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No Matter What the Future Brings

Part 12 

The rumbling of the guns of war was growing louder. The flow of refugees trickling into Casablanca, in hopes of eventually making it to Lisbon, and from there to the United States, had grown to a flood. 

Ferrari did a thriving business in exit visas. Those who couldn’t meet his price dealt with Ugarte. 

And the ones with beautiful wives dealt with Renault. 

At first I had watched in amusement as those desperate men sold their wives’ favors for the opportunity to get away from Casablanca. I even had a sneaking sense of pride in the Prefect of Police’s smooth manner. His bed was rarely empty. 

Unlike mine, which was becoming more and more lonely. None of the women I knew could even tempt me anymore, not even the girl I kept, who had rooms over the Blue Parrot. 

I was restless and irritable and… 

A gentle hand touched my arm. “M’sieur Rick?” 

She was little more than a girl, for all she was dressed as a woman and wore a simple band of some cheap metal on her ring finger. But she was pretty in a sweet, unpretentious way. 

I leaned back against the bar. “Yes?” 

“Please, may I speak with you?” 

I nodded toward the seat next to me. “How did you get in here? You’re underage.” 

“Captain Renault…” 

“Ah. I see,” I said sourly. It was bothering me more and more that he brought these women to my café. They came in hopes of winning enough to bribe him honorably, if such a thing was possible, but the odds were against them. And Renault waited patiently, like a spider at the center of his web, until they fell into his clutches. 

I was becoming decidedly melodramatic. 

“My husband is with me.” It was as if she sensed my disapproval. 

“Is he? Then Captain Renault is becoming very broadminded. Would you care for a drink?” 

“Oh, no, M’sieur. But please, have one yourself.” 

I snorted and nodded for Sascha to pour me a brandy. “Well, what can I do for you, Mrs…?” 

“Oh please, call me Annina.” She chewed on her plump lower lip, and I could see her attraction to Renault. Young, and fresh and… “Please, M’sieur, what kind of man is Captain Renault? I mean, is he trustworthy?” 

“Why are you asking me, Annina?” 

She blushed and looked away. “M’sieur le Capitaine said I should inquire of you…” 

I swore under my breath. Louie was dragging me further and further into these little affairs of his, and I was not liking it one bit. “Where’s your husband?” 

“Jan is at the roulette table, trying to win the money for our exit visas, but of course he is losing.” Her startlingly blue eyes welled with tears, looking like drowned violets. “We are from Bulgaria, M’sieur Rick. Things there are so very bad! The devil has the people by the throat! And Jan and I, we do not wish our children to grow up in such a place! But we have not much money, and traveling is so expensive…” Her voice broke. 

I sighed and took a sip of the brandy. 

“Captain Renault says he will give us the exit visas, even though we have no money.” 

“So why do you come to me?” My face had darkened in anger, and I think I frightened the girl. She gasped and looked down in shame. 

“I must know…Will he keep his word?” 

“He always has.” 

A tear spilled over. “Then I must do this bad thing,” she said hollowly. “I will keep it locked in my heart. But oh, if Jan should find out…He is such a boy! In many ways, I am so much older than he! Would you understand, if someone who loved you did such a thing for your happiness?” 

“No one’s ever loved me that much.” I couldn’t bear this conversation any longer. “I hope your problem works out.” 

“Thank you, M’sieur,” she said tonelessly. 

I got up and left her by the bar, fumbling for a scrap of linen to dry her face. I stopped to have a word with Carl, who was sharing a glass of what appeared to be my finest wine with a plump little Austrian couple. They would be leaving the next morning for Lisbon. 

“What watch, sweetness heart?” I heard the little man ask his wife. 

She looked at her watch. “Ten watch,” she said firmly. 

“Such much?” he responded, clearly proud of his grasp of the American vernacular. 

“They’ll get along well in America, ja Herr Rick?” Carl murmured encouragingly. I squeezed his shoulder and moved on to the gambling room. 

Just to keep an eye on things, I assured myself. 


He was the youngest one at the table, and I spotted him right away. Emil caught my eye as I strolled around the players, nodding to let me know the house was doing well this evening. 

I stopped behind the Bulgarian. He was pale and drops of sweat beaded his upper lip. He had three chips left, and he toyed with them restlessly. I leaned over and spoke in his ear. “Have you tried twenty-two?” I looked at Emil. “Twenty-two, I said.” 

The boy slid his chips onto the black square and Emil set the wheel to spinning. “Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.” He dropped the little silver ball onto the wheel. It bounced and rolled and then settled into a slot. “Vingt et deux,” Emil intoned. “Twenty-two.” 

“Let the chips ride,” I said quietly. The boy hesitated for a minute, then took his hands from where they had been hovering protectively around the colorful wooden markers. 

Emil looked resigned. “The game continues. All bets placed, mesdames et messieurs.” He spun the wheel and spoke the words that ended further betting. “Le jeu son fin!” 

Annina came into the room looking desolate, and stood behind her husband. When she saw the neat stack of chips before him, she gave a breathy sob. Louie spotted her, and his lips curled complacently. 

Until the subdued excitement at the table drew the Prefect of Police’s attention, and he frowned in annoyance when he realized his little bird was about to fly the coop. 

I smiled and returned to watching the ball spin dizzily around the wheel. Once again it came to rest in the little black space. “Vingt et deux,” Emil pronounced with a sigh. “Vingt et deux.” 

“Now cash it in, and don’t come back here. Ever!” 

The boy flashed me a grateful smile and scooped up his chips. 

I overheard some grumbles about the honesty of the place, but they were quickly tramped down by my employees. Carl offered to bring me a cup of coffee and I thought for a moment he would kiss me. I sidestepped him and paused by Emil. 

“How are we doing tonight?”

“A couple of thousand less than I thought,” he said dryly. His eyes followed the young couple to the cashier. 

Louie was approaching me, and I waited, excitement bubbling in my veins. 

“Boss!” Sascha called, hurrying to my side. Carl stood at the doorway, rubbing his hands in satisfaction, happy to be destroying my reputation as a cold, unfeeling businessman. I frowned at him, and then Sascha was throwing himself at me. “Boss, you do a wonderful thing!” 

He planted wet kisses on each cheek and I pushed him back. “Get away from me, you crazy Russian! You want Sam to have my hide?” 

Laughing, he wiped my face dry and then spoiled the effect by kissing me again. “You’re a good man, M’sieur Rick!” He hurried back to the bar, beaming. 

“As I suspected, Ricky, you’re a rank sentimentalist!” 

“Yeah, Louie?” I was filled with satisfaction. “Why would you think something as untrue as that?” 

“You interfere with my little romances. And I know this was not the first time!” 

I grinned at him and rocked back and forth on my heels. 

“Well, I’ll forgive you this time, my dear Rick. But if there should be a next time…” 

His eyes were fastened on my mouth and he licked his lips, and I was suddenly, embarrassingly, hard.


Part 13 

I tapped my cigarette against an ashtray and studied the chessboard in front of me. The board, and the pieces on it, waited patiently for me to make the next move, but I had too much on my mind to concentrate.

It was early evening, and I was enjoying the last of the summer warmth in the courtyard behind the Café Americain. The balmy breeze was like a lover’s caress, whispering over my face. 

Dismissing the game, I swung my feet up onto the small table and tipped the chair back. I slid down onto the base of my spine, raised my face to the night sky and closed my eyes. The promise of the evening washed over me. 

All too soon the rainy season would be upon us, with its fog and damp. The number of planes leaving for Lisbon would become limited, and the desperation of those desirous of leaving Casablanca would grow in proportion. 

Captain Renault, our illustrious Chief of Police, would be required to continuously round up even more of the usual suspects, who would have committed every crime from the most mundane to the most heinous. 

I toyed with the image of Louis Renault, idly wondering what he must look like under those uniforms he had especially tailored. The crease in his trousers was always knife-edged and his collars so stiffly starched they looked as if they could stand up on their own. 

My most recent fantasy was of him coming to me in the dark of the night, after all of Casablanca had closed down, when even the rats and the snakes had faded into their holes. 

I could picture him leaning against the door to my rooms, his hands slowly unbuttoning each of those shiny, brass buttons, which had to take his batman at least all morning to bring to such a glossy, untarnished sheen. 

My hand reached down to stroke my hardening length through my trousers, tracing the outline, as my mind’s eye brought him to me, naked, with shivers of desire rippling his muscles. 

I groaned under my breath, and then jerked upright with a start, my daydream interrupted, nearly spilling off my chair. 

“Herr Rick, Captain Renault wishes to speak with you!” Carl stood in the doorway, wringing his hands in his apron. 

“*Shit*!” I ran a hand over my hair, and smoothed down the front of my clothes. Thankfully, I hadn’t reached the point in my daydreams where Louie swallowed me down to the root, and I came in his mouth. 

And all over myself. 

“My dear Rick! I trust I’m not disturbing you?” 

If he only knew!  “Of course not, Louie. What can I do for you?” 

I swear he looked at me coyly. “I can’t come around just to see you for your beaux yeux?” 

He thought my eyes were gorgeous? I swallowed my breath wrong and started to cough. 

“Sit down, Captain,” I was finally able to say. I needed to put some emotional space between us. “Carl, bring us two coffees, please,” I called to the waiter as he hovered in the doorway. “Would you like anything in yours, Louie?” 

