Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Warner Brothers characters are the property of their original owners.
“You look good in a tux, Mr. Giles,” Vi the Slayer admiringly complimented her companion.
Smiling at the young woman walking by his side in her own exquisite blue evening gown, a well-dressed Briton still gently corrected her, “Please call me Giles, if you don’t mind, Violet. There’s really no need for us to be formal with each other tonight. Not when we’re in another dimension entirely, and about to enter that place.” The man then nodded at the Moroccan building they were walking towards, where a bright neon sign mounted above the front entrance displayed for the public a very famous name: Rick's Café Américain
“Okay then, but you’ve got to call me Vi. I’ve never really liked being named after a color or flower,” absently responded his game partner. As seen by the look of genuine wonder on Vi’s face while she stared further on, most of her attention was presently directed ahead at someplace she’d never dreamed it was possible for her to ever visit. This disbelief then came rushing out in the Slayer’s incredulous declaration, “I still can’t believe we’re here in the movie Casablanca
and about to set foot in there!
Continuing their pleasant stroll together, Giles genially pointed out to the girl staying in step with him, “There’s a multiplicity of dimensions which can be reached by those with sufficient mystical ability, as Willow just demonstrated. In these realities, anything
humanly conceivable has happened, is happening, or will happen. A fictional setting of night-time entertainment is hardly the most unbelievable thing to stumble across, er, Vi.”
“Who cares?" The woman’s mouth widened into a delighted smile matching the happy sparkle in her eyes. She giggled, “I’ve loved that movie with Bogart and Berman and Rains and Lorre and Greenstreet and all those other wonderful characters as long as I can remember! And now, I’m going to see them in real life and at close range, instead of just on a movie screen or television!”
Giles allowed himself a deep chuckle. He gladly confided to his companion, who’d turned her head to look up at the man in his white tuxedo and black bow tie, “I feel the same, rather. It’s always been one of my own personal favorites also.”
The older of the pair now glanced down at Vi vigorously nodding in cheerful agreement. He cleared his throat with an evident note of caution in his tone, and warned her, “Do keep in mind we’re not here to sightsee. I’m not sure if our mere presence will alter any events which comprise the entire film. This isn’t likely, or Willow wouldn’t have risked it. Still, actually meddling or unwisely interacting with the cast of that cinematic masterpiece should be avoided as much as possible.”
Her pretty face suddenly thoughtful, Vi insisted, “But Willow meant for us to do something here! It’s right in her book!” She touched her small, beaded purse dangling by its strap from her shoulder. This handbag now contained the tremendously powerful magical object which had not only transported the New Council members into an entirely different dimension, it’d also transformed their regular clothes into the correct formal garments for the early years of World War II.
Speaking of this, Giles made another quick check of his inner jacket pocket, where he’d securely lodged the other enchanted item collected by the pair before beginning what a happy witch had called today the Great Scooby Scavenger Hunt. Even with a certain pickpocket on the loose in the area, this video camera should be quite safe and sound in there. Turning his attention back to Vi waiting for him to respond to what she’d just mentioned, Giles dryly replied, “It’s a bit vague, don’t you think? We’re supposed to, and I quote, ‘Remove what shouldn’t be there in Sam’s piano.’ That doesn’t ring any kind of bell for me, I have to confess.”
“It could be the letters of transit!” Vi excitedly countered. She went on at Giles’ blank expression, “You know, the travel papers Rick hid in there after Ugarte got killed!”
“We don’t know yet exactly at what point we’re in the film, so they might not be there in the first place,” argued Giles. He added, “Besides, since Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa used these to escape together from Casablanca at the ending, taking those items now would surely change things in the move to an extreme degree.”
Vi shrugged, her white shoulders bared in her strapless gown, before conceding, “Okay, you’ve got a point. Why don’t we just see how things go? Look around in there a few minutes and maybe we’ll come up with something then. Does that sound good?”
“Absolutely,” beamed Giles at his companion. Pausing in his stride, he extended his left elbow to where a puzzled Vi had also halted. Waving his other hand at the entrance of their destination only several yards ahead, where Abdul the doorman was awaiting them, the Englishman gallantly offered, "Shall we?”
Grinning from ear to ear, Vi slipped her gloved right arm through the crook of her partner’s elbow, and together the Watcher and the Slayer entered Rick's Café Américain.
However, a near-calamity then occurred when they were only several steps inside the nightclub’s foyer. Vi abruptly sneezed.
It wasn’t a dainty, single sneeze. No, this sudden expelling of air through her nose was instead a continuous series of honking blasts, which turned the heads of several other patrons nearby in astonishment at such rude, loud noises. Hastily following his Slayer staggering back and against the foyer’s side wall, Giles made a quick reach for his shirtfront handkerchief and pulled it out, clapping this into Vi’s groping hand.
