Disclaimers: This is a fan fiction story for fun and fun alone. No copy write infringement is meant toward Studios USA or Warner Bros for the use of the following Xena: Warrior Princess characters or the 1942 classic Casablanca respectively.
As an authors side note:This will be my final solo Xena fan fiction project. Id like to go on writing forever but my novels and screenplays must take precedence so please feel free to check out my original works when I release them and yes those will still keep coming<VBG>. Let me give a large thanks to all the Xena and CN fans Ive met over the years you are truly a wonderful group of human beings and its been a real pleasure and a treat to entertain you. Everyone whos written over the years has touched this writer deeply. Sincerely, CN Winters
Major Players (aka incarnates)
Janice Covington Gabrielle
Melinda Pappas - Xena
Capt. Renault Autolycus
Major Strasser Callisto
Victor Laszlo Eli
Yvonne - NajaraCasablanca
By CN Winters"With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully - or desperately - toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point, but not everybody could get to Lisbon directly. And so a roundabout refugee trail sprang up. Paris to Marseilles. Across the Mediterranean to Oran. Then by train or auto or foot across the rim of Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here the fortunate ones, through money or influence or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait ..."
A plane taxied to a stop on the runway in Casablanca as a lanky mustached man in a French Police Captains uniform made his way over. From the plane stepped a Nazi dressed in full Reich regalia. The French captain paused in his steps for a moment when he realized this officer was a woman shorter and smaller framed than he. Her long blonde hair accented her brown eyes. A very odd combination, he surmised. Taken aback by her appearance at first he quickly made up for it and stroked his mustache as he made his way over to greet her.
"I am Capt. Louis Renault," he announced to the woman, giving her a gentlemanly bow of respect. "Weve heard of your two murdered clerks who were carrying some important papers and Ill have you know we have the situation quite under control."
"Is that so Captain?" The blonde cast a look at the man that sent icy water through his veins. Although the smile could be perceived as friendly Renault felt anything but welcomed. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Major Strasser."
"Forgive me, but I had no idea the Reich had women officers. I was expecting a man when we received the telegram announcing your arrive."
"Youre not alone. I surprise many people. The fuhrer himself calls me in for special assignments The Reichs key interest in all of this is getting those papers back and seeing the murderers brought to justice."
"Well, I assure you we are working on it at this moment Madame. Weve-."
"Im a Major, not a Madame. Captain Renault, Madames run whorehouses. I keep the wheels turning for the strongest power in the world."
"Of course Major. As I was saying weve already rounded up double the number of usual suspects."
Strasser laughed wickedly, bringing an uneasy smile to Renaults face. She looked like she could shoot him as soon as look at him and he wasnt about to test the theory so he continued to grin while keeping his mouth shut.
"My dear man," she chuckled. "I find you quite amusing but know this " She motioned him closer with a crooked finger. Obediently he moved in so she could whisper in his ear. "If this wasnt neutral territory and I had my way youd be dead already since you havent delivered either the documents or the killers. But since you have diplomacy on your side youll get to live a bit longer. But know this accidents happen."
Renault stuttered a bit at her directness. "Y-You should know, Major, that we do have a suspect we plan to arrest tonight at Ricks Café." She rose back from his stunned ear as Renault nervously cleared his throat
"So tell me," she began again in a normal voice. "Where is this Ricks Café? We must go there immediately."
"Very well," Renault agreed with a nod. "Rick sold the business its now run by an American woman."
"A woman? How interesting."
"Yes Major. Its only a few blocks away by foot or we could drive its your choice. I suggest that I take a look around first. Our suspect might run if he spots you, Major. But again that is your choice."
"Yes it is my choice as long as you keep remembering that Renault well get along just fine."
Later that evening
A black pianist, Sam, is crooning out "It Had To Be You" in the smoky bar/casino. Inside a slew of different nationalities crowd the joint. Drunken gamblers shuffle by spilling their drinks. Shifty barterers are making their way through the human traffic as they make deals with the patrons cash for precious items. Its a hoppin night at Ricks and Sam looks his usual happy self. Business is good so the boss should be happy or at least as happy as she can be.
At the bar sat a half burned cigarette, a half drunk bottle of scotch and half of a soul upon a barstool. Janice Covington, former archeologist turned entrepreneur, reached for the cigarette with one hand and the bottle with the other. After taking a long drag on the butt she downed three chugs of scotch. Shes playing a game of solitaire that she loses interest in when she hears a German banker arguing with her bookkeeper. He insists that the bookkeeper take a check but when Yvonne refuses he begins to get belligerent. Janice rushes over and rips up the check throwing it back at the German.
"Only your cash is good at the bar," Janice warned him, making it clear no one gets a tab at her place.
"What? Do you know who I am?"
"I do. And your goddamn lucky my bar is open to you at all."
Without argument the German walked away and Janice went back to her seat. A young man named Ugarte, one of the traders who often bragged of having visas to leave the country, comes up to Janice after the heated exchange.
"You know, Janice, watching you just now with the Deutschebank, one would think you'd been doing this all your life being a bouncer I mean."
"Oh, what makes you think I haven't, Ugarte?"
"Oh, nothing. But when you first came to Casablanca, I thought..."
"You thought what?"
"Never mind," the young man said defeated. He was certain that there was some fire of defiance underneath Janices lack of motivation. But he simply let it pass. It was obvious, like everything else in her life, that Janice would let the issue slide, too. "Too bad about those two German couriers, wasn't it?"
Janice snorted. "They got a lucky break. Yesterday, they were just two German clerks. Today, they're the Honored Dead."
"You are a very cynical person, Janice, if you forgive me for saying so."
Janices face held no emotion. "I forgive you."
Ugarte got frustrated with Janices lack of conversational skills. He had become accustomed to it but tonight he wanted answers where was she from? America he knew. How did she get here? By train, she once said. What was she running from? Nothing other than herself she confessed one night in a drunken slur. Other than that Ugarte had no idea of her origin and he took her lack of response personally.
"You dont like me do you?"
"Well if I gave it any thought I probably wouldnt," she replied dryly.
"Why is that? Im offering a great service to people an escape from the war."
"Yes with fake visas and to the highest bidder no less yeah, youre a real patriot."
"Are you a patriot Janice?" Now he had her. Perhaps hed get some more information out of her something no one else in the club had been able to do. Except for maybe Sam the piano player. But Sam had been with Janice long before she got to Casablanca so in truth, Sam didnt really count.
"Nope," she answered. "Just a gin joint owner and that suits me fine."
"Well," Ugarte said moving closer to Janice. "Im gonna be leaving soon myself. Ive got two passports, visas that are free and clear."
"If I cared Id ask if you got them from two dead Germans but I dont."
"Youre a harsh woman Janice. But Ill tell you this I have many friends in Casablanca but somehow, just because you despise me, youre the only one I trust." With that Ugarte hands Janice two sealed envelopes. "Bet youre more impressed with me now, huh Janice?"