“Perhaps a little crème de cacao, Rick?” 

“Isn’t it too early for that?” 

He waited until Carl had brought us the small cups the Moroccans favored for their dark brew. I had my cup to my lips and was taking a sip when his glance turned sultry. “It’s never to early for…*that*!” 

I choked on my coffee. Louie surged to his feet and came to me, pounding on my back. 

“Enough! Enough!” I caught my breath and managed to sputter. There were splashes of coffee all over my pale beige jacket and trousers. I regarded them ruefully. “My laundress is not going to be pleased with me!” 

“Better, Rick?” 

“Oh, stop being so fucking solicitous! If you hadn’t made such a salacious remark, I never would have swallowed my coffee wrong!”

“*I*? Make a salacious remark? You must have me confused with someone else, Ricky!” 

“Yeah, and Hitler’s going to change his mind about taking London!” 

He laughed and returned to his seat. 

A plane flew low overhead, and we stared after it. 

Pouring a measure of the liqueur into his cup, he observed quietly, “Would you like to be on it, Rick? The plane to Lisbon?” 

“Why would I want to go to Lisbon?” 

“You could catch the clipper to America,” he offered 

I couldn’t answer that. Sometimes the longing for home would take me unawares. 

He must have seen that in my eyes. “I’ve often wondered why you don’t return to the States. There is nothing to keep you here in Casablanca.” 

“You’re wrong, Louie. There’s nothing for me in America. Here there’s Sam and Sascha, Carl and Emil and Abdul.” And you, I added to myself. 

“And the Café?” 

I shrugged. “It’s just a business.” 

“Now that is very telling, my dear Rick. It is not fashionable in Casablanca to care about anything except oneself!” He toyed with the pretty cup before him. “Why did you leave? Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a politician’s wife?” 

I shook my head, smiling at the notion of any decent woman letting me get near her. 

Although once, one had. My smile faded. 

The Chief of Police began to speak more briskly. “*I* like to think you killed a man. It’s the romantic in me, I suppose.” 

My glance was so sharp he actually jerked back in his seat. “What did you do, Rick?” The question was softly insistent, as if his will could force the answer from me. 

“There’s nothing romantic in killing a man, Louie. You should know that by now! It’s messy, and ugly, and…” 

“Why did you come to Casablanca, Ricky?” 

I sat back and studied the grounds in my coffee cup, once more in control. “For my health.” 

He looked stunned by my response, and I realized I had finally gotten the advantage of him. Well, well. One horse to me! “I came to Casablanca for the waters,” I continued lightly. 

“What waters, Rick? We’re in the middle of the desert!” 

“I was misinformed,” I said blandly. I enjoyed baiting him, and I didn’t often get the chance. 

His face remained expressionless, but the wrinkles around his eyes deepened, and I could see the amusement there. “*I* think you’re a romantic yourself, Ricky!” 

I shook my head. “You must have me confused with someone else!”

“No, no! I assure you! For example, in ’35 you ran guns to Ethiopia. And in ’36 you fought against the Fascists in Spain.” 

“And was very well paid, both times.” 

“Yes, but Ricky, the winning side would have paid you so much more!” 

I shrugged. He was getting too close to my core. “If you’re quite finished, Captain? I do have a business to run.” 

“Actually, Rick, I just wanted to let you know that I was conferring a great honor upon you. A man will be arrested later tonight in your Café.” 

“*Again*?” Now I was annoyed. “I can easily live without your honors, Louie. Business is always off for days afterwards!” 

“Just don’t think of warning him.” 

“Warning who? I stick my neck out for no one Louie!” 

He smiled and got to his feet. “I’ll be bringing along a very distinguished visitor to our fair city.” 

I lit another cigarette and looked at him through the smoke. “Oh? Blond or brunette?” 

“Actually, Nazi.”


Notes: A baccarat shoe is the box that contains the eight decks of cards that are used in the game. The dealer draws the cards from it and deals them to the players.

The song Knock on Wood is from the movie and is performed much as I describe it.

Part 14 


I closed my eyes. Sascha leaned over the bar. “You okay, boss? You look like you got a pain.” 

“I did,” I whispered, “and its name is Ugarte!” 

Sascha glowered at the other man. The slimy Czech had tried to coerce Sam into his bed. Sascha had been infuriated and forced to resort, not at all unwillingly, to violence. 

He stalked to the other end of the bar where Lieutenant Casselle and Captain Tonelli stood. The Frenchman, aide to the Prefect of Police, was talking nonstop. Tonelli, of the Italian service, kept trying to get a word in edge-wise, but with no luck.  

Sascha poured them their red wine, and turned to glare at Ugarte. 

Ugarte ducked his head and touched my arm. “Can I speak with you Rick? In the other room, please?” 

Reluctantly, I led him into the gambling room. He stopped a passing waiter and took a glass of champagne. “Will you have a drink with me, please? Oh, I forgot, you never drink with…” 

He licked his lips, then slid a finger under his collar and tugged. “Too bad about those German couriers, isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I responded coldly, uncomfortable with being near him. “Yesterday they were just two clerks. Today they’re the honored dead.” 

“Er…yes.” He gulped down his drink and seized another. “Well, I…want to show you something, Rick.” Ugarte reached into his jacket and pulled out a slim envelope. “Even you have never seen this! Letters of transit, signed by General DeGaulle himself!” 

I went still. “I understand those couriers were carrying letters of transit.” 

“Er, yes. Quite a coincidence, isn’t it?” 

“I don’t suppose they can be rescinded, or questioned?” 

He shook his head. 

He hugged them to his chest as if they were his firstborn, as unlikely as that possibility might be. “Well?” I snarled. “Why do you tell me this?” 

“I’ve been in Casablanca for so long,” he said, musingly, almost as if he forgot I was there. “I don’t know what it will be like in Portugal But things are getting extremely dangerous for me here.” He looked around nervously. “I’ll be selling these tonight, and then Casablanca won’t see me for my dust!” 

“Why did you feel it was necessary to bring these into my place?” 

His smile held a tinge of panic. “I neglected to tell you that I would be selling these little beauties here, Rick. Right here, in the Café Americain! And I just need you to hold on to them for me.” 

“Goddamn it, Ugarte, why me? The only reason Renault lets me stay open is that he knows I have nothing to do with that kind of trafficking!” 

“Please, Rick. Please!” His fingers clutched my arm painfully. “It’s because you despise me so that I feel I can trust you! Keep them for just an hour, perhaps a bit longer, and then I promise you I will be out of Casablanca on tonight’s plane, and you’ll never see me again!” 

Reluctantly, I took the envelope and turned it carefully in my hands, examining the innocuous rectangle from every angle before slipping it into my pocket. 

“Thank you, Rick.” He turned to make his way toward the baccarat table, then stopped. “I’m sorry you don’t like me Rick, but perhaps you are more impressed with me now? Just a soupcon?” His eyes were feverish, and he took a seat opposite Claude, who was controlling the shoe. 

“Yes, Ugarte, you’re right. I am a little more impressed with you now!” 

I left the gambling room, feeling sweat begin to pool under my arms.  I was getting a very bad feeling about this. 


Sam had started his first set of the evening. The spot light hit him and he sang, 

“Say, who’s got troubles?” 

The spot left Sam to sweep over the band as they sang back at him. 

“*We’ve* got troubles!” 

It returned to the colored boy. 

“How much trouble?” 

I walked over to the piano. There was a stack of music scores lying on it, and I picked them up and thumbed through them. 

“Too much trouble!” The band was laughing in the spotlight once more. They loved that song and always got a kick out of playing it. 

I took the opportunity to palm the envelope from my pocket in the darkness and slid it beneath the papers and under the piano lid. 

“Well, now, don’t you frown, just knuckle down 

“And knock on wood!” 

Sam was watching me with concern in his eyes. “What you doing, Mr. Rick?” 

“God only knows, Sam, and I hope that Russian of yours has an in with Him!” 

He gulped and pinned a smile on his face as the light hit him one more time. 

“Now who’s happy…?” 

I made my way to the bar, where Tonelli had given up trying to fit a word into the conversation and was instead regarding the Frenchman with something akin to hunger. 

“Sascha, let me have…” 

The bartender was looking pale. He jerked his head, drawing my attention to a table near the bar, where the owner of the Blue Parrot sat, never once taking his eyes off Sam. 

I sighed and took my drink, then went over to the fat man. “Ferrari.” 

“Hello, Rick. When are you going to sell me your café?” 

“When Hitler decides to become a Democrat. It’s not for sale.” 

“You haven’t heard how much I’m willing to pay.” 

“I don’t care. It’s not for sale at any price.” 

“What about Sam?” 

A glass shattered as it fell from Sascha’s shaking fingers. 

“I don’t buy or sell human beings, Ferrari.” 

“Pity. That’s what Casablanca does best. We could make a fortune, we two, in refugees alone!” 

“I don’t deal in the black market. That’s why Louie lets me stay open.” 

“I want to hire Sam away from you, if you won’t sell him to me.” 

“Go ahead and ask him.” 

Sam was playing something bouncing, Baby Face, I think. When he looked up at me,  worry was even deeper in his eyes. “Can I play something for you, Mr. Rick?” 

“Not right now, Sam. Ferrari wants you to work for him at the Blue Parrot.” 

He smiled in spite of his tension. “I like it here,” he said simply. 