The young woman just as speedily buried her face into the opened cloth, and she let out one more immense nasal explosion, with welcome silence after that. Cautiously waiting until she was sure it was over, Vi bunched up the handkerchief in her fingers, and she daubed at her streaming eyes. Eventually, Vi sighed with relief, and she glanced up at her concerned companion.
Standing to make sure the young woman was shielded from any possible onlookers, Giles worriedly asked, “Are you all right, Vi?”
Wryly nodding while stuffing the handkerchief into her purse, Vi told Giles, “Yeah, I’m fine now, once I got used to it. How can people breathe
in there?” A jerk of her thumb at the main dining room ahead indicated what she was talking about.
A very puzzled Englishman stared at the bustling room filled with people at their tables, where among the extremely hazy air, they were talking and eating and drinking-- Oh. And smoking
too, producing such a high level of indoor pollution which Giles hadn’t himself encountered for decades. Not since being a young student in London long before any anti-cigarette campaigns. Knowing full well how sensitive a Slayer’s nose was, the Director of the New Council inwardly winced, and he began a swift apology. “I’m truly sorry, Vi--”
The shake of this woman’s head cut him off, along with her ruefully delivering, “Not your fault, Giles. I mean, I saw everybody smoking in the film, too! I should’ve expected it. But, we got a bigger problem.”
At those last words, Vi pointed past Giles, who turned to gaze again at the dining room. He wasn’t sure what he should be looking for this time, until he saw what his game partner had spotted.
Namely, the upright piano in the middle of the room entirely surrounded by a crowd of happy nightclub patrons. Each and every one of them a potential witness to any investigation by a pair of dimensional travelers attempting to discreetly remove whatever might be hidden inside this musical instrument.
“Dear Lord,” was gloomily uttered by Giles.
“Yeah,” contributed Vi in her similar depressed tone. She half-heartedly patted at her face before suggesting to the man at her side, “Look, I’m gonna find the ladies’ and fix my makeup and hair. Why don’t you hit the bar? You can keep an eye on the piano and try to come up with something to get Willow’s challenge done. I’ll meet you there.”
“Very well,” Giles agreed. The pair then parted to make their separate ways through the nightclub. It ended with Giles patiently moving among the crowd, until he wound up at his destination. Standing by the bar’s counter while glancing around, the man’s notice was again caught by their whole reason for being here, and he frowned at the piano. Perhaps he and Violet-- *Vi,
* mentally corrected the possessor himself of an outdated first name which had given him a lifelong sullen grudge against both the nephew of King Charles I and the creator of an anthropomorphic ursine.
Starting all over again in his head, Giles contemplated simply waiting until the nightclub closed and then conducting a spot of burglary with his Slayer. Letting his gaze pass over the convivial throng filling up the room, the mature man had to reluctantly discard this idea. From the looks of things, it’d be a great while yet until last call, and they just didn’t have the time. Not when he and Vi surely had many more challenges to meet in Willow’s rather ridiculous game. Mind you, even if he’d become involved in this blasted scavenger hunt solely because the others back in the castle had, all his competitive urges were against admitting defeat in the first bloody round! No, they could afford to spend a few moments to come up with some sort of scheme--
“What will you have, sir?”
Blinking at this thickly-accented voice suddenly coming from behind him, Giles turned around, and froze. He stared in absolute shock at the very familiar bartender expectantly looking back at him. Both men neither moved nor spoke for the next several moments.
Finally becoming impatient, Sascha opened his mouth to repeat his question, this time in French. However, the Russian émigré received a hasty order from his latest customer who seemed to have already started his drinking far too early, “A dry martini with lemon, please.”
“Da, da,” cheerfully acknowledged the bartender, getting busy behind the counter with his bottles and glasses. During his mixing of the drink, he ignored the other man taking out his wallet while still sneaking a fascinated glance at someone who in another dimension was an actor named Leonid Kinskey. In his daze at actually running across a Casablanca
character, Giles barely noticed he seemed to have plenty of money in his wallet, no doubt due to Willow’s foresight. He absently selected an American dollar bill.
Paying for his drink, Giles took a cautious sip from it. He speedily appreciated the bite of the expertly-made cocktail, nodding in approval at Sascha who amiably took this as his proper due. Going off to serve some other waiting customers, the bartender left behind Giles actually beginning to enjoy himself. Continuing to imbibe, the Englishman turned around to lean against the bar. He started to closely scrutinize the nightclub crowd, trying to see if there were any more recognizable characters from the movie in there.