"I must admit I am never figured you could pull a gun on anyone much less fire it."
"Are you saying I killed those Germans?"
"Im not saying anything," Janice said stuffing the letters into her tux jacket, not giving it much thought.
"Good because Im counting on that." Ugarte finishes off the glass he brought over. "Im feeling lucky tonight. Think Ill try my hand at the blackjack table." With no more said, Ugarte left to head to the back of the saloon. Yvonne, the bookkeeper watches Ugarte depart and slowly makes her way over to Janices side, a bit of a stagger in her step.
"Where were you last night?" the blonde asked the club owner, trying to hide the slur of her voice.
"Thats so long ago I cant remember." Janice took another drink, avoiding eye contact with Yvonne. Yvonne tried her best to hide her disappointment in the fact shes unable to arouse Janices interest.
"Will I see you tonight?" she asked hopefully.
Janice reaches for her bottle and slides from the barstool. "I never make plans that far in advance." Quietly she walked away and headed over to the bartender without giving Yvonne so much as a backwards glance. "Call Yvonne a cab," she ordered him. "Shes had far too much to drink tonight to keep working."
"Right away maam," Sascha, the barkeep, answered.
Janice goes back and pulls Yvonne from the stool, helping her to her feet. "Come on sweetheart. Its time you called it a night." Janice led Yvonne to the door slowly, the woman protesting all the while. As a cab pulled up Janice opened the door and helped Yvonne inside.
"I was a fool to fall in love with the likes of you! I knew you were no good for me!"
"Sleep it off Yvonne," Janice said softly before shutting the door. At that moment Renault came up to see the exchange.
"Throwing away women like that could come back to haunt you Janice. Some day they may be scarce. I think I shall pay a call on Yvonne, maybe get her on the rebound?"
"Morocco was still a free state last I heard be my guest."
Renault shook his head as he followed Janice back into the club. "Is there anything in this world that makes you feel anything?"
"Yes," Janice answered without hesitation.
"And just what would that be?"
"Something far deeper than you can understand Renault."
As they make their way to the bar Renault studies Janice. "You know there are bets in this city as to why you dont return to the States. They say you CANT return."
"Is that so?" The question was spoken without the slightest bit of interest.
"Yes. Some folks think its from your grave robbing days. Others say it has something to do with an officials wife you may have coveted."
"What about you Renault? Whats your money on?"
"I think you killed a man call it the romantic in me."
"Maybe its all three," Janice said raising her bottle of scotch in a toasting fashion and slight grin. "That would throw the pool off, wouldnt it?"
Renault gives a small chuckle. "Ive been coming here for months Janice tell me, straight out Why in the world did you come to Casablanca?"
"I came for the water."
"The water? We happen to be in a desert."
"Obviously I was misinformed."
Renault chuckled again as he shook his head. "You are something else Covington. For someone so cold and emotionless you do have quite the spirit underneath."
"Thats quite an accomplishment since I no longer have a soul."
"Everyone has a soul Janice." Janice didnt answer. She simply took a few more swigs of her scotch and Renault doesnt press his point. "Anyway, the reason I am here is I have to tell you Ill be making an arrest tonight. Ugarte is being brought in for questioning regarding those two Germans that were killed. A member of the Reich will be accompanying me. Wed appreciate it if you would keep it quiet Id hate to have to shut you down."
"If you did, who would let you win at roulette?"
"Im very serious Covington. I dont need you tipping off Ugarte."
"I stick my neck out for nobody Louis."
"Thank you Janice."
"Dont thank me. Because if the time comes I wouldnt harbor you either."
Janice didnt add more. She walked toward the storage area behind the bar until Renault stops her.
"Theres something else you should know Covington."
"More? Oh goodie."
"Theres a man expected to arrive tonight that the Nazis have a major interest in."
"Whos that?" she answered in an uninterested voice.
At the name Janices eyebrows shoot up into her bangs. She actually reacted, Renault considered silently. Thats a first.
"You dont say," Janice says in a singsong voice. "This is the Czech resistance leader, correct? The one that took on the Nazi until they rolled into town and even then he published papers out of his basement about their activities?"
"One in the same. He managed to escape from a concentration camp. But we dont know when hell be arriving. All we know is it will be sometime tonight. The Nazis cant touch him here and he knows it but they wont let him leave either. Rumor has it he has a female companion with him and hell be looking for two visas."
"Well it will be interesting to see how he manages his escape, I mean."
"You think hell escape the Nazis this time. I think theyll find him and kill him without any witnesses."
"Wanna bet?" Janice said giving a sly grin. "Any man that can escape a camp can get out of Casablanca. Ive got 20,000 franc that says he makes it out."
"Remember Im just a poor corrupt officer I can only manage 10,000."
Janice offered her hand. "Deal," she chuckled. Renault agrees and clasps hands with her, giving her a nod. The commotion of the club comes to a halt movement ceases, conversations come to abrupt ends and all eyes look to the door, including Janice and Louis.
Standing in her Nazi uniform is Major Strasser. Renault quickly makes his way over to her and Sam begins to play again after the momentary silence. With that people renewed their interests at their tables.
"Is he here?" Strasser asked.
"Yes, hes in the back gambling Major."
Three other Nazi officers entered behind Strasser at that point.
"Lead the way," she told the French officer with a wave of her hand.
As the Nazis moved toward the back of the club Ugarte spots them and tries to retreat. Knowing hes got nowhere to go he pulls a gun from his vest and opens fire, hitting one of the officers. He runs up to Janice.
"You gotta help me! You gotta get me out of here!"
Janice takes a hit on her cigarette as the Nazis take aim on him. She doesnt seem concerned that she might get stuck in the crossfire. "I stick my neck out for no one."
Realizing he cant escape Ugarte dropped the weapon in defeat as the Nazi officers rush over to lead him away. Strasser takes an interest in Janice and makes her way over. Renault followed to give the introductions.
"Dr. Covington," Renault began, "This is Major Strasser of the elite SS. Shes an important guest this evening."
Janice looks Strasser over from head to toe. "Is that so?"
Renault can tell that Strasser is a bit indignant at the brush off. He starts to add something to lighten the mood but Strasser cuts him short.
"Yes but I dont practice," Janice replied.
"Why not? Practice makes perfect."
"Im not a medical doctor."
"What is your nationality?"
Janice grinned. "Im a drunkard."
Renault chuckled. "Then that makes you a citizen of all the world Janice. Come lets have a drink with the Major."
"Sorry but I dont drink with the clientele one of the few ethical codes I have left."
Renault gave Janice a please play along look but Janice didnt budge from the seat.
"So youre American?" Strasser continued as she pulled out a file from her brief case, beginning to thumb through some papers.
"Born in New York raised around the world - if that helps."
"You came here after leaving Macedonia it says in your dossier is that correct?"
"Thats no secret."
"Why didnt you return to your homeland?"