“He’ll pay you three times what I do!” 

Ferrari looked disgruntled. That had not been part of his plan. 

“That’s okay, boss. I ain’t got time to spend what I make here!” 

The fat man laughed. “Looks like you win this time, Rick.” He touched his forehead in the Islamic sign of respect and made his way out of the café. 

“That man scares me, boss.” 

“Don’t worry, Sam. If you ever have to work for him, I’ll make sure you get a honey of a deal.” I squeezed his shoulder and looked around. I was about to go out to the kitchen for a bite of dinner when a flash of white caught my eye. 

Louis Renault, representative of Unoccupied France. Accompanied by someone else. A curl of jealousy settled in my gut. 

Lieutenant Casselle hurried across the floor, the Italian Captain following him like a ship in tow. They stopped at the entrance and snappily saluted. 

And I got a better look. 

The man, wearing the uniform of an SS officer,  stood there, a sneer twisting his lips as he surveyed the people who ate… and drank… and waited… for whatever their fate would bring them in Casablanca.


Part 15 

Carl approached me unhappily. “I give him the best table, Herr Rick, knowing that he is German, and would just take it.” 

“That’s fine, Carl,” I reassured him. Herr Heinze, the German Consul, was often at my café, bringing officials whose only desire was to intimidate. I had a special supply of liquor that I saved especially for those occasions. 

Some people never looked past the fancy labels. 

Sascha was next, with a check a couple of Germans had used to pay their bar bill. He was almost in tears. I tore the check in two and patted his shoulder. “It’s okay, Sascha.” 

“M’sieur Rick, they will make us go broke!” 

“Don’t worry about it. You poured out of my private stock?” 

He nodded. 

“And they were none the wiser?” I smiled, a small, satisfied smile. That cheered him a bit. “Go see Sam. He’s due for a break.” That cheered him even more. 

“Pardon, M’sieur Rick!” 

“Yes, Emil?” This was going to be one of those nights. 

“Someone just won twenty thousand francs! The cashier needs money.” 

I went into my office, with my head croupier apologizing profusely behind me. 

“I’m going to fire that imbecile! I don’t know how that could occur, M’sieur Rick! I’m so upset!” 

“It’s all right, Emil. These things happen.” I opened the safe and handed him a fistful of francs. 

“I’m so sorry!” He went back to the gambling room, mumbling under his breath. 

There were nights like that. 


I felt the presence behind me, and was grateful my jacket was low enough to conceal the state of my prick. “Louie.” 


I turned casually to face him. The scent of his cologne seemed to surround me, enclosing me in a cocoon of desire, and I leaned toward his warmth. I wanted to run my tongue over his cheek, licking him. 

Startled, I took a step back, and he smiled, awareness in his brown eyes. 

“Son of a bitch!” I swore, and his smile widened. “Haven’t you anything better to do than to tease me?” 

“Do I tease you, Ricky? How nice! Perhaps another time we can do something about that. And about your condition!” Discreetly he dropped his eyes to my crotch, and I could feel color flood my cheeks. 

“Who’s the Kraut, Louie?” I asked, desperate to change the subject. 

“Major Strasser, of the Third Reich, is here to see how efficiently we run things in Unoccupied France!” 

“Surely that’s not all!”

He looked back at his table. “I have arranged for the arrest of the murderer of those two German couriers. You know nothing of those missing letters of transit, do you Rick? No, of course not!” he answered his own question, saving me the necessity of lying to him. 

Which was unlike him. 

“You’ve got something on your mind, Louie. Spill it.” I was scanning the room, on the alert for any trouble from the smorgasbord of customers I had in the café that evening. 

Now the smile was gone. “Someone will be coming in here soon. Tomorrow, the day after, I’m not certain when, but he will be here, and he will want those letters. He’ll be willing to pay any price for them! I’ll tell you the truth, Rick. We know that while many exit visas are sold in Rick’s, you do not sell them. That’s one of the reasons we allow you to stay open.” 

“I thought the fact that I let you win at roulette is the reason I stay open.” 

“And that’s the other reason!” 

“So who is this man who is willing to mortgage his soul for a piece of paper?” 

“Have you ever heard of Victor Lazlo?” 

I went pale and my gaze shot up to tangle with the Prefect’s. “Victor Lazlo!” 

“Ah, I see you are impressed! Should I be jealous?” 

I ignored that. “Victor Lazlo has succeeded in impressing most of Europe! Of course I’m impressed!” 

“Well, be that as it may, he must never leave Casablanca.” 

He wasn’t happy with my response to that statement. “Louie, if the Nazis couldn’t keep him in a concentration camp, and if they’ve been days behind trying to catch up to him, what makes you think anything can keep him in Casablanca?” My voice was rich with pride. That was the man who had been my lover, although no one knew of it. 

“Nevertheless, Rick…” 

“I’m willing to wager twenty thousand francs that he makes it to Lisbon!” 

He pulled on his lower lip, and suddenly I was disinterested in our wager. I wanted to suck that lip into my mouth and nibble on it. “That’s quite a lot of money!” 

“I just paid out that much. I’d like an opportunity to gain it back!” My eyes narrowed and my glance turned heated. And I heard him catch his breath. 

Finally! I was finally making him as hot to bed me, as I was to bed him. 

I signaled to Sascha, who brought me a glass of the good champagne. “Louie?” 

His fingers stroked mine as he took the offering. “Suppose we make it ten thousand? Corrupt though I may be, I’m still just a poor official.” 

He tipped the flute to his lips and took a sip. As he turned to see if his guest was growing restless, I retrieved the glass from him, and he raised a questioning eyebrow. 

I smiled and reversed the glass until the spot he drank from was before me. Then I raised it to my mouth and drained the last drops. 

“Why, Ricky, you wicked devil!” 

“Captain Renault! Captain! Major Strasser is getting restless!” Lieutenant Casselle was tugging on his arm.

*Stop* that Jacques, you’ll wrinkle my uniform!” Louie sighed. “Duty calls, my dear Rick.” 

“Certainly, Louie. Run along, or Gestapo spank!” 

“Oh, no, Rick. But I certainly will!” 

Damn! He’d one-upped me again! And he knew it! 

“Come along, Rick, I’ll introduce you.” 

Following him across the floor, I noticed that Sam was away from his piano, and Sascha was nowhere to be seen. That break was going to be a long one. 

I stopped by the band and told the leader to keep the music as non-partisan as possible. Those Gerries could be such hotheads. 

“Major Strasser, may I present Rick Blaine. He owns Rick’s Café Americain.” 

“Won’t you join us, Mr. Rick?” The Nazi was pulling a little black book from his coat pocket. 

“Certainly. How are you finding Casablanca, Major?” 

“It is hot, but we will get used to all climates, from the cold of Russia to the heat of Africa.” 

“Will you?” 

“Of course. They will all belong to us.” 

“Of course,” I agreed dryly. 

“Do you mind if I ask you some questions, unofficially?” 

I took out a cigarette and lit it. Louie was not the only one who noticed that I didn’t offer one to any of the occupants of the table, as was my usual habit. Casselle and Tonelli exchanged looks. “Make it official. It’s okay by me.” 

“What nationality are you, Mr. Blaine?” 

I watched the smoke rise lazily toward the ceiling. “I’m …a drunkard.” 

Casselle choked on his wine. 

Strasser shot a look at me, but my expression remained innocuous. “I was born in New York City, if that’s any help.” 

“I understand that you were in Paris at the time of the occupation.” 

“That’s no secret.” 

“Are you one of those people who cannot picture the Germans in their beloved Paris?” 

I kept my gaze as bored as I could. “It isn’t particularly my Paris.” 

Strasser didn’t like the answers I was giving him. “Can you picture us in London?” 

“Ask me when you get there.” 

Heinze could see the Major was on the verge of losing his temper, and ever the diplomatist, asked smoothly, “What about New York?” 

“There are some sections of New York I wouldn’t advise you to invade, Major. Even New Yorkers won’t go there after dark!” I took the little book from him and began to leaf through it. My German was a little rusty, but I could still understand some of it. "Are my eyes *really* brown?" I asked. 

His face began to turn red. 

One of the French policemen came quietly to his Chief and whispered in his ear. Louie turned away to converse with him. “…And make sure there are two men at every door.” 

The man nodded and went off to get the arrest in progress. 

Emil told me later that Ugarte was very calm about the whole thing. He politely asked the gendarmes if he might cash in his chips, and then waited until they approached the door. With an easy movement, he yanked the side arm of one of his guards free and bolted through the door, wheeling to fire wildly. 

“Rick! Rick!” he beseeched. “Help me! You must help me!” 

I was there, by the door. It’s my business, and I didn’t want innocent bystanders to be injured. 

Ugarte threw himself at me, his hands entwined in my lapels. “Please, Rick! Please!” 

“Don’t be a fool!” I said shortly. “You can’t get away!” 

And then they had him, and they dragged him from the café. Abdul closed the door behind them, shutting out the last of the little man’s cries. 

“If my time ever comes, I hope you’re more help to me, Blaine,” an Englishman sneered. 

“I stick my neck out for no one!” I raised my voice to be heard above the uproar. “It’s all right, folks. There was a little excitement, but everything is under control. So have a drink and enjoy yourselves.” 


I started for the stairs that led to my rooms. 


I paused at the bottom, and waited for him to reach me. He was pale, I noticed, and I was glad he was as affected as I was. 

