Back to Casablanca: Chapter Two

Herr Lehman’s ass un-darted, and his wallet being pillaged, Annie the Soapmaker called over to the Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg and Jane, suggesting that perhaps playing with sharp objects were not a good idea at that particular moment in time. The Baroness signaled to Karl the waiter, who came by immediately.

“Yes, madam,” he said. “How may I be of service?”

“I’d like a margarita, all top shelf, but with Midori instead of triple-sec, and no salt.”

“Very good. And for your friend?”

“Wife.”

“My apologies. For your wife?”

“A Reichsctagfeuer Cinnamon Schnapps in an iced tea glass.”

“Very good.”

The Baroness felt a tug at her skirt.

“It’s haunted down here. WOOoooooooooooo.” A bout of uncontrollable giggling came from beneath the tablecloth, along with a large plume of smoke that was clearly not pipe tobacco emanating from beneath the Baroness Anastasia von Heidelberg’s skirt.

“Here.” A hand with purple glitter nail polish handed a mouthpiece up the Baroness’s skirt.

“Try again. Aim a little higher.”

“Oops. Sorry.” More giggling. “I almost stuck the mouthpiece into your—“

“And here’s your margarita, Baroness, and your schnapps in a clean iced tea glass, ma’am. Anything else for now?”

“No, Karl. Thank you.”

“—hoo-hoo muffin,” ‘Rossa continued. ”When they’re busy, Karl doesn’t like when I sit under the tables, but it’s like playing farts.” The girl snorted. “HAHAHAHA! I mean farts. NO!! Wait! I mean, I meant forts. Here.”

The hand managed to make it over the Baroness’s skirt this time. She took a deep hit off of the hookah, and floated about 2.5 centimeters—maybe an inch—above her chair. The room took on a kaleidoscopic view, but not a scary one—all the swirling shapes were smiling and enjoying themselves. Even the odd little man yelling “RICK!!” over and over as cop-looking guys carried him away seemed to be laughing.

“Holy fuck,” The Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg said, handing the hookah to Jane, who’d finished half a glass of her schnapps. “Well, I could try it, I guess.”

She took her hit, and immediately felt sunlight coming from within her, glowing like a star. ‘Rossa crawled out from under the table and sat the empty hookah down. “Aww. Our hooker’s empty.”

“HookAH,” corrected Jane, knowing how The Baroness loathed incorrect English.

“Her-me-own. These ladies need refilling,” Testarossa called to the next table.

“Dammit, it’s ` Her-MY-own-ee,’ and you know it.” ‘Rossa winked at the Baroness and Jane. “’Night, ladies. If you need anything—hotel upgrades, rental cars, rental camels, free drinks at the Blue Parrot, somebody to be `disappeared’—let me know. My dad’s the leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, but he reluctantly does some legal stuff, too. Any friends of Annie the Soapmaker are friends of mine.”

Jane looked confused. “But we don’t KNOW—“

The Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg pinched Jane under the table.

“—um, what time it is.”

Testarossa Ferrari laughed. “When they give last call, you go home. You drink more. You fuck. You sleep. You call room service for hangover breakfast, take a bath, maybe fuck again, then get up and do it again, Amen. Until tomorrow. Baroness.” ‘Rossa gave a slight bow. “Jane. Nice to meet you both. ANNIE! I’M LEAVING!!!”

“Okay, ‘Rossa. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I’m done with this, and as soon as you’re done being an uncouth twatwaffle.”

Testarossa looked uncharacteristically pensive. “That could take years.”

“Well, either way, ‘Rossa, I’ll see you tomorrow. Violet said a new bus of tourists came in from Oran today. I told her she could rob them, but only the tourists, not the refugees.”

“My dad sells exit visas. We don’t want to rob refugees. Poor devils. Why do tourists come here?”

“It’s like watching a camel wreck, where those long legs are tangled, the drivers are screaming at each other, sand’s blowing over everybody, but the camels don’t care. They just hang out, happy not to be carrying fat-ass humans on their humps for awhile.”

“So the tourists are complete assholes?”

“Well said.”

“I’m sobering up. Good night, Baroness. Jane. See you in the morning at McDonald’s, Annie.”

“Good night, Testarossa. Stumble carefully.”

Annie picked up the hookah and carried to the Baroness and Jane’s table. Hermione and the small chess-playing girl joined them. Hermione loaded the bowl with something brown and mossy with red hairs.