With that Janet snatched the sheet away to look at it. "I have no home," Janice answered scanning the paper. "My eyes are green not blue. Might want to change that," she added before handing back the paper. "Now if youll excuse me I do have business to attend to. Youre welcome to use of the bar as long as you pay like everyone else."
Janice simply walked away leaving Renault to the Nazi who examined her departure.
"An odd woman," she sighed.
"Yes," he agreed.
"She seems like she would sympathize with the underground movement and aid Laszlo."
"I can assure you that like this country, shes a neutralist."
"Perhaps She may be a neutralist but she still seems a bit unnatural to me."
"Im not sure about that," Renault lied. He knew of Janices attraction to the fairer sex. Not long after her arrival in Casablanca did she hook up with Yvonne on an occasional evening here and there. "Shes tough," he continued, "raised by her father, spent her life in dangerous places from the rumors Ive heard. That could make anyone hard, be it man or woman."
"I suppose so," the Nazi sighed. "In any regard, how about that drink?"
"Absolutely its on me."
"I knew youd say that," the Nazi said with her icy smile.
As they begin to make their way to a table, a dashing gentleman and his beautiful companion enter. Both of their hair is black as coal with icy blue eyes that nearly match. Renault recognizes the man immediately and excuses himself from Major Strasser. As the couple enters deeper into the club the woman looks up and a flash of recognition erupts between herself and the piano player. He gives a slight nod but continues to play. They take a seat and in doing so the man whispers to the woman.
"If you see Ugarte let me know."
She gives him a ladylike nod as Renault comes over. "I was informed you were the most beautiful woman ever to visit Casablanca. That was a gross understatement."
"Youre very kind," the woman replied with an American accent.
"And I assume this is Mr. Laszlo?" Renault asked offering his hand.
"Why yes I am," he said taking it. At that moment Major Strasser walks over to their table. Laszlo refuses to stand in the Majors presence.
"May I have this seat?" Strasser asked politely pointing to Laszlos chair.
"Perhaps you didnt notice but this seat is taken," he tells her. "I'm sure you'll excuse me if I'm not gracious. But you see Major Strasser, I am Czechoslovakian."
"You were Czechoslovakian. Now you are a subject of the German Reich."
Laszlo slowly stood up to accept the Nazis challenge. "I've never accepted that privilege and I'm now on French soil."
"Yes and its just how you landed on French soil that the Reich would like to discuss. I expect to see you with Mademoiselle at the Prefet's office tomorrow at ten. Dont be late."
Without further words, Strasser turned heel and walked away.
"They really mean to stop me this time," Victor whispered to his companion as he took his seat again.
"Im worried for you."
"Ive escaped worse," he grinned. "Weve made it this far havent we? Well make it the rest of the way as well."
Before she can answer a man leans over and whispers in Victors ear. "Please excuse me my dear," he said formally. She watched as the two men walked to the bar.
Now alone, the woman motioned to Sam to come her way and he wheeled his piano over to her table.
"How have you been Sam?"
"Cant complain," he answered. "I never expected to see you again...A lot of water under the bridge."
"Suppose youre right," she nodded. "Would you play me some of the old songs Sam? The ones you used to play?"
Sam looked unsure but he decided to play Avalon as the dark woman listened. Finally she asked, "So how is she?"
"Janice is Janice. And if you dont mind me saying maam itd be best if you just let her be. You're bad luck to her Miss Melinda."
"Where is she?"
"Dont know. I aint seen her all night."
"You were always a terrible liar Sam."
Sam continues to play but it isnt the song she wants to hear. "Sam Play it for me. The one we loved. Play As Time Goes By for me."
"Why, I cant remember it Miss Melinda. Im a little rusty."
"Ill hum a few bars." She hummed and Sam started to play the music. "Beautiful. Now sing Sam, like you used to."
At first he looks unsure but he does begin to sing:
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As Time Goes By.
And when two lovers woo
They still say, 'I love you'
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As Time Goes By
Suddenly Janice appears at the doorway that leads to her apartment room that sits above the club. Her face is red with anger as she marches over to Sam, slamming the lid over the keys shut, nearly hitting his fingers.
"I thought I told you never to play that song," she chastised.
"It was a request from the lady," Sam answered nodding toward the woman across from him.
Janice turns to see the culprit who had corrupted Sam into breaking her order. The sight before her leaves her breathless. Sam watched as the two women drank in each others presence. After a few moments he quietly wheels his piano away. Before either of them could speak Renault returns with Laszlo at his side.
"Ah Janice, its nice to see youve returned. May I introduce Melinda Laszlo, wife of -."
"Victor Laszlo," Mel interrupted. "My husband."
"Renault tells me youre quite the traveler although little else is known of you," Victor said addressing Janice. "Perhaps youd care to have a drink with us."
"Janice never drinks with the clientele," Renault announced to the table.
"Well some rules were made to be broken," Janice said, keeping her eyes locked on Mel for as long as possible. "Sascha," she called out. "A bottle of our best French Champaign."
"Coming right up maam," the barkeep answered.
"I hear youre quite the man out trying to save the world," Janice remarks as she takes a seat across from Mel.
"I do what I can," Victor answered, reaching out to stroke Mels hand that sat on the table. "And I must admit this is an interesting business for a woman. I congratulate you."
Janice spoke to Laszlo but soon her eyes focused on Mel. "And I congratulate you," she said nodding to the couple.
"For your work."
"We all try," Janice answered. "But obviously you succeed where others fail."
The double meaning isnt lost on Mel and she looks visibly uncomfortable. Renault can sense Mels distress although Victor seems oblivious.
"You should have heard her earlier Janice," Renault said, nodding toward Mel. "The way she asked questions of you made me extremely jealous."
Mel cleared her throat. "I wasnt sure youd be the same," Mel said to Janice. "Lets see, the last time we met-."
Janice cut her off. "Macedonia. 1940. Just before the Germans moved in."
"How nice. You remember."
"Think Id forget? I wasnt always a drunkard who ran a pub."
"No you werent," Mel countered. "You were a successful archeologist. Whyd you give up diggin Janice?"
"I lost the scrolls. I lost " Janice paused. Saying I lost the woman I loved would have certainly raised more questions than Janices inebriated mind could answer at the moment. "I lost everything. My lifes work . . . and with it went my life."
A small silence fell over the table until Renault spoke, "You sound almost human Janice. I guess we have Melinda to thank."
"Guess you do Louis," the blonde answered. "But if youll excuse me its getting late and I have the duties of closing for the evening." Janice rose and walked behind the bar and then up the stairs to her apartment.
"Yes, we must be going too, my dear," Victor tells Mel. "Well have a long day tomorrow."
"Allow me to call you a cab Mr. Laszlo," Renault offered and quickly leaves before any protest can be given. When Renault was out of sight Victor turned to his wife.
"That Janice is an interesting lady. Im surprised to find youve kept such company while I was away. What sort of gal is she?" he asked as he stood up.