“Do me a favor, Renault: don’t ever honor me like that again!


Note: song lyrics, and if you don’t know which one it is by now, where have you been?   

Part 16 

I strode up the stairs to my rooms above the café, taking them two and three at a time. 

I cared nothing for Ugarte, who was a worm, a parasite. 

Why then was I so upset that Louis Renault, the Prefect of Police, had had him arrested for the murders of the two German couriers? After all, Louie was only doing his job, wasn’t he? 

I paused with my hand on the ornate knob on my bedroom door. He was doing his job, all right, but was it going to cost him his honor? I had been in Paris at the end of the War to End All Wars, and had seen the Tiger pin the Croix de Guerre on his chest. Louis Renault was too good a man to kowtow to the likes of Hitler’s errand boys. 

All my adult life I had believed in laissez-faire—in letting my fellow human beings go to hell in their own particular fashion. If Louie chose to be venal and corrupt, who was I to object? 

And now he was trying to impress the German pig who sat drinking my most expensive champagne and eating the finest caviar from my kitchen. My staff knew to give Louie only the best in the house. I was livid that Strasser was gaining the benefit of my… fondness for the Frenchman. 

I stopped dead in the middle of my bedroom. 

I was the man who… didn’t want him to be venal and corrupt. 

The door was thrust open and then bounced shut behind the man who stalked in. 

“Louie!” Desire shot through me at the look I could feel stroking over my body. It started at my prick and arrowed up to pierce my heart. 

“Not a word, Rick! Not one single word!” He walked stiffly to where I stood in the middle of the purple and green patterned Persian rug that covered a good portion of my bedroom floor. His index finger pointed chest high, stabbing at me as if it was a weapon. 

If he had touched me, I might have taken a swing at him. 

If he had touched me, I might have hauled him into my arms and kissed him senseless. 

I refused to back away. And then we were toe to toe and I could feel him against me, hard and urgent. He raised his hand, bare of its usual glove, and his fingers threaded through my hair, sifting it. 

The sensation those fingers engendered was too good to believe. 

The brown of his eyes filled my vision and I felt as if I was tumbling headlong into them. I could see striations of deeper brown and then my lids drooped and the sight before me was blanked out. 

Hot, wine-scented breath bathed my mouth and a light pressure feathered against it, pleading for entrance. Helplessly, my lips parted and a warm, moist tongue lapped at them. It ran across the ridges of my teeth, and then withdrew. 

“Who do you see behind those closed lids?” 

A soft moan followed the loss of that mouth. “Louie!” My eyes opened languidly. 

His hands were on my hips, pulling me fiercely against him. “There are many stories about you, Rick. You’ve had a lot of women here in Casablanca, but not one of them could keep you for long.” 

“What’s your point, Louie?” 

“*I* want to be the one in your mind! When I’m in your bed! When I’m in your body!” 

“You want me, Louie?” I ran my tongue over my lips, tasting him there. “I’m many things, but I’m not easy. You’re going to have to work hard to get me.” 

His mouth took mine again, and this time his tongue surged past my teeth to toy with my tongue, licking and stroking it, and I was certain this had to be a dream. 

Only if it was, it was better than any I had ever had, and I did not want to wake up. 

My hands went around his waist and slid low to cup his buttocks, drawing him to my erection, rubbing mindlessly against him. 

I couldn’t catch my breath. He angled me around and began backing me toward my austere bed.  His fingers were sure on the buttons of my shirt, spreading it aside, fondling my nipples. 

A seductive thread of sound filtered through my head, becoming more and more imperative. 

And finally I realized it wasn’t my mind offering sounds to fuck by: it was a song. 

A song I hadn’t heard since Paris. One I had forbidden Sam to play ever again. 

From the floor below, the music filtered up, to flood my heart and take it in a punishing grip. 

“You must remember this, 

“A kiss is just a kiss, 

“A sigh is just a sigh, 

“The fundamental things apply, as time goes by…” 


People stepped away from me, hastily backing out of my path. It couldn’t have been any plainer if I bore a sign that warned ‘Cross me if you dare.’ My face was hot and the top of my head felt as if it was about to explode. 

“I thought I told you never to play that song again!” I snarled at my piano player. 

Sam was trying to signal something with his panicked eyes. I followed his desperate gaze. 

Time seemed to slow and stand still. I grabbed the edge of the piano to keep myself upright, my knuckles turning white from the pressure. 

Swinging his bench up and slamming it onto the top of his piano, Sam nervously edged out of the line of fire as I faced the woman who had haunted my dreams for the past three years. 


“Hello, Rick.” 

“You are acquainted with Mademoiselle Lund, Mr. Rick?” Major Strasser was decidedly intrigued with that turn of events. 

“We knew each other in Paris,” she answered before I could get my tongue unglued from the roof of my mouth. “The last time we were all together was…” 

“The day the Germans invaded France, in La Belle Aurore.” 

“How nice. You remember!” Her voice was so bland. If it wasn’t against one of the few principles I had left, I would have been tempted to take a poke at her. 

“I remember every detail,” I said through clenched teeth. “The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.” 

“Yes. I put that dress away.” The dress I had lovingly pealed from her lithe body. “When the Germans march out, I will wear it again.” 

I could feel the Prefect of Police coming up behind me, almost quivering with interest. He had seen me with women before, but never was a woman as beautiful as Ilsa Lund. I dismissed his presence. 

“I’d like you to meet my companion, Rick.” 

She was no longer calling me Richard. I waited expectantly for the feel of a man having his insides kicked out. 

And when it came, it wasn’t because the woman I thought I loved, and thought I would never see again, had suddenly come into my life once more. 

He approached from the shadows of the bar, his white suit standing out like a beacon. The world seemed to spin wildly and then shrink in upon itself. A roaring filled my ears. The man walked to Ilsa’s side and stopped there, facing me, his hand possessive on her. 

As it had once been possessive on me. 

Victor Lazlo.


Part 17 

The shadows spilled over the courtyard, dappling the gaily-patterned tiles. A bottle of whiskey, the level of liquor descending rapidly, was before me on the little metal table, the glass was clutched tightly in my left hand. 

“You okay, boss?” 

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, he has to walk into mine!” 

“Boss?” Sam was confused. I could see that, even through the haze of alcohol I was determined to lose myself in. 

“If it’s 1941 in Casablanca, Sam, what time is it in New York?” 

“Dunno, boss. My watch broke.” 

I bet they don’t know what time it is there either.” I laughed bitterly. “Have a drink, Sam.” 

“No thanks, Mr. Rick.” 

“Then don’t have a drink!” I poured myself another three fingers and gulped it down. 

“Mr. Rick, who you talkin’ about? I thought you was upset to see Miss Ilsa again!” 

“Miss Ilsa? Oh yeah. Sure.” I stared gloomily into the amber liquid in my glass. “Did you see his vest, Sam?” 

“Huh? Boss, I think you’ve had too much to drink!” 

“Is this bottle empty?”

“No,” he responded cautiously. 

“Then I haven’t had too much!” 

“Boss, please!” 

“Fuck it, Sam! I don’t understand it! Ugarte gets arrested, and then she walks in. And then he walks in!” 

“He who, boss?” 

“Victor Lazlo!” 

Sam stopped fidgeting with the chess pieces. “Your…friend … from New York? Boss, that’s wonderful!” 

I tossed back the remainder of my drink and poured another. “He’s with Ilsa!” 

The piano player frowned. “Your…friend…from Paris? That ain’t good boss!” 

I sneered at the bottle of whiskey. “Tell me something I don’t know, Sam.” 

“Listen, boss. Let’s go fishing. We’ll take a drive down the coast, get drunk, come back next week.” 

“Play it, Sam.” 

“I don’t remember …” 

“You played As Time Goes By for her, you can play Do It Again for me!” 

His mouth dropped open and then he snapped it shut. “I ain’t got the music with me boss.” 

“Fuck. Then what good are you? Go ‘way, Sam. I want to wallow!” 

“In what, Mr. Rick? You can’t…” His voice petered out and I buried my head in my arms. From far away I heard him gasp. “Cap’n Renault! What you doin’ here? It’s after hours! We ain’t got no gamblin’ goin’ on now!” 

I wondered at the coolness in Sam’s tone. 

“Go to bed, Sam. I’ll take care of your boss.” 

I tried to raise my head but if felt as if it was filled with cement and I couldn’t lift it. 

“He’s my friend too. I’ll take care of him. We don’t need you here!” 

“Ricky needs me more than you think!” 

“Don’t you call him that, Cap’n! He’s down now! He don’t need you kickin’ him in the ass!” 

“I have better plans for his ass Sam! Go to bed.” 

Sam squeezed my shoulder. “You want me to leave, Mr. Rick?” 

“’Sokay, Sam. I’ll just finish this bottle and then get started on this one.” I pulled another bottle of whiskey from where I had stashed it by my chair. 

He exchanged a slightly panicked glance with the Prefect of Police, and I scowled as I saw Louie shake his head. “Fucking frogeater! Go ‘way, too, Louie. I don’t want you here tonight.” 

“Does that mean that perhaps you’ll want me here another night?” He took the bottle away and scrutinized the label. “Really, Rick, I’m most disappointed in you! This stuff is worse than what Ferrari sells at the Blue Parrot. It will eat your insides!” 