“Oh, God, no more of that–”

Annie the Soapmaker laughed. “Nah. It’s just a special pipe tobacco we grow in the greenhouses behind my labs. Speaking of which, I’m Annie the Soapmaker. You met Testarossa Ferrari—almost more intimately than you probably would have expected. This is Hermione, and that pint-sized girl over there playing chess with Rick is Lisbeth.”

“I am The Baroness Anastasia von Heidelberg, and this is my wife, Jane.”

“Heidelberg doesn’t have a Baroness, though.”

“I know. `of Heidelberg’ is our family surname, so my stupid parents decided to name me “The Baroness Anastasia. I’m really Princess of Lichtenstein.”

“So your name is `The Baroness Anastasia von Heidelberg,’ but your Royal Title is `Princess of Lichtenstein’? Why not use both? `My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, The Princess of Lichtenstein, The Baroness Anastasia von Heidelberg.’ Yeah. That’s a little too snotty and British.”
“Plus, Lichtenstein only has about 20,000 people,” The Baroness continued. “ I know most of their names when I see them at Goering-Marcus.”

 

Across the lounge, Rick and Lisbeth were setting up the chessboard.

“Ugarte?”

“Nah,” said Rick. “He’s done for. They’ll say they shot him trying to escape, or that he killed himself. Anything other than the truth.”

“The Letters of Transit?”

“Yeah.”

“Does anyone realize they’re not real?”

“Apparently not, kid, because a lot of blood has been shed over them”

“Eine Menge Blut ueber sivergossen worden.”

Rick looked at the small woman with the ring in her nose. “What?”

“`A lot of blood has been shed over them,’ in German.”

“You scare me, kid.”

“I get that a lot.”

 

The Baroness of Heidelberg took a deep pull off the hookah. “Let me get this straight. The Prefect of Police keeps arresting the same people whenever there’s a crime and he knows who did it?”

“Yeah. `The Usual Suspects.’ He pays them a salary, and bonuses for Bastille Day and New Year’s.”

“Christmas and St. Patrick’s?”

“Muslim country, mostly.”

“But the Italian Lieutenant?”

“A complete idiot. I wouldn’t trust him to take care of my goldfish.”

“So, Annie,” The Baroness Anastasia von Heidelberg started, “You really make soap?”

“Oh, sure! All kinds of products: soaps, shampoos, crème rinses, mud packs, foot cream, C-4 explosive bricks, morphine, and—with the help of my partner in crime (at this, Hermione blushed)—potions and poisons that can do anything but make you piss purple for a month to hollow you out from the insides. Plus, naturally, inoculations for our friends. Stop by my tent tomorrow, and we’ll get you taken care of.”

Jane whispered into The Baroness’s royal-though-not-a-baroness ear. The Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg gently kissed Jane on her forehead.

“We need to go. Where do we get our check?”

“Bah, you’ll be back tomorrow night. Just settle up then.”

“Do we need, um, to hire that big guy over there to walk us to the hotel?”

Annie the Soapmaker looked at the door and grinned.

“Abdul?” She snorted. “It’s a plastic scimitar, because he kept cutting customers with his real one. He’s also kind of a wuss. A very LARGE wuss, but a wuss nonetheless.”

Annie took a drag off her cigarette. “Finally, you’re friends of Testarossa Ferrari’s. Nobody in this dusty corner of hellions and thugs would dare lay a hand on you. You could probably walk down the street naked, and everyone would avert their eyes. You’d be sunburned to pretzels before you got here, but you probably could.”

Stubbing out her cigarette, Annie watched a tall thin man walk through the front door. “Alas, dear friends. I must away.” She turned to the man. “Come join us, minion/husband. This is The Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg and her wife, Jane. This is my full-time husband and part-time minion, Abdul.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”

Jane cocked her head to one side. “Isn’t the really big Moroccan guy at the door named Abdul?”

“Yeah,” Annie replied. “My Abdul is Swedish—Abdul Svenborg. Fucked up, ain’t it? See you tomorrow.”

 

Lisbeth handed Hermione another 100,000 Vichy Francs, kissed her cheek, and led her out the door. Karl and Abdul were putting chairs up on tables for the cleaning crew, and Rick was counting money.

“I guess that’s our cue.” The two held hands and walked through the door.

“Ladies?” Rick called from across the bar. “We’ll talk tomorrow. I just felt like letting that weird little Swedish girl kick my ass in chess tonight. Goodnight.”

Abdul opened the door, and The Baroness Anastasia of Heidelberg and Jane stepped out into the quiet desert night.

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