"I really cant say," Mel answered. "But we did meet in Macedonia as I had intended. It seems like a lifetime ago now." Mel gave a warm grin before rising. Victor, in a gentlemanly fashion, helped her with her coat as the two of them left the club.
From the window of the apartment Janice watched as the couple made their way into a cab before being swisked away. After they were gone she let out a deep sigh and opened a fresh bottle of scotch. She took three chugs and rested it on her desk. Come on Covington youve got closing receipts to do.
In the early morning hours Janice sat at the bar, chain-smoking cigarettes as Sam worked on some new songs. He paused from his efforts and took a seat next to Janice but Janice said nothing.
"Its late Janice. Why not call it a night huh?"
"Sorry Sammy. Im waiting on a lady."
"What makes you think shell show?"
"Destiny In fact Im so sure Ill bet you a days wage on it."
Sam knows he has to cheer Janice up somehow. "Look Bosslady, why dont we take a drive? Get real wild. Blow out of town, maybe do a little fishing someplace, at least until shes gone."
Janice took another drink and snuffed out a cigarette before lighting another one. "You know Sam .Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world She walks into mine."
Sam realized he couldnt help Janice. She had to work through her despair herself. "Perhaps it is destiny, Bosslady."
He walked away, back to his piano, finishing up his new tune.
"Whats that youre playing?"
"Little somethin of my own."
"Well stop it. You know I dont want to hear that."
"No I dont."
"You know what I need to hear. If you played it for her you can play it for me."
"Well I dont think I can remember-."
In her anger Janice flung her glass against the wall in front of her. "Goddamn it Sam. I said play it."
Reluctantly Sam starts to play As Time Goes By as Janice thinks about her time with Mel. Her mind takes her to another desert in Macedonia when they first met. We watch Mel, covered in dirt, dusting herself off as she enters a tent.
"Heres lookin at you kid."
Mel looked up to see Janice holding a bottle of champaign, along with two glasses. "Thought you could use a drink," she adds stretching out her arm. Mel gave a coy grin and walked over to take a drink. After doing so she leaned in and gave Janice a slow burning kiss on the lips. "I gotta know Mel. Who are you really? And what were you before we met?"
"Remember Janice, when this all started you said no questions. Your rule."
"Some rules were made to be broken," Janice said smugly.
"And some keep you safe," Mel answered.
"Its been a month since you stumbled into my dig site Mel. I never would have believed Id feel this strongly about anything I just gotta know "
"What do you want to know Janice?"
"Everything what makes you well you?"
"Right now you do."
"Am I the only woman youve-."
"Any men in your life?"
"Formerly one. Hes dead."
"Im sorry Look I know we said no questions. But-."
Mel placed her finger over Janices lips. "Theres only one answer I can give that would take care of all your questions." Mel replaced her finger with her lips, repeatedly until the glasses of champaign fall from both their hands, spilling into the dirt floor of the tent.
The next day Janice and Mel awake tangled and naked in each others embrace. They hear a commotion outside. They listen intently and hear shouting that the Germans are coming. Quickly they dress and come out to find the camp starting to scatter about.
"Youve got to get out of here Janice. Theyll think you killed Smithe and if-."
"Dont worry. Ive been on their blacklist before. Ill leave but not without you. Say youll come with me Mel. Say youll marry me."
"Marry you? But how Janice?"
"Ive got a friend, he can give me any identity I choose. If I had to live the rest of my life as a man Id do it to have you at my side. What do you say?"
"Janice I cant make plans that far in advance."
"You didnt say no," Janice smiled. Mel chuckled in response. "What do you say sweetheart? Lets hop a train and get outta here together."
The commotion of the dig site seemed to melt away as Mel looked into Janices anxious eyes. "Id follow you anywhere Dr. Covington."
Janice kissed Mel on the lips and took her by the hands. "We dont know where the Germans are so let me go into town and buy the train tickets. Be there no later than five and well go off together. Im gonna take Sam with us because-."
"I know Janice. He saved your life. You owe him. I understand. Ill be there at five but if Im not, promise youll get on that train Janice."
"I cant promise that," the blonde answered.
"No! You save yourself. You understand?"
"I understand Mel."
"Good. Just know that wherever they put you and wherever they might put me just know that " Mel didnt finish. Instead she took Janice tenderly by the face and pulled her in for a kiss. "Kiss me," she begged. "Kiss me as if it were the last time."
Janice pulled Mel closer by the hips and kissed her slowly at first, building more and more passion until they finally break apart.
"At five?" Janice whispered into Mels ear as they embraced. The sounds of Nazi bombings nearly drown out the question.
Sam and Janice made their way to the station with tickets in hand. Janice looked around repeatedly but doesnt seem to find Mel. A railway worker began to shout out.
"Janice Covington? Dr. Janice Covington?"
The man made his way over and handed Janice a letter. "A message maam," he said before walking away. A light rain began to fall and Sam walked up to look over Janices shoulder.
"What is it Janice?" he asked as she opened it.
Raindrops begin to fall on the letter as they read it: "Dearest Janice. I cannot come with you or ever see you again. You must not ask why no questions. Just know that I love you my darlin. Goodbye and God bless. Love always, Mel."
The train begins to move and Sam starts to pull Janice along. "Come on, weve gotta go."
Janice seemed rooted in the spot with a blank expression. She looked back down at the letter to see it smeared, a wash of ink and rainwater.
"Come on!" Sam shouted.
Janice crumpled up the letter and threw it away as she and Sam jumped on the moving train.
Back in Casablanca, Sam stopped playing the tune and Janice looked back to him. "Whyd you stop?"
"Gotta get to bed and get some rest seeing Ill be playin for free tomorrow."
Sam nodded toward the door and Janice turned. Mel is standing inside, unmoving.
"Evening Miss Melinda," Sam nodded politely.
An uncomfortable silence followed as Sam closed the keys and put the seat on top the piano. "Best if I call it a night. See ya tomorrow Bosslady. Miss Melinda."
Janice gives Sam a nod as he passes, getting on his coat. Once hes left the building, Mel walked further into the room. Janice turned back to her bottle as she spoke to Mel.
"Why on earth are you in Casablanca?"
"If Id know you were here I wouldnt have come Janice. Honest."
Mel approached closer and finally Janice turned around to face her. "Its funny you know. Youre voice is just as I remember it. But before that voice told me youd travel anywhere with me; build a life together. Now youd forsake an entire country to avoid me?"
"Please, dont do this. I understand how you hurt."
Janice laughed heartily. "You understand, Mrs. Laszlo? What could you possibly understand?"
Another silence passed between them. Mel wasnt sure how she should approach Janice but suddenly an idea came to her she would do the bard thing and appeal to Janices good nature or what was left of it anyway.
"Can I tell you a story?" Mels voice asked softly.
"The warrior telling the bard a story, huh? Does it involve a woman hopelessly in love, standing at a train station with her insides ripped out? If so, I know how it ends and Im not interested."
"Im not sure how this story ends at least not yet," Mel replied.
"Just tell me something Mel. And be honest with me."