Regrettably, after a few minutes of this, the only person he could positively identify from the Warner Brothers film was Carl the waiter. Several others around the room looked vaguely familiar, but Giles wasn’t all that much of an expert concerning the movie to instantly name them. One thing was certain, none of the main characters were presently around. Besides his actual disappointment at not being able to see at first hand such cinematic stars as Humphrey Bogart and the rest of them in their legendary roles, Giles analytically noted to himself that this meant it was still unknown as to precisely when he and Vi were in the movie--
Again taking him by surprise, a nearby woman’s enthusiastic voice now whispered to the side of his head, “Giles, do you have any-- Eeep!”
Flinching while lifting a hand to rub at his left ear where a gush of words had unexpectedly turned into a stifled yelp, Giles turned to see Vi back again. She was standing besides him while gawking in awe further down the bar, at where Sascha was thoroughly polishing a glass. This other man presumably noticed Vi’s stare from out of the corner of his own eye, and he glanced over, to at once deliver a supremely lecherous grin towards the very pretty girl sizing him up.
“Yes, it’s him,” dryly stated Giles when Vi showed no signs of tearing her rapt gaze away from the preening Russian. The New Council Director prompted, “Was there something you wanted, Vi?”
“Oh,” managed Vi, finally wrenching her attention away from Sascha, who himself reluctantly got back to work serving another customer. She looked up into the sardonic face of her boss, flushing slightly at his expression of mild amusement, before trying again. “Listen, I’ve got a plan. I’ll distract everybody, and during that, you can get to the piano and take out whatever Willow told us to find in there. But, I need more money than I already have in my purse. You got any?”
Beginning to reach for his wallet, Giles stopped short to frown at the eager Slayer. He warily said, “You mean, cause a diversion? How, exactly?”
Vi looked across the main nightclub area to the section in the back, where small groups of men and women dressed in their best were clustered around several tables. “That’s the gambling spot. I show up there, blow all my money at some game, and go into total hysterics about losing every penny I have. That should grab their attention, right?”
“Er, perhaps,” replied a doubtful Giles. At Vi’s sudden pout, the former high-school librarian admitted, “I haven’t had the chance to come up with anything better than that. We might not have the time, either. It doesn’t appear right now if the film is at an important part of the story, but this might change at a moment’s notice. So, I suppose we may as well as try your plan, Vi. If it doesn’t work, let’s meet outside by the front door, and we’ll discuss what to attempt next.”
“Okay,” Vi happily agreed. She added, “You do the same thing if you get your hands on what’s inside the piano. Stay there outside until I find you again. Now, fork over the cash.”
Giving his Slayer a very austere stare, Giles nevertheless took out his wallet and he opened it up. Gazing down into the wad of money revealed there, he began, “I think a hundred dollars should be sufficient-- Hullo!
This last indignant British bleat was produced by Vi calmly snatching with a swift hand virtually every bit of the currency Giles formerly possessed in his wallet. Sending an evil smirk upwards into Giles’ outraged face, Vi sashayed off into the direction of the gambling room, triumphantly riffling through the bills in her fingers.
“Women, hah?” someone sympathetically uttered from behind Giles. Still holding his nearly empty wallet, Giles turned to see behind the counter Sascha bestowing upon him a compassionate look.
In response to this, the now-glum Englishman merely sighed, took out the last lonely dollar bill from his wallet, and ordered, “Another dry martini, please. And make it a double.”
Clutching at her handful of chips exchanged for Giles’ money, Vi eagerly looked for the best place in the gambling den to completely fritter away her sugar daddy’s hard-earned loot and then stage an Oscar-worthy meltdown due to this. She needed something simple and fast, not to mention a sure guarantee of losing every cent-- Oh, yeah, there it was!
Determinedly using her sharp elbows to make her way through the crowd at one particular spot, Vi soon found herself at the edge of the roulette table. Catching the eye of an all-too-familiar croupier, the Slayer took a moment to recover from who he was. Stifling a happy grin, she then slammed down her chips on the table, and loudly declared in her brashest American accent, “Put ’em all on number seven!”
With an accepting shrug of his shoulders, Emil took the bet, and he glanced around the roulette table for anybody else about to wager. Seeing no other takers, expert fingers released a little white ball, and this orb began its circular path, racing round and round a spinning wheel. Vi barely noticed this. Instead, she was peering through the crowd, trying to see where Giles was. Great! He’d left the bar and was now by the piano, seemingly paying no attention to anything but his drink--
“An interesting choice for your venture, young lady. I sense you have a willingness to take risks. This may lead to many pleasant experiences for you in the future, hmmm?”
Startled at the purring, French-accented voice coming from her right side, Vi automatically glanced there. This woman looked directly into the amused eyes of Captain Renault.