“So what?” I cradled my head in my arms once more. 

“Go on, Sam. I’ll see that he doesn’t deplete his own stock of this poison.” 

Sam grumbled a bit more, but it had been a long night, and the lure of the Russian in his bed proved too great for him to resist. “Night, boss.” 

“Deserter!” I grumbled. I peeled an eye open long enough to see the look the colored boy gave the Frenchman. “Sam loves me, at least.” 

“Apparently you’re loved by more people than you realize, Ricky.” 

“Yeah, but not by the ones who matter!” I reached for the bottle, but Louie held it just out of reach and I lost my balance and nearly toppled over. Louie got a grip on me and kept me from falling on my ass. 

“Come along, Ricky. I’ll get you to bed.” 

“You gonna join me, Renault?”

“Is that an invitation, Rick?” 

I stood, wavering slightly, and thought about it. “Sure. Why not? No one else wants to go to bed with me.” 

“How graciously you put it, Blaine. For three years you’ve danced around the fact that I find you extremely attractive, and now when you are so drunk you can barely stand, now you say you want to sleep with me? Well, I don’t think so!” 

He turned sharply on his heel and started to leave. And I felt bereft. 


He didn’t return, but at least he stopped. 

“You don’t like me anymore, Louie?” 

The Prefect of Police sighed. “That’s the problem, Ricky. I like you too much.” 

“Then spend the night with me.” 

“Rick, you are so piss faced you wouldn’t know who was in your bed!” 

I started to laugh. 

“And I fail to find the amusement in that!” he huffed. 

“Where’d you hear that, Louie? Piss faced? It reminds me of home!” A drunken tear welled up in my eye. “I miss home, Louie, and I can never go back there!” 

“I heard you use it yourself, here in the café! Oh for God’s sake, Rick! You’re becoming maudlin!” 

I nodded sadly. “I know Louie. That’s why I don’t drink whiskey.” 

He laughed and came back to me. “Come along, Ricky, I’ll see you get to bed. Alone.” 

We began to walk back into the café. His arm was around my shoulder, and I leaned into him more than was really necessary. The cologne he wore filled my nostrils and I nuzzled the spot where his shoulder and neck joined. 

“I loved ‘em both, Louie.” 

He became very still, then started to walk me up the stairs to my rooms. 

“Who, Rick?” 

I was pretty sure he knew who I was talking about. 

“Victor. Ilsa. Loved ‘em both! And they both left me.” 

Louie got me down onto the bed and I slumped over backwards. He slipped off my shoes and lifted my feet up onto the coverlet. Gently he got a pillow under my head and brushed the hair back from my eyes. “Oh, Ricky, you’re going to hate yourself tomorrow morning!” 

Something very like a kiss lingered near my mouth.


Note: This one is from Captain Renault’s POV

Part 18 

I’m a fool. I know it; have known it anytime for the past three years. Ever since Rick Blaine came to Casablanca. 

I had seen how he reacted to being called Richard, becoming almost rabid with fury, and so I made it a point to never refer to him by that name, not even in the private recesses of my mind. He was Rick. Or Ricky, when I wanted to tease him. 

He had to come to me to get the permits to open his Café Americain. I saw him walk in the door to my office, and I licked my lips and wondered if here was someone worth crossing swords with. 

Rick took the seat across from me and sat, casual and bitter, a sneer on his lips as he determined my interest in the vee of his legs. So I reined in my libido and contented myself with making things just difficult enough to keep him intrigued. 

I flirted and teased, but made sure he knew there were others in my bed. Hoping, I suppose, to make him jealous enough to demand fidelity. 

I sighed and looked down at his prone figure in his chaste bed. For in spite of his reputation as a man it was dangerous for women to know, he had never taken any of his women to this bed, preferring to go to theirs. It made things so much simpler. When he was finished, he could just leave. 

And as for men…well, I kept track of those things. 

There were none. 

I stroked the neat mustache above my lip, remembering the feel of his breath against it. So close. I had been so close to finally having my way with him, and then the matter of Ugarte came between us. 

I never realized how much my honor meant to Rick. He always seemed so blasé. His disappoint in the manner in which I handled the arrest of the little man affected me more than I anticipated. 

That’s when I finally accepted that I had crossed my own line in the sand. Until that point, I had never permitted any of my little…adventures to come anywhere near touching my heart. I had seen, early in my life, how loving someone could leave a man devastated. 

So I walled up my heart to keep it safe. 

I sighed again and leaned down to brush the hair off Rick’s forehead. “Ah, Ricky, what am I going to do with you?” 

His dark brown eyes opened unexpectedly, and his fingers grasped my wrist. “Love me!” 

My prick leaped to attention and I bent further to capture his lips with my own. I swallowed his soft moan and licked at the smooth lining of his mouth, playing languidly with his tongue. 

He shifted restlessly and murmured, “Love me…Victor!” 

I jerked back as if I had been bitten by a snake. “*Merde*!” 

“Victor!” he breathed. “You came back for me! I dreamed that you left without saying goodbye, but you came back!” 

The anger seeped out of me and I stood there, deflated. His kisses were not for me, but for another man, a man revered throughout Europe for his daring and gallantry. How could I hope to compete with such a hero? 

I turned away, prepared to mourn the loss of…what? My friend? My…love? 

My hand was on the doorknob when I stopped. Since when had I allowed anything to come between me and my desires? Had falling in love suddenly made me an ineffectual fool? 

I am Louis Renault, Captain. Prefect of Police of Unoccupied France. All of French Morocco answers to me! 

I looked back at the figure on the bed, who was now curled on his side, away from me and grinned ferally. 

“You’ll be mine yet, Rick Blaine! I’ll have you in my bed, will you, won’t you! And when I make love to you, it’s my name you will cry out! Mine and no one else’s!”


Part 19 

A gaggle of gremlins were racketing around in my skull, beating out the Anvil Chorus. I moaned and rolled over, only to have an arrow of light from the windows stab me in the eye. I moaned again and rolled the other way, and this time my stomach took up the protest, threatening revenge for my callous treatment the night before. 

A tapping came at my door, and I realized this was what had roused me from the cotton batting of slumber.

Not waiting for a response, the door was flung open and Carl hurried in, babbling joyously. “Ah, Herr Rick, this is the start of a glorious day! The Hero of Czechoslovakia is in our midst! Isn’t it wonderful?” 

I could hear the title in capitals. I threw my pillow at him, but it was a feeble attempt at retribution. “Shut up, Carl,” I grumbled. 

“Herr Rick? I bring you your breakfast.” 

My stomach assured me that if I tried putting anything into it, the results would be dire and immediate. And not pleasant to witness. 

“Go away, Carl. I just want to die in peace!” 

He chuckled and set down the tray, bustling around the room, flinging open the windows to let in the softly scented morning breeze. “Yvonne was in with a German officer last night. Captain Casselle voiced his disapproval and she threw a glass of French ’75 at him. Herr Berger, the Norwegian who pretends to sell jewelry so he can make contacts for the Underground, was at the bar. He was speaking with The Hero.” 

That got my attention. I accepted the cup of bitter black coffee that he offered me and asked cautiously, “Do you know what the conversation was about?” 

“What else could it have been about but obtaining exit visas.” 

“He’d do better to go to Ferrari.” 

Carl shook his head. “Word has gone ‘round that anyone offering aid to the illustrious Herr Lazlo will find himself on intimate terms with the Casablanca jail.” 

“That won’t stop Vic…I mean Lazlo. He’s gotten out of tighter spots than this!” 

“This is true, Herr Rick, but this time he must make good his escape with a woman.” 

I swallowed hard. Ilsa. I had forgotten her. 

Well, no. That wasn’t exactly true. I had never forgotten her, but I was trying very hard not to think about her. Or about the fact that Victor was wearing my good luck vest, which I discovered missing just before Sam and I had to beat it out of New York after Eddie Bartlett was gunned down. 

And which I suddenly realized, I had last seen in Ilsa Lund’s apartment! How long had she known Victor? 

Carl stood in front of me, holding a couple of aspirin in his hand, waiting patiently until I took them from him. 

“What else do you have to tell me, Sunshine?” 

His fat face wrinkled with a beaming smile. “Herr Ferrari has sent over your shipment of American cigarettes.” 

“Shit,” I said wearily. “How many cartons are we missing this time?” 

“Only a dozen or so, Herr Rick. More than some shipments, not as many as others.” He shrugged philosophically. “This is Casablanca.” 

“Yeah, it’s Casablanca all right.” A nagging thought was gnawing at my brain and it wouldn’t give me any peace. “Carl, who put me to bed last night?” 

He was suddenly busy gathering up my breakfast tray, although I hadn’t touched a bite. “I go now and get the books ready, ja? Time to pay the bills, Herr Rick.” 

I let him get to the door, watching through bloodshot eyes. “Who did it, Carl?” 

He had been so close to making a clean getaway. He thought. I never would have let him leave without an answer. His shoulders slumped, and then he straightened resolutely. “It was Sam, Herr Rick. Who else?” 

Who else indeed? It was obvious that Carl was not about to give me a straight answer. “Go get the books, Carl. And leave the coffee.” 

The little Austrian made good his escape. I drained the last of my coffee and threw back the coverlet, to find myself still in last night’s clothing. Well, that was a blessing, at least. He hadn’t taken advantage of me in my drunken state. 