"Ive never been dishonest Janice but go ahead."
"Did you leave me for Laszlo? Or was it some other guy? Maybe it was another gal. Maybe you just hop from place to place seeing how many people you can bring into you bed."
"You spiteful bitch!"
The slap connected with Janices cheek before she ever saw it coming and it rattled off the walls of the now vacant club. Janice rubbed the pain away and watched as Mel turned heel and started to leave, tears beginning to stream down her face.
"Melinda! Wait!" Janice called from her bar stool.
Mel stopped short of the door but didnt turn around. "You want honesty Janice. Heres honesty I loved you more than anyone Ive ever met but I had to do something that was bigger than myself, bigger than us something for the greater good."
Janice didnt answer. Her tongue was tied. And helplessly she watched Mel walk out.
The Next Morning
Strasser and Renault sit silently in the German office as they await the arrival of Laszlo and his wife. Strasser turned to the French captain.
"She has the letters," Strasser said out loud, her internal thoughts vocalized.
"No Covington. We should search the Café immediately."
"Well if Janice does have them shes far too clever to leave them where anyone could find them," Renault offered.
"You say clever - I think blundering American."
"Well I watched the Americans blunder into Berlin in 1919 no offense."
Strasser cast an evil glare but doesnt have a retort. At that moment Victor and Melinda make their way into the office.
"If this is a bad time Major, I can come back later," Victor announced boastfully.
"Not at all," Strasser said formally. "Please have a seat." Victor pulled out a chair for Melinda before taking a seat for himself. He kept his head high as Strasser started to pace around them, circling them like prey at the small table. "You realize you are an escaped prisoner of the Reich and there will be no escape for you. Im here to guarantee that."
"Well whether you succeed remains to be seen," Victor challenged.
"Let me make you an offer Mr. Laszlo," Strasser began. "I have two exit visas for you and the misses. All you have to do is give us the names of two Underground Resistance leaders in Europe."
"I guess my bonus prize is knowing I helped further the Third Reich Sorry but Im not interested. Thank you for asking however. Its awfully kind of you to consider me."
Victors cocky attitude snapped Strasser's reserve. She slammed her hands down on the table against his defiance, making Mel jump slightly in her seat. "Ugarte is dead Bad things can happen to good people Mr. Laszlo even beautiful people sometimes." With that Strasser reached up and stroked Mels face. Mel lurched back from the contact as Laszlo pushed Strassers hand away.
"I would appreciate it if you would not touch my wife, Major," he said defiantly.
"Well I guess we have nothing further to discuss."
"I suppose not," Victor agreed, rising from his chair and offering Mel his hand. "Well be going now."
After the couple left the room, Strasser turned to Renault. "Theyll do no better in the black market no visa for them Im sure," she replied smugly. "So what do you say Renault Should we go to Ricks Café for another drink?"
Without waiting for a response Strasser leaves and Renault gives a deep sigh before reluctantly following.
Sometime later, Janice walked away from her Café as a group of Nazi soldiers walked in and out of her establishment. She didnt really care one way or the other about their presence. Shed clean it up later. But as she walked out onto the street something did catch her interest, it was Mel shopping at the town square Bizarre. Slowly Janice made her way over as Mel completed a transaction.
"1000 years later and youre still paying too much," Janice said as she walked up. She pulled some of the coins from the vendors hand, giving them back to Mel as he protested. "Shes being gracious with what youve got there buddy," she told the vendor. He scoffed her off but accepted the coinage nonetheless.
"Thank you but the bed hopper doesnt need you help," was Mels acidic answer before turning her back.
Janice let her walk a few steps before following her. "Hey Mel," she called out, making the tall woman stop. "Look, Im sorry about what I said last night. I was drunk, okay?"
"No, its not okay," Mel said turning around.
"Please just tell me why you came back. Finish the story you started last night."
Mel shook her head. "The Janice in Macedonia would listen but this Janice, this drunkard she wouldnt understand. So theres no point in explaining anything. Maybe with time well remember Macedonia and not Casablanca, Janice. That Janice loved me she didnt look at me with the disgust that you had last night. Besides, Ill be out of your hair soon enough."
"How do you figure? Rumor has it Ugartes dead."
"Victor is looking into other options."
"Options huh? Well I think you owe me the truth Mel. Come up to my apartment, above the club. Ill be sober and Ill be waiting. Victor doesnt have to know a thing - besides someday youll betray Laszlo so you might as well start with an old flame."
Mel took the jab in good spirits and gave a devilish grin. "You should know Janice that when I went to Macedonia I was already Victors wife. See what happens when you dont ask questions? Consider that with the next gal you sweep off her feet when you decide to play it casual and see what happens."
Mel turned from the slack-jawed blond making her way through the Bizarre and to the Blue Parrot Club where Victor was talking with the owner, Senor Ferrari. Victor sees Mel and waves her over quietly.
"May I introduce my wife, Melinda."
"Pleasure to meet you Mrs. Laszlo," Ferrari said as he kissed the back of her hand. "As I was telling your husband I could secure one visa but not two. He would have to stay behind."
"No," Mel said firmly. "Hell go."
"Sweetheart, listen please -."
"No Victor. You need to get out of here. Ill do okay on my own and when I can, Ill join you."
"I wont leave you behind Mel. You were the thing that kept me going when I was in that god-forsaken camp. Im not going to leave you behind my dear." Laszlo then turned to Ferrari. "Are you sure you can only secure one?" Ferrari just answered with a nod. "Then well have to pass Senoir."
"Fair enough," he answered. "I admire your commitment to each other. So much in fact Im willing to offer some information off the record. Its my belief that Covington has Ugartes exit visas two of them in fact."
"What makes you say that?" Mel asked.
"A hunch," Ferrari grinned. "Anyway, if you find youve changed your mind let me know. Maybe we can do business."
With a nod and a friendly handshake Mel and Victor leave the Blue Parrot Club.
Later that night
Renault walked inside Ricks Café, which was open for business but still looking a bit topsy-turvy. He noticed Janice at the bar drinking soda water and he strolls up.
"Sorry my men got a bit destructive Janice but you know how that impresses the Germans. I had to keep things up for appearances sake you know?"
Janice grinned. "Yeah Louis I know. Whatever would Strasser think if you left no wine glass unturned or should I say unbroken?"
"Again maam, my apologies."
"Well I looked into getting new ones recently anyway. So what brings you out tonight?"
"Meeting the Major here actually," Renault answered.
At that moment Yvonne walked into the Café with a German Officer on her arm.
"Looks like Yvonne has gone over to the enemy," Janice grinned.
"Who knows? Maybe shes the second front."
"That happens to be my ex youre talking about," Janice said giving Renault a slight shove.
"Apologies again," Renault answered.
"Ah, thats alright. Again, I was looking into getting something new anyway."
Janice and Renault share a smile and he watches as the smile leaves Janice quickly. He turned his head in the direction she was looking to see Major Strasser walk inside. "Why dont you go entertain your new best friend Louis?" Janice nodded.
