come right back!”
That cheered him up. “*Yes* boss!” He climbed in after
her and the cab sped away.
“Ricky, Ricky, beautiful women are not so plentiful that
they can be tossed away!”
“Jesus, Renault! Stop sneaking up on me like that!”
“You’re a little jumpy tonight, Rick. Why is that, I
“Go fuck yourself, Louie!”
He patted my cheek. “I have a better idea, Ricky.” I
held my breath, but then he said, “I think I’ll pay a call on the lovely
Yvonne and see if she’ll be interested in renewing our friendship.”
The Chief of Police laughed and raised his hand. One of his
men whipped his car around and he got in, waving a casual goodnight to me.
I gritted my teeth. Why was I feeling jealous, all of a
sudden? And not that Louie would have Yvonne, but that Yvonne would have Louie!
I spat out a curse and went back into the Café.
“Yeah, Sam?” The Café Americain had closed for the
night and I was helping with the clean up. Carl and Sascha had gone to a meeting
of the underground, which had been starting to make itself felt here in
“You upset cause I played that song?”
I looked blank.
“It Had to Be You?” he reminded me.
“Is that why you got your gut in a knot? Sam, you can
sing any song you want, as long as it isn’t As Time Goes By. Don’t ever play
that song again!”
He sighed in relief and turned to go back to his piano.
He’d practice some new songs rather than retire to his quarters on the upper
story of the café. Sam didn’t have a political bone in his body, but he’d
let his lover follow whatever doctrine he chose.
And he’d wait up until Sascha was safely back.
I locked the front entrance and crossed the floor to the
staircase that led up to my living quarters. Abruptly Sam said, “You gonna ask
me how long it’s been, boss?”
“No, Sam, this year I don’t think I will!”
~End Part A
On to Part B