I vaguely remembered the cool voice of the Frenchman promising…what? For a moment I panicked, sure I could hear him saying something about him having me in his bed, about me crying out his name. 

And then I realized that those words could have been nothing more than another fantasy. Louis Renault was too suave to offer threats like that. 

Of course he was. He had merely been promising that I would regret my overindulgence, that’s all. Which I did. With a vengeance. 

I got out of bed and staggered to the bathroom door, wrestling out of my wrinkled shirt and trousers, leaving them where they fell. They smelled of the alcohol I had sweated out, and I decided I didn’t want them any longer. 

I’d tell the woman who did my laundry to burn them. 


I was lying in the tub, letting the tepid water soak away the stink of stress and liquor, starting to feel more human, when the door opened gently. 

“Feeling better, Ricky?” 

“Ah, fuck, Louie! Can’t a man have any privacy? Where is Abdul? He knows better than to let visitors up here at any time!” 

The Prefect of Police smiled and took a seat on the commode. “But I’m not just any visitor, am I, Rick? And Abdul, and everyone who works in your café knows that now!” 

“What do you mean?” I asked carefully. 

“I mean that I am tired of playing games with you, Rick Blaine. You may as well face facts. You’re mine.” 

“What games? What are you talking about? I …don’t …think I…understand… Louie, what are you doing?” In the middle of my little diatribe he got to his feet and began to leisurely unbutton his uniform jacket. “Louie…?” 

“I’ll tell you what I’m talking about, Rick.” He paused to neatly fold his jacket and began to work on his shirt. “I’ve had enough of pretending that teasing you is enough.” 

I know I must have resembled a beached fish. My mouth kept opening and closing, but nothing was coming out. 

His fingers were on the waistband of his trousers now. “Oh, it was satisfying enough, at the time, but I want more now!” 

I licked my lips, unable to tear my eyes away from his naked body. Most specifically from the prick that was rising proud and arrogant from the cluster of reddish curls that surrounded it. “Louie?” 

The corner of his mouth kicked up in a satisfied grin. “Ricky?” 

He stepped into the tub and knelt, gently easing his body toward mine. I tried to retreat, but there was nowhere for me to go but down. So I went down, forgetting the water that surrounded us. It filled my mouth and my eyes and my nose, and then I was back up, gasping and spitting and Louie was laughing silently. 

And then his lips were on mine, and I was lost. I forgot  Ilsa… the Café Americain… Victor. Everything except the man in my arms. 

His fingers were wrapped in my hair and he pulled my head back, staring deep into my eyes. I was helpless to move closer unless he allowed it. He ran his lips over my cheek to my ear, nibbling on the lobe before biting down sharply. And then his tongue soothed the tiny hurt, and dipped into my ear, tracing the sworls. His hot breath made me shiver. 

I was so hard I knew that before many minutes I would explode. It had been too long since I had felt as if my body was not my own. 

“I’m going to fuck you, Rick. I’m going to take you right here, on your bathroom floor. I’m going to leave you so stiff and sore, and well-loved, that all day long, no matter where you are, no matter what you do or who you’re with, you’ll know that I was in your body!” 


He looked at me as if daring me to refute his words, his eyes so hot I thought I would melt from the heat. 

“You talk too much, Louie!” 

His mouth swooped down to take mine, his tongue demanding entrance. My lips parted and I expected him to surge in. But he was a Frenchman, and when he fucked my mouth, it was with a Frenchman’s finesse. Easy, unhurried strokes. Softly sucking my tongue. Taking, taking, but never enough. Restlessly I rocked my hips, seeking relief for the ache of my prick. 

Until finally his hand drifted down to take my weeping erection in a grip just short of painful. When he let me go, I gasped at the loss of his possession. 

“Oh no, Ricky. I’m not nearly done with you!” 

He stood and hauled me up with him. “Out of the tub, Rick! I want you on your knees!” 

I scrambled to obey him, never once questioning the rightness of this. I sank down before him and let my eyes feast on the magnificence of his male flesh. Balancing myself carefully, I licked at the tip of his arousal, tasting his salty essence as it beaded there. I lapped at the thick vein on the underside, and then took him deep into my mouth. 

My eyelids drifted shut and I savored the taste of him, somehow so French. I could feel his balls beginning to tighten, but his hands gently pushed my head away. “Not yet, Ricky,” he said, reaching for a jar of lotion I used to keep my hands supple for dealing cards. “When I come, I want to be buried deep inside you!” 

I shivered and turned my back to him. “Yes!” I whispered hoarsely, presenting my ass. 

His fingers were cool and slick as he parted my buttocks and fingered my puckered opening. One slid in with no trouble at all, and he took his time, letting me grow used to the feel of it. In spite of myself I tensed when I felt two fingers enter me, and he reached around to take my prick in his other hand. 

I spread my legs further apart and bowed my back, mindlessly wanting more. I was so lost in a fog of lust that I didn’t even realize it when he replaced his fingers with the head of his prick. He was halfway inside me before I discovered the switch, and then he was pounding away, with every thrust hitting the spot that caused me to burn. 

The trembling began in my thighs and rolled up in waves to my ass, where inner muscles tightened around the hard prick that was fucking me. I began to come, filling his hand with the hot, creamy fluid. My orgasm triggered his. Deep inside my channel he flooded me with his semen. 

I relished the feel of his damp skin along my back, and I struggled to maintain my position, but the combination of a massive hangover and being fucked to within an inch of my life proved too much and I collapsed under his weight. 

“Ricky? Cher ami, are you all right?” Carefully he withdrew from me and rose to find a washcloth. Gently he cleaned me and then himself. “I didn’t hurt you, did I Rick?” 

Languidly I shook my head and smiled into his brown eyes. “Thanks, Louie. I needed that!” 

He gave a spurt of laughter and helped me to my feet. 


We were dressed and sharing the remains of the coffee Carl had left, from a single cup, when the little waiter rapped imperiously at the door once again. 

“What, Carl?” I asked, feeling too good to take umbrage at the interruption. 

“You have a visitor, Herr Rick, who must be seen!” 

“Says who?” I groused good-naturedly.

“*I* say, Richard!”


Part 20 


Her eyes darted nervously to the Frenchman. “I need to speak with you, Richard! Alone!” 

Carl had looked from the woman to the Prefect of Police to me, and turned on his heel, heading out the door. “I go see to the spring cleaning, ja, Herr Rick?” 

“It’s almost winter Carl!” He ignored that and bolted through the door. “Bring up some more coffee!” I shouted at his back and he waved his hand to signal that he had heard my order. I shook out a cigarette and lit it, observing the woman I had once loved through a cloud of smoke. “So we’re back to Richard, are we? Last night I was Rick.” 

She swallowed hard and turned her melting gaze onto Louie. “Please, m’sieur,” she whispered throatily to the Captain. 

“Who am I to deny a lovely lady?” He took her hand and brought it to his lips with polished ease. How was it the French could take such a gay gesture and imbue it with savoir-faire? 

He glanced my way and I walked stiffly to the door to open it for him. I still ached from his lovemaking. He smiled at my discomfort, pursed his lips and sent me a kiss. Then he winked and walked out. 

Uneasily I looked toward Ilsa, but she was busy examining the chess game that was set up in my sitting room, and was oblivious to the little scene that had just been played out. 

But then, she always had been rather oblivious. 

“Won’t your…companion be upset to find you here?” I sneered, still not sure how I felt about the reappearance of one lover with another. 

“Richard, please!” She paused as Carl entered bearing a tray with a carafe of coffee and another cup. 

“I don’t know if you take cream and sugar, Miss Lund, so I bring both,” he said as he set it down on the low boy. He nodded in satisfaction and left. 

I poured out her coffee, adding a dollop of cream and enough sugar to cause a toothache. 

“You remembered.” 

“Don’t start that again, Ilsa.” I refilled my own cup and raised it to my lips. “Just tell me one thing: did you leave me standing in the rain because you couldn’t take it?”

She didn’t pretend to misunderstand me. “The kind of life where we would always be on the run? I have that kind of life now, Richard.” 

“I don’t understand then. Why wouldn’t you come with me?” 

“After you left me that day, I received word that Victor was alive. Seriously injured but alive.” 

“So you chose him instead over me.” I wasn’t surprised. I would have chosen him over anyone else. 

“Victor is a very charming man, isn’t he?” she asked, apropos of nothing. 

“*I* always thought so.” 

“Richard, you don’t understand! He’s not my lover, as everyone seems to think.” 

“The two of you give a very good impression of that!” 

She looked distressed. “He’s my husband!” 

I choked on my coffee. “What? Since when?” 

“Since before I knew you in Paris.” 

I had to sit down. “How come no one knew?” 

“It was for my protection, and for the protection of the organization. If the Nazis ever found out we were married, they could use me as a weapon against him.” 

“So you are content to let everyone think you’re a tramp?” 

She winced. “You know Victor. His work is so very important. And he made it all seem so reasonable. What does my reputation matter in the long run, compared to the lives of the unfortunates in the countries Hitler has overrun?” 

“*I* never would have asked that of you!” 

Ilsa came to where I stood by the window and ran her fingers gently over my cheek. “I know, Richard. You were so sweet.” 

I felt haunted. “Why would you even look at me if you were married to someone like Victor, let alone take me to your bed? And how did you get my vest?” 