"Not a bad idea," he agreed as he walked over to the tall blonde.
At that moment Mel and Victor walked in. Mel looked exquisite a dark floral gown that accented her dark hair and crystal blue eyes. Janice seemed to light up upon seeing her but did her best to keep her excitement down. The meeting between them earlier left her staggered she had to admit. But she also had to be honest and say that Mel still had a power over her unlike anyone shed ever met. She walked over to greet them.
"Sammy is in rare form tonight," Janice told the taller woman as she motioned toward him.
"Do you have a table near the piano?" Mel asked.
"Yes and away from the Major?" Victor added with a smile.
"Well in this place the geography is a little hard to manage but well find a way," Janice smiled to Victor. Once they were seated Janice turned to Sam. "Sammy, play Mels favorite tune would you?"
"Absolutely, Bosslady," he nodded.
"If youll excuse me I have some matters to attend to," Janice said going back to her office. She began to pull out some paper work at her desk and took a seat. She readied her pen to begin writing when she heard a knock at the door. "Yes?"
Victor Laszlo walked inside, making sure to close the door behind him. "May I have a moment with you maam?"
"What can I do for you Mr. Laszlo?"
"Its come to my attention that you could possibly help us get out of Casablanca."
"What of it?"
"Ill offer you 100,000 francs for those two visas."
"You could offer me 300 million. My answer would be the same."
"Dont you realize how important my work is?"
"Sorry but I dont play politics. Im just a bar keeper."
"Then as a business woman it would make sense to sell them at the handsome price Im offering."
"Im not interested in your money Laszlo."
"Then why keep them?"
"Ask your wife!"
"Yeah, go ask your wife! Now if youll excuse me I have matters that need tending."
Janice sat back down and didnt look at Victor. But from outside the office the two hear a group of Germans singing and they look at each other. They step out together to see a group of Germans inside the Café singing Die Wacht am Rhein ("The Watch on the Rhine"), with Strasser leading the chorus. Victor decided to defy the Germans and he rushes out singing La Marseillaise, the French Anthem. Soon the other patrons join in and they drowned out the singing of the Germans.
Janice doesnt join in the singing. Neither does Mel nor do the Germans. Instead she looks to Mel and smiles giving a small chuckle as the German officers leave the club. One by one all the officers had left except for Major Strasser who is not amused.
She grabs Renault by the back of the neck, making him whence. "Stop this at once!" she orders. "Shut this place down!"
"The reason?" Renault asked.
"Theyre having too much of a good time. And if you dont I can guarantee it will be a long time before you have a good time again." With that she reached down and grabbed Renaults crotch to emphasis her point.
Carefully Renault pulls away and addresses the room. "Okay, everyone out! This establishment is now closed!"
Janice came rushing over. "You cant shut me down On what grounds?"
"Im shocked to find there is illegal gambling going on here," he told her.
At that moment the croupier walked over handing Renault a cup full of chips. "Your winnings, sir."
"Oh, thank you," he said politely before becoming stern and facing the room. "Everyone move! Now!"
In the commotion Strasser makes her way over to Mel. "My dear lady, I should tell you that your husband has two options left in the next few days. Either he goes to occupied France to face prosecution for his camp escape or ."
"Or what?" Mel asked.
"a convenient death Make sure to pass that along to him, would you dear?"
Strasser gives her a wicked smile as she stands back to her full height before walking out the door. Mel realizes she has to find some way to get Victor out of the city. She considered going to see Janice at that moment but Renault was pushing the crowd along. Victor reaches out and pulls Mel along with him as they too are herded outside with the others. Helpless, Janice watches Mel ride through the wave of human traffic.
Later that night
"Its not often that a husband gets to be heroic in front of his wife," Victor says as he adjusts his jacket. He was going to go to the Underground Resistance movement even if the place was now crawling with Germans. They wouldnt hold him down. But even in spite of his confidence something felt fractured inside him. There was a tone in his voice that Mel cant quite recognize but she doesnt push the subject. She simply sat on the bed in their hotel room watching Victor. He stood tall, straightening his tie in the mirror as he continued to speak to her. "I asked Covington why she wouldnt sell me the visas."
"What did she say?"
"She said, Go ask your wife," he replied as he turned around to face her. "I dont know why she said that. Do you?"
"I cant say," Mel shrugged.
Victor took a seat on the bed next to her, taking her hands in his. "Were you lonely in Macedonia?"
"Yes, Victor I was."
"Well, I know how it is to feel lonely. Is there anything you wish to tell me?"
"No," Mel answered honestly. "There isnt."
"I love you very much my dear."
"I know you do Victor." Mel began to tear up but Victor didnt let it affect him. Mel cleared her throat. "Whatever I do will you believe that I . . ."
"I dont have to say it," Victor interrupted. "I believe anything you tell me." Victor gave Mel a chaste kiss on the forehead before standing up. "The others will be waiting for me. I have to go. Ill be back shortly my dear."
Mel simply nodded and watched him leave. After he left the room she went to the window and watched him scurry between the buildings across the street. At that moment Mel knew she had to do something and without delay she donned her coat and shoes.
Moments later Janice walked into her darkened apartment and turned on the table lamp. In the shadows she saw a figure shed never forget.
"I knew youd come," Janice said tossing her keys on the table.
Mel stepped into the light to face her. "I need those letters Ill pay any price you want but I must have them."
"Any price, huh? You sound like a desperate woman Mel. Desperation isnt a word Id use when it came to you Miss Pappas forgive me Mrs. Laszlo."
"Im serious Janice."
"So am I."
Janice took a seat behind her desk as Mel walked closer.
"I know how you despise me but Im asking you to put aside your differences with me and help my husband. His work-."
"Oh please. I dont think I can stand to hear another account of how wonderful your husband is Mel. I dont want to hear about his cause."
"You had the same cause once yourself."
"That was a long time ago Mel. I look out for one person now. Me."
Mel wasnt making any headway with this argument so she changed her tactic. "If our time in Macedonia meant anything youll help me now."
"Forget Macedonia," Janice replied before Mel could go any further. "Its not helping your case any Mel."
"If only youd listen. I never meant to hurt you. But if need be Ill hurt you now." With that Mel pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Janice. Janice shook her head and gave a light chuckle. "Give me those letters. I swear Janice, Ill shoot. I will."
Janice stood up and walked until her chest is inches from the barrel. "Pull the trigger Mel. Youd be doing me a favor."
For the first time since her arrival she saw how much shed hurt Janice. She also began to realize how much she still loved her. Her hand started to shake and she lowered the weapon along with her head. She dropped the gun and began to sob.
"I tried to stay away I did. I thought Id never see you again that I could move on but ."
She leaned down and rested her head on Janices shoulder, sobbing harder. Janice simply reacted and took Mel into her arms, pulling her into a tight embrace. Slowly Mel pulled back and brought Janices lips to her own, giving her a scalding kiss.