Trying not to faint on the spot, Vi jerkily nodded back to the genially corrupt character portrayed by Claude Rains. Dapperly clad in his police uniform, this man held out a polite hand. Unable to avoid it, Vi did the same. She then watched in sheer astonished glee when her latest acquaintance bent over and brushed his lips against her fingers! From the feel of her mouth, the Slayer knew she was stupidly grinning, particularly since Mr. Smooth over there, who’d now straightened up and had gently released her hand, was at the moment watching her in a very bemused way.
Everyone’s attention at the table was then distracted by the firm announcement of “Seven!” from Emil the croupier. Snapping her head around in astonished horror, Vi saw her chips lying on the table be joined by numerous other chips pushed towards her own pile of gambling tokens. She’d just increased her stake to thirty-five times the original bet! Which was exactly the wrong thing to do, since nobody would buy her crying act over something so lucky! Frantically considering, Vi burst out with the only thing she could come up with: “Let it ride!”
Emil actually blinked at this. Among the shocked murmurs of the thickening crowd clustered by the roulette table, he cautiously asked, “Are you quite sure, madame?”
Vi tried to see if Giles was still ready, only to fail at this due to all the people around her. With there being nothing else she could do, Vi speechlessly nodded. The crowd now watched an unsmiling Emil start things again. The soft whisper of a white ball tracing its course upon a turning wheel was the only sound at the table. Until, a harsh voice rasped through the nightclub air with its questions and demands:
“Renault, why are you wasting your time with this? You should be out in the city with your men, doing your proper duty!”
Feeling much too numb for words, Vi looked to her left, where someone had just shoved their way up to the table. Sure enough, Major Strasser was glaring over her head at a deadpan Captain Renault on the woman’s other side. Before the Frenchman could answer his detested associate, everybody in the gambling den then heard from an unbelieving croupier, “Seven!”
A loud cheer erupted from those among Vi at her incredible triumph, forcing the Slayer to instantly come up with an entirely new plan on the spot. Inwardly praying Giles would recognize his cue, the young woman took in the deepest breath that her lungs could manage. Looking up at where a Nazi officer was superciliously sneering down at her, Vi bellowed with full superhuman volume right into this villain’s face, “HEY, YOU BIG JERK, JUST BECAUSE I GOT LUCKY, IT DON’T MEAN YOU WILL TOO! TAKE YOUR DAMN HAND OFF MY ASS!”
In the meantime, Giles had been gazing with increasing perplexity at the events taking place beyond in the gambling den. He’d soon lost sight of Vi, what with other people from the main nightclub area drifting over there. However, just like everyone else in the entire room, he heard the roar of approval from that location. Along with what came next, which was a very familiar voice deafening them all with her overpowering accusation of someone’s impropriety.
The entire nightclub then saw a stunned German officer being lifted over the heads of all there around the gambling table. This was done by slim hands which had clutched the front of his uniform, and then used this grip to effortlessly hoist him up high, his boots helplessly kicking far above the floor. Right after this, Major Strasser was vigorously shaken back and forth, to the accompaniment of a woman further yelling, “YOU BASTARD, I’LL SHOW YOU WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MESS WITH ME!”
At once deciding they definitely had to see this up close, everyone -- the diners at their tables, the orchestra, and the rest of the staff (led by an eager Sascha jumping over the bar counter) -- rushed towards the far end of the nightclub. This left behind a single man remaining by the piano while wearily rubbing at his forehead.
Staring at the backs of the packed crowd before him, with many of these people standing on tiptoe to see what was happening beyond, Giles sighed and he put down his half-finished drink on the piano’s keyboard cover. Using one hand to raise the top lid for the rectangular section of the music instrument’s vertical strings, a hasty grope was made inside by Giles’ other hand.
Glancing around to see if he’d caught anyone’s attention during this, Giles felt his searching fingers within the piano brush up against…cloth? His sudden puzzlement at this odd sensation was rudely interrupted by the loud crash coming from the gambling den. Apparently, Major Strasser had just taken a short flight through the air, followed by an appreciative audience’s cheers. It was easy enough to deduce Vi had a moment ago hurled away that detestable man. So, it was best for him to at once remove this mysterious object inside the piano, and leave with it as quickly as possible before things became even more ridiculous.
Lifting the piano’s upper lid all the way back to leave it there, Giles reached in with both hands. He grabbed some sort of fabric-wrapped cylinder a bit bigger than a loaf of bread. It was surprisingly heavy, but there wasn’t any time to investigate exactly what he’d just pulled out of the piano. A hasty juggle of his weighty burden left it being carried in the crook of one arm while the piano’s lid was put down again, and then a brisk walk had him out and away from the dining room. The front entrance was deserted, indicating the doorman had also left his position to see the show Vi provided, so there wasn’t any problem with leaving the nightclub. As for his Slayer, she could quite well look after herself.
Indeed, when Rick Blaine hurriedly descended by the stairs from his private quarters on the second floor, his presence urgently required