“I’ve had more offers to share my body than you could possibly believe. You never thought it strange that I accepted a drink from you that first time, that I allowed you to befriend me?” 

“I…thought you might be as lonely as I was. There was something about you…” 

Her eyes were sad. “Oh yes, I was very lonely. I thought Victor was dead, you see.” 

I too had heard the rumors of his death. “Then why an ordinary mug like me?” 

“Victor told me about you.” 

I turned green. Victor had told his wife that he had taken a gunsel for a lover? I remembered something Eddie Bartlett had told me one time: when in doubt, admit nothing and ask an open-ended question. “How did you feel about that?” I held my breath. 

She took a sip of her coffee and blotted the moisture from her lips with her tongue. “I wasn’t surprised that he had found such a strong friend, one who was willing to die for him. He has that affect on people.” 

“Indeed he does.” 

“The night we wed, he gave me the vest he had brought from America, as a token of your friendship, and described you to me. He had been following your exploits. He’s very proud of you, Richard.” 

I shifted uneasily and walked to the chess set, picking up the white knight and rubbing my thumb over its helm. “I won’t ask how he kept track of me. If the Nazis could do it, I’m sure he would have the means as well. I don’t understand why, though.” 

She came to stand behind me, her arms encircling my waist and her breasts pressing against my back. “He needed to know if you fulfilled the promise of your youth, he told me. In case he should ever have need of you. In case the cause needed you.” Her tone was somewhat bitter. 

“And he needs me now?” 

“We have to get out of Casablanca, Richard! I held him up for two weeks when I was ill in Oran. I pleaded with him to leave me, but he refused.” 

It could have cost him his life, but he stayed with her. “What does he want of me, Ilsa?” 

“Those letters of transit. We were to meet a little man named Ugarte, but last night Berger told him that Ugarte was arrested.” 

“That’s true. But what makes you think I would know anything about those exit visas?” 

Her eyes were flat. “They were not found on Ugarte.” 

“I guess you’ll just have to ask him what he did with them.” 

“Ugarte is dead.” 

I wasn’t surprised. I merely wondered whether the report would read that he had suicided or died trying to escape. The Germans did not approve of having their citizens slaughtered, unless of course they were the ones doing the slaughtering. 

“Suppose I said I would give them to you in exchange for…” I left the suggestion hanging. 

“In exchange for what, Richard? We haven’t much money.” 

“No one who winds up in Casablanca seems to. No, I don’t need money. I’m doing rather well, thanks to my contacts.” 

“Then what, Richard? Whatever we have, whatever you want, it is yours!”  

“A night in bed, perhaps?” 

Reflexively she rubbed her shapely buttocks, so like a boy’s. “I haven’t done that since Paris, Richard. Victor has not been well enough…” She stopped, horrified at what she had unwittingly revealed. 

“So he was the one who taught you to take it up the ass?” 

“That’s such a crude way to phrase it!” 

“But true?” 

She nodded reluctantly. 

“I was willing to make love to you in the usual way. Why did you allow me to have you like that?”   

“Victor told me you liked it that way,” she said simply. “And if I ever had the opportunity to make love with you, I was to let you do that to me. He promised I would not regret it.” 

“So. I can have you again, in any manner I choose, if I give you the letters of transit.” 

She blushed in shame, but whispered, “Yes.” 

“And Victor would have no objections.” 

She turned away, unable to meet my eye. “Yes.” 

“And what if I told you I wanted him, instead of you?” 

"I don’t understand, Richard. Why would you want a man in your bed?” 

I could see she was frankly puzzled. “It seems Victor didn’t tell you everything about me. Very well, he was willing to give you to me in exchange for those letters. Are you willing to do the same? Will you give him to me?” 

There was a sound at the door, and we both spun around, to find Louis Renault watching us. He was smiling, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Why Rick,” he said. “I do believe I’m jealous!”


Note: song lyrics to Blue Champagne. This was in the top 40 in September 1941. 

Part 21 

It had been a long time since I had opened mouth, inserted foot, and it was depressing to see I hadn’t lost my touch when it came to making a fool of myself. 


Louie had stood grimly in the doorway to my rooms, not at all happy with the portions of the conversation he had overheard. 

“What are you doing here, Louie?” I had snapped at the Prefect of Police. “Haven’t you got anything better to do than spy on me?” 

He had wiped all expression from his face. “I merely returned to inform you that Major Strasser insists on a thorough search of the Café. I’d suggest you give your staff the morning off and find something to occupy yourself until this afternoon.” 

I thought of all the ways we could occupy ourselves and took a step toward him but he was already turning away, nodding coolly to Ilsa. “Louie…” 

“I wouldn’t dawdle, Rick.” And he stalked out, irritation evident in every line of his body. 


Sascha appreciated the time off. He planned to visit Descartes, a local jeweler, to look at his new shipment of rings. He had it in mind to get something for Sam. Something with a diamond. 

Oddly enough, Sam had the same idea. 

I went to the Blue Parrot, ostensibly to give the authorities the opportunity to search the Café, but in actuality to determine Victor Lazlo’s chance of obtaining exit visas. Ferrari sat at his usual table critically eyeing the belly dancer who was undulating through her act. 

“No, no, no!” he shouted. “More bangles! More baubles! How many times must I tell you?” 

I took a seat opposite him and watched the hapless dancer. “Looks good to me, Ferrari.” 

His lip curled. “That’s because you’re an American, Rick! All a girl needs to do is wiggle her ass and she would look good to you!” 

I stifled a laugh, unable to believe that word of my little episode with the Prefect of Police had not already reached him. He had eyes and ears everywhere, even in my café. 

There were very few secrets in Casablanca. 

The fat man dismissed the veiled girl and settled back in his chair. “To what do I owe the honor of this visit, Rick?” He nodded as Jamal, his headwaiter, placed a coffee service before us. 

“I can’t pay a visit to an old friend?” 

“Certainly. However, I did not think that the term friend applied to us. Perhaps friendly rivals. We could, of course, change that.” 

I reached for a cup of coffee but froze in the act. “Change it to what?” I asked cautiously. 

“Business partners, my dear Rick. What else?” 

What else, indeed. I began to breathe easily once more. “Not likely, Ferrari. You’re too sharp for me! I’m just a simple saloon keeper.” 

He smiled at me, and I felt my insides turn to water. Ferrari was an institution in Casablanca. No one could remember when he had not been there. And for all his outward appearance, his was an extremely dangerous man, one it was not wise to cross. 

“What can I do for you, Rick, if you didn’t come here to discuss becoming my…partner?” 

I wet my lips. “What are the odds of Victor Lazlo getting an exit visa from you?” 

“For the woman, excellent. For himself, slim to none.” 

“Why, Ferrari? I’m sure he would make it worth your while.” 

“I’m afraid not, Rick. Not in this instance. If I accommodated him in this matter, I would find myself not only out of business, but run out of Casablanca as well.” 

“Louie wouldn’t do that to you! Who would he find to play chess with?”

“You, perhaps, Rick? No, this would not be Captain Renault’s doing. This would be under orders of the Gestapo. Even I will not attempt to take them on.” 


“Indeed! Now, tell me, when are you going to sell me the café?” 

“When hell freezes over, Ferrari.” 

His eyes became hooded. “That might be sooner than you imagine, Rick!” 


I stood in the doorway of the Café Americain and sighed. 

My staff wasn’t happy, not when they saw the condition of the Café. Nothing was broken, but tables and chairs were overturned. The press that contained all the linen had been torn through, and tablecloths and napkins were strewn all over the café, their pristine whiteness marred by black boot prints. 

Louie was less than pleased with me. 

Carl entered behind me and he verbalized his displeasure. “Tsk!” he hissed between his teeth. “These Germans! They make one ashamed to be of the same nationality!” 

“You’re Austrian, Carl.” 

“Ja, this is true, Herr Rick, but only by a few kilometers! My Uncle Klaus is German!” He sighed heavily. “We all have black sheep in the family!” 

“Yeah, well, I’ll take your word for it. I’ve got no family.” 

“Herr Rick, we are your family!” He swooped over and seized me in a bear hug that threatened my ribs. His exuberance made me a little uncomfortable, while warming me at the same time. 

Abdul frowned mightily over the mess, then silently set about righting the tables and chairs. 

Emil was pale with anger. “This is not right, M’sieur Rick!” 

I shrugged and walked over to Sam’s piano. Sheets of music had been scattered over the floor. I stooped to retrieve them and casually raised the lid. Inside the slim envelope was still resting innocuously. I pulled it out and slid it into the inner pocket of my jacket, then set the music neatly on top. 

Idly I ran my fingers over the keys, ascertaining that the piano had not been damaged. I sat down at it and began picking out a tune. 

“Blue champagne. Purple shadows and blue champagne. 

“With the echoes that still remain, I keep a blue rendezvous.” 

I crashed my hands down on the echoing notes and rose abruptly. No sense in putting it off any longer. I went to the staircase, about to start up to my rooms to see what the damage was there. 

 “I didn’t know you played the piano, Ricky.” His tone was calm, almost playful. 

“Louie.” I waited at the bottom of the stairs, uncertain of his real mood. 

“I’ve got you guessing, haven’t I, Rick?” 

I wasn’t about to answer that. “What can I do for you, Louie? You’re men didn’t have to be so thorough, did they? It’s going to take us all afternoon to get this place ready to open for the dinner crowd.” 

