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Title: No Matter What the Future Brings 

Author/pseudonym: Tinnean 

Fandom: Casablanca 

Pairing: Rick/Victor Lazlo, Rick/Captain Renault 

Rating: NC-17 

Disclaimer: If they belonged to me, I’d be dead now. Seriously, Howard Koch gets all the credit for this, as well as Warner Bros. 

Status: new/complete 

Date: 1/2001  

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

Part 1 

It was his nose mostly, I think. Straight. Patrician. Elegant. 

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 remember correctly. 

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 ‘em!” 

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.”


Part 2 

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 be. 

“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 clear?” 

“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 he is.” 

“Yeah, so?” 

“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 balls.  

“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 room. 

“Hey!” I bolted after him, lugging the grip. “That’s mine!” 

“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 

Part 3 

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 Canadian one? 

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 with it. 

“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 parted. 

“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 purred. 

 “Dangerous 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 mankind’?” 

“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 this before?” 

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 sheets. 

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 like.” 

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 apart. 

“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 

Part 4 

“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 tie. 

“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 them. 

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 them.” 

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 of me. 

“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. 

Part 5 

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 Hally. 

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 again!” 

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.” 

“Sure thing.” 

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 corpse.” 

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 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 drawer. “Now.” 

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 waiting for?” 

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 Souls Church. 

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 scratch!” 

“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. 

“Mr. Rick!” 

“Sam! What are you doing here?” 

“I come in early every day to practice.” 

“Go home, Sam. You’re out of work.” 

“Mr. Bartlett?” 

“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 room. 

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 it open. 

“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.


Part 6 




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 America. 

And when it got too hot for us there, we moved on. 

To China, where we battled with Chiang Chai-Shek against the Communists. 

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.” 

“Na zdorovie.” 

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 Richard.” 

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.

Part 7 

“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?” 

“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 gone.” 

“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 glimpsed. 

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 arm. 

“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 Marseilles.” 

“Three, boss?” 

I nodded, then changed my mind as stray curls caressed my cheek. 

“Make it four, Sam. See if Sasha wants to join our merry band.” 

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 curse.” 

“That’s the frog-eaters for you, Butterfly. Let’s go!” 

“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 complain. 

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. 

“Richard, please!” 

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 feet. 

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 me. 

“Here’s looking at you, Richard!”


Warning: m/f again 

Part 8 

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 she moaned. 

“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 ‘em!” 

“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 remain behind. 

“What, boss?” 

“Why did Sascha feel it was necessary to ask for your hand?” 

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.

Part 9 

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, Ricky.” 

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 fucking drink! 

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 inside him. 

“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 vices.” 

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 after him. 

“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. 

Part 10 

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 trousers. 

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 mouth. 

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? 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 at him. 

“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 wrong sex.” 

“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 disappointed. 

“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 at roulette.” 

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 base. 

I blinked and shook my head, and returned to the real world. 

“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. 

Part 11 


I stiffened, then determined to ignore the persistent whisper. 


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 Police!” 

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, guarded. 

“You okay, boss?” Sam paused beside me. He was concerned. 

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 sighed. 

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 you…” 

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 another drink!” 

“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 go home.” 

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 interest. 

“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 bills!” 

We followed him out to the street. “See her home, Sascha.” 

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 wonder?” 

“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. 


“Umm, boss?” 

“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 Casablanca. 

“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