"I thought he was dead when I met you. When I first got to Europe I was working my way to your dig site but I met Victor and I admired him so like the father I just lost, someone I looked up to. We married soon after. Then when I thought he was dead I traveled on to Macedonia like I originally intended. But that morning when the Germans came I got a telegram. He was alive and waiting for me in Paris. You had already gone to the train station so I . . . I sent the note. I didnt want you to get captured or killed. It was best if I let you believe I had changed my mind. You would leave then. Youd leave and never look back."
"Oh Mel," Janice sighed. Gently she wiped away the tears from Mels cheeks. "Im sorry for what I said about you the other night. I was angry and hurt."
"I know Janice. Really I do. The day you left Macedonia, if you knew what I went through. If you knew how much I loved you, how much I still love you. I walked away from the love of my life for my marriage vows and for the greater good. Victor said I made him strong. I gave him the strength to go on but I see now he loves the cause more than hell ever love me."
"So now what sweetheart? Tell me . . . hows the story end Mel?"
"I left you once Janice. I dont have the power to do it again."
"What about Victor?"
"Youll help him now, wont you Janice? Give him the visa to go to America. Hell have his work, thats what he lives for anyway."
"But he wont have you, will he?"
Mel buried her head back into Janices shoulder her emotions torn between her duty to her husband and her love for Janice. "All I want is you. Ill stay in Casablanca. I made the choice to walk away once before. I cant do it again."
"Is that what you really want Mel?"
"I dont know whats right or wrong anymore Janice. I know my love for you is endless. It always has been. And yes Ive made a vow to Victor but that was before I realized my place was with you. You have to do the thinking for both of us here. For all of us."
"Alright I will," Janice smiled and gave Mel a tender kiss on the lips. "Heres looking at you kid."
Mel gave a light chuckle. "I wish I didnt love you so much. You flash those green eyes and I just melt."
"Well like I said in the market not much has changed in 2000 years."
They pull each other back into a tight embrace until they hear some noise downstairs in the club. They both look to each other and move to the door. As they make their way down the hallway, Sam comes out from his chamber too.
"You heard it too, huh Janice?" Its only then that he takes the time to notice that Melinda is with her. He looks confused but tries to masquerade it with politeness. "Evening Miss Melinda," he says softly.
Janice peaked out to see Laszlo with another man inside the club. The stranger helped Laszlo by sharing some of his weight and gently rested him in a chair. She sees Laszlo has a bloody cloth to his forehead and notices the stranger looking around. Janice doesnt waste another moment.
"Looks like Victor got into a rumble," she whispers. "Sammy would you escort Mel back to her hotel."
Sam exchanged a look between the two women and nodded his head. "Yes maam. You realize sneakin gals out the back is gonna catch up with you someday bosslady?"
"Hopefully those days will soon be over," Janice smiled. "Go on Ill stall him so you can get back."
Janice walks out to the club as Sam and Mel take off out the back door. "What seems to be the trouble down here?" Janice asked walking up to the pair. She did her best to act surprised that its Laszlo. "What the hell happened?" she asked.
The stranger moved forward. "Seems we got a little Nazi company at our meeting tonight. Im going to see if I can help the others Victor."
Victor nodded his agreement and the stranger darted from the door. Janice walked over to the bar and tossed him a clean dishrag.
"Looks like you could use a drink," Janice told him. She leaned over the bar and pulled out a bottle of gin before walking over to the table to sit across from him. "Here you go. Its on the house."
"Thank you." Quietly he takes three sips and sets it back down. Janice watches him intently.
"Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this? I mean, what you're fighting for," she finally asked, breaking the silence.
"You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we'll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
"And what of it? It'll be out of its misery."
"Do you know how you sound, Dr. Covington? Like a woman who's trying to convince herself of something she doesn't believe in her heart. Each of us has a destiny - for good or for evil."
"I get the point," she sighed.
"I wonder if you truly do. I wonder if you know that you're trying to escape from yourself, and that you'll never succeed."
"You seem to know all about my destiny."
Laszlo paused a moment, as if unsure if he should continue but he met Janice eye to eye.
"I know a good deal more about you than you suspect. I know, for instance, that you are in love with a woman. It is perhaps a strange circumstance that we both should be in love with the same woman. The first evening I came into this cafe, I knew there was something between you and Mel. Since no one is to blame, I demand no explanation. I ask only one thing. You won't give me the letters of transit. All right. But I want my wife to be safe. I ask you as a favor to use the letters to take her away from Casablanca."
Janice realized it was useless to play dumb and she also realized she saw a side to Victor she didnt expect. "You love her that much?"
"Apparently, you think of me only as a leader of a Cause. Well, I am also a human being. And yes, I love her that much."
Before Janice can reply the door bursts open again with Strasser and Renault making their way inside.
"Renault place this man under arrest," she ordered. "Under grounds of conspiracy against the Reich."
Janice looked at Victor as Renault pulled him to his feet. "It seems destiny has taken a hand," Janice tells him. "You tried your best Laszlo. Best of luck to you."
Janice watched as Renault and the Germans haul him away before heading back to her apartment.
Janice stood in Renaults office, confessing she has Ugartes visas. But she needed one favor from him.
"You must be crazy," Renault answered when he heard Janices request.
"No, not crazy. In love. Just let Laszlo go. Believe me he wont be leaving Casablanca. I intend to use the visas myself. I'm leaving Casablanca on tonight's plane. The last plane...I'm taking a friend with me, one you'll appreciate...Mel. That ought to put your mind to rest about my helping Laszlo escape, hes the last man I want to see in America."
"My my Janice taking off with another mans wife. You actually have less scruples than I do," Renault replied.
"Im telling you, if you let him go we can set him up on bigger charges charges that will get him sent straight back to the camps and out of our lives. Whadda you say? It would make you look good in front of the Germans."
Renault stroked his mustache. "You do have a point."
"Damn straight So what do you say?"
Renault gave a small grin. "You got it Janie. Just say the word."
"Thanks Louis I knew I could count on you. Release him a half hour before the plane takes off. Ill hand over the letters to him and you can make the arrest for accessory in the German clerks deaths. You get him and we take the letter to get away. Strasser wont care about us as long as shes got Laszlo. And aside from the fact it would be a very nice feather in your cap with the Reich, youll win our little bet."
Renault gave a chuckle. "Okay, I agree. Tonight then?"
"Tonight." Janice gave him a nod and a firm handshake before making her way out.
She was leaving with the woman she loved and she had business to take care of. After setting things up with Renault, Janice made her way over to see Senior Ferrari at the Blue Parrot Club. For over a year he wanted her to sell to him so she made a deal. An upfront sale and 25% of the gross profits each month for 2 years. An added agreement would insist that the current employees like Sam and Sascha would stay in their current positions. Ferrari liked the agreement and they signed the paper work an hour later.
Janice sat in her empty café looking at the letters of transit in her hand. It had been a long day a day of waiting and nervously she tapped the letters on the table in front of her. It would only be a few minutes now and if Renault held up his end of the deal everything would fall into place.
Renault knocked on the door and Janice rushed over to let him in.
"They should be here any minute," she told him as she escorted him quickly through the café. "Go inside my office in back and wait there, okay?"
Renault gave a nod and without argument listened to Janice. She closed the door and walked back to the table to see a taxi pull up at the front of the club. Mel stepped out and Janice swore shed never seen a more beautiful sight. She rushes in as Victor pays the fair.
"Janice, Victor thinks I'm leaving with him. Haven't you told him?"
"No, not yet."
"But it's all right. You were able to arrange everything?"
"Everything is quite all right sweetheart."
"Oh Janice," Mel smiled with a sigh. "I love you so much."
"I know. Well take care of everything a few blocks away at the airport. The less time to think, the easier for all of us. Please trust me."
"Always." Janice and Mel smiled at each other lovingly as Victor walked inside. "Weve got to hurry folks," she told the group.
Victor reaches into his pocket and pulls out his money, handing it to Janice. "For the visas."
"No keep it. Youll need it in America," she told him. "Come on. Lets move."
They walked to the airport with Renault hiding in the shadows watching their movements. Once the airplane came to a stop, waiting for its human cargo, Janice handed the letters over to Laszlo. At that moment, Renault stepped forward.
"Victor Laszlo, you are under arrest on a charge of accessory to the murders of the couriers from whom these letters were stolen."
Mel moved from beside Janice to Victor as Renault approached with his gun drawn. "Oh, you're surprised about my friend, Janice. The explanation is quite simple. Love, it seems, has triumphed over virtue. She set you up Mr. Laszlo. And shes keeping the girl too."
"Not so fast, Louis. Nobody's gonna be arrested - not for a while yet." Renault looks down to see that Janice has turned the tables not on Laszlo but on him. "Now youre gonna pick up that phone and make sure that the plane leaves the ground and doesnt have any problems from here to Lisbon. You got it? And if you happen to forget just remember this gun is pointed right at your heart."
"You do realize," Renault sighed. "That is my least vulnerable part."
"Just make the call Louis," she told the captain. "Get the bags Laszlo while the good captain here makes out the visas." Laszlo did as Janice asked, although he seemed a bit bewildered. Janice then turned back to Renault. "Put the names on em - Louis. Mr. and Mrs. Victor Laszlo."
Mel gave Janice a confused look. "But why my name Janice?"
"Because youre getting on that plane."
"I dont understand. What about you?"
"Im staying with him," Janice answered, pushing the barrel into Renaults chest, "at least until the plane gets safely away."
"No, Janice No. I belong with you. Whats happened? Last night-."
"Last night we said a lot of things. You said I had to do the thinking for both of us. And I have. Youre getting on that plane where you belong with Victor."
Mel started to sob but does her best to hold it back. "No Janice. Ive-."
"Youve got to listen to me sweetheart. If we stay here chances are well both end up in a concentration camp. Isnt that right Louis?"
"Afraid so," he answered meekly.
"Youre only saying this to make me go," Mel argued.
"Im saying this because its true," Janice implored. "Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. Dont think for a moment that I dont love you Mel. Ill never love anything more and I promise in the next life Ill find you and nothing will keep us apart."
"I cant wait that long Janice."
"Mel trust me. If that plane leaves the ground and youre not on it youll regret it. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life."
"But what about us Janice?" Mel asked starting to whimper again.
"Well always have Macedonia Mel," Janice answered stroking her cheek. "We didnt always have it until you came to Casablanca. You gave it back to us last night."
Mel wiped the tiny tears forming in her eyes away. "When I said Id never leave you-."
"You never will. Youll be a part of me forever Mel. Always. Youve got a job to do for the greater good. And so do I. Youve made me whole again Mel. And Im going to see that I do the right thing from here on out. Try to understand sweetheart."
Mel gave a melancholy grin. "I understand."
"Mel," Janice said as she began to stroke Mels cheek again. "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll truly understand that." Mel dropped her head, unable to look at Janice any longer. Tenderly Janice raises Mels head by putting two fingers under her chin. "Now, now Mel Hey .Heres looking at you kid."
After they pulled away Laszlo returned to his wifes side. "Everything is ready," he announced.
"Victor theres something you should know," Janice told him. He listened intently to her words. "She tried everything to get those letters, and nothing worked. She did her best to convince me that she was in love with me, but that was all over long ago. For your sake, she pretended it wasn't, and I let her pretend. Youve got a good woman Victor. Treat her right."
"I will," he answered with a firm nod. He offered his hand to Janice. "Welcome to the fight Dr. Covington. Im sure our side will win."
"Go on Victor. Take your wife and get out of here."
The fog that has settled around the airport starts to clear in the turning engine propellers as Mel turns to Janice.
"Until the next life Janice?"
"Good-bye and God Bless."
With a look best described as numb, Mel walked with Victor to the airplane taking a seat beside him, next to the window. Janice and Louis walk to the edge of the runway to see the plane warming up to leave.
"Well, I was right," Renault began. "You are a sentimentalist...What you just did for Laszlo, that fairy tale you invented to send Mel away with him. I know a little about women, my friend. She went, but she knew you were lying."
"Well in any case, thanks for helping me out," Janice smiled to him.
"I suppose you know this isn't going to be very pleasant for either of us, especially for you. I'll have to arrest you, of course."
"As soon as the plane leaves Louis," Janice retorted.
Renault erupted with a chuckle until they heard a commotion behind them. They turned to see Major Strasser running behind them, trying to catch her breath and the plane. They watched her start to make her way over to the phone that Renault had used moments before to call the tower.
"I wouldnt touch that phone," Janice warned. "I was willing to shoot Capt. Renault and Ive got no quips about shooting you."
Instead of abiding by Janices order, Strasser reached for her gun. But the doctor was quicker and Strasser fell lifeless to the ground. Moments later the French police arrive and surveyed what happened. They looked to their Captain, unsure of what is going on. Renault looked to Strasser then to Janice before addressing his men.
"Round up the usual suspects," he ordered them. "The killer cant be far." With that they scattered and Janice released the breath she was holding. As a few of the men take away Strassers body, Janice and Louis watched as Mels plane left the ground headed for the safety of Lisbon.
"Well, Janice, you're not only a sentimentalist, but you've become a patriot," Louis teased.
"Maybe, but it seemed like a good time to start."
"I think perhaps youre right," he nodded. They both turned and headed back toward the hanger. "It might be a good idea for you to disappear from Casablanca for a while. There's a Free French garrison over in Africa. I could be induced to arrange a passage."
"My letter of transit? I could use a trip. But it doesn't make any difference about our bet. You still owe me ten thousand francs."
"And that ten thousand francs should pay our expenses."
"Of course, two resistance fighters for the greater good," Renault smiled.
Janice smiled as well and put her arm around Renault has they made their way through the growing fog. "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Return to The Bard's Corner