His mustache twitched as he subdued a smile, and I found myself getting hard. “Major Strasser was very unhappy that Ugarte expired before we could wring the location of the exit visas from him. The Major had some extremely… inventive, shall we say? methods he was planning to use.” 

“You saved Ugarte from being tortured?” I didn’t expect the Frenchman to risk his position for someone as low as the little black marketeer. 

“Why are you surprised, Rick? He was about to spill his guts, as they put it in Hollywood.” 

“Yeah, so?” I shook out a cigarette and offered him one. He took the pack and selected a cigarette, then took mine from me as well. He put them both into his mouth and struck a match with his thumbnail. 

Louie dipped his head and touched the ends of the cigarettes to the light and drew in a lungful of smoke. Then he handed me back my cigarette and nodded toward the top of the stairs. 

“I could scarcely have him incriminate my lover, now could I?”


Note: Sergeant Lejaune belongs to Percival Christopher Wren, author of Beau Geste. He will meet his end in the desert, and will lie like a dog at the feet of a hero being given a Viking’s funeral. 

Part 22 

I stopped short in the doorway, feeling as if I had taken a blow to my chest. My sitting room looked even worse then the public rooms of the café. “Oh my,” I said softly. 

Louie looked over my shoulder and said nothing. 

I knew I had angered him, but I never dreamed he would take such petty revenge. The chess set had been knocked off its table, the exquisitely made king and queen ground to dust. Leather bound books lay like so many decimated soldiers, the covers torn, the pages ripped to shreds. 

Glass crunched underfoot, and I looked down to see the remains of the little Tiffany lamp that I used to read by. I knelt to pick up the pieces of a Faberge egg, a token from Chiang Chai Chek for actions above and beyond. Sam had been given one as well. 

My eyes burned, and I had to bite my lip to keep from gasping at the pain tearing a hole in my heart. Oh, not over the things that had been destroyed. I had started out in life with nothing, and would no doubt have nothing again, but the thought that Louis Renault cared so little for me that he could callously order the wanton destruction of my possessions hurt more than I would have believed. 

My vision blurred, and I averted my face and wiped surreptitiously at my eyes. 


The Prefect of Police was striding to the phone, which was about the only thing that wasn’t lying in ruin. He was almost quivering with fury. Not anger. Not ire. But rage so great I thought he would explode. 

“Get me Sergeant Lejaune. I don’t care where he is; get him at once! At once, do you hear?” 

He waited impatiently, his toe taping the glass-covered Persian rug. “Lejaune? You pusillanimous, supercilious, sanctimonious piece of trash! How dared you go beyond your authority?” 

I could hear the luckless sergeant on the other end of the line trying to respond to his commanding officer, but Louie did not give him the opportunity to defend himself. I listened in awe as the cloak of venality he wore dropped from his shoulders and he became the man awarded the Croix de Guerre by the most revered leader in France. 

And as he tore into Lejaune, not once did a single profanity pass his lips. 

“You will pack your gear immediately. I will arrange for your transfer to Algeria. You have always claimed to have the soul of a Legionnaire. Now you will have your deepest desire!” Louis slammed down the phone and came to where I was still on my knees. 

He bent and took my arms, raising me to my feet. “I’m so sorry, Rick. I never meant for something like this to happen!” 

My eyes were still too bright, and I blinked them rapidly, unable to meet his concerned gaze. 

The warmth of his breath bathed my face, and then his lips sipped at the salty trail on my cheek. 

“I had to make it look good, or Strasser would have sent his storm troopers in to tear your place apart, but I should never have given the task to Lejaune. The man takes too much pleasure in wielding what authority he has. The men under him have come to me before with complaints, and he has a number of official reprimands on his record.” 

“I’m glad you didn’t order your men to wreck those things, Louie. But why keep Lejaune around?” 

“His brother-in-law is an official in the Vichy government. I had no choice. But now he has committed an act against a civilian that cannot be glossed over. I have to thank you for that, Rick. I’ve wanted to get rid of that pompous buffoon for years!” 

His arms were still around me, and I felt …comforted by them. 


Pale, but more composed now, I gave orders for Carl to have the shambles that was my apartment righted. “Hire some of the local girls to come in and clean up. And hire whomever you may need to get us ready to open on time tonight. I’ve got to go to police headquarters and file a complaint.” 

“Ja, Herr Rick, we take care of it fine.” He gave Louie a dirty look, but the Prefect of Police simply smiled at him and walked out into the bright afternoon sunlight. 

I followed, admiring the cut of his trousers over his muscular thighs. 

Sergeant Lejaune was cleaning out his desk. He glowered at his commander, but didn’t risk saying anything. The look he sent me promised retribution if he should ever get me alone. I stood there, rocking on my toes, waiting for him to make a move. 

When Louie realized I hadn’t trailed behind him into his office, he came back out to find me. “Rick?” 

I lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in the sergeant’s direction, then flicked it at him. He tried to leap over his desk to get at me, but Lieutenant Casselle just happened to be passing by and knocked against him, sending him spilling onto the floor. “Pardonnez-moi, Sergeant. How very careless of me! I can’t imagine how I came to be so clumsy!” 

Lejaune curled his lip in a defiant sneer, but dared do nothing more. His sister might be married to a low-level official in the government, but Casselle had been in bed with someone very high up, who was still extremely fond of him. 

He winked and ushered me into the Prefect’s office. I shut the door behind me and took the seat across from him. It was the same seat I had used when I had first met Louie. 

He handed me the form to be filled out and went over to the file cabinet that contained the good liquor. “Bourbon, Rick?” 

I looked up from the papers. “Sure. Thanks.” 

“Do you know, I’ve often fantasized about having you here, on this desk.” 

I choked on the dark amber liquid. His brown eyes met mine, and although there was a smile in them this time, I could see he was serious about making love to me here in his office. And I wanted him to strip off my clothes and take me on that desk. 

“It’s too…” 

“Dangerous? Yes I know. But I can dream, can’t I?” 

I licked my lips. “How likely…” 

“That we would be disturbed? Too likely, I’m afraid.” 

“Is there…” 

“Somewhere else where we can go?” 

“Jesus, Louie, stop answering my questions like that!” 

He chuckled. “Another time, perhaps, eh Rick?” He settled himself back in his chair and raised his glass to take a healthy sip. 

I signed my name with a flourish and tossed the papers toward him, then leaned my elbows on the edge of the desk. “Know something, Louie? I don’t like this place. Why don’t we go somewhere else?” 

“For a drink? I was hoping you’d suggest that, Ricky. Did you have someplace in mind?” 

He was such a neat man. He put away the bottle and glasses, straightened his desk, set his hat at a jaunty angle and preceded me to the door. Before he could open it though, he stilled, as the distinctive tones of Major Strasser filtered through the door, demanding to see the Prefect of Police. 

“Under my desk, Rick. Quickly. I don’t want to have to explain you to the illustrious Major!” 

I followed his instructions and curled in on myself in the space under the desk. Louie waited a beat then went to open the door. I could hear Lieutenant Casselle protesting loudly that the Capitaine was not to be disturbed, and Strasser over riding his objections. 

“You wished to see me, Major?” Louie’s smooth voice was like oil on troubled waters. 

“You promised me those letters of transit!” the major said through tightly compressed lips. 

“I promised to look for them, which, indeed, I did. They were no where to be found in Rick’s Café Americian.”

Then where are they?” 

“My dear Major, I assure you I have no clue! Have a seat, won’t you?” Louie came around to his side of the desk and settled himself in his chair. 

And he was on level with my eyes. My mouth went dry with desire and I reached out to run a finger along the front of his trousers. He jumped. 

“Is something wrong, Captain Renault?” 

“Of course not, Major.” But Louie did not sound his normal, suave self. 

I grinned and decided it was time for a little revenge. Quietly I began to unbutton his uniform pants. I reached in and got my fingers around his hardening prick. 

“What do you plan to do about this matter, Captain?” 


I had taken him out and leaned forward to lick the tip. His hand came under the desk and wound in my hair. He pulled warningly but I ignored the slight pain in my scalp and took him into my mouth. 

He yelped. 

“Is something wrong, Captain Renault?” 

“Mouse! I thought I saw a mouse in the corner.” 

“You need to get yourself a good German exterminator. We of the Third Reich do not have such problems!” 

“How fortunate for you!” Louie was starting to get desperate now. I had set up a rhythm now, sliding all the way down to his base, then drawing my head back until only the crown was still in my mouth. 

“I must see Herr Heinze.” I could hear Major Strasser scrape his chair back. “We will be dining at the Blue Parrot, but we will arrive at Rick’s for a night cap. Make sure you are there, Captain!” 

Louie’s agreement was garbled, and he tried to stand but I wouldn’t release him. I was enjoying his taste and his scent too much. The door closed behind the major and I was able to growl my pleasure as Louie’s fingers no longer tried to pull my hair out by the roots. He held my head and began thrusting deeply. 

I could feel him swell and then he was coming in my mouth, more than I could swallow. It dribbled down my chin. 

His breath was whistling between his lips, and I thought for one frightening moment that he was in physical distress. He rolled his chair backward, drawing me out toward him. I released his flaccid length and leaned up into his arms. His lips met mine in a ravenous kiss. 


“Yes?” I smiled against his mouth. 

“Nothing. Just…Rick!” 

~End Part B

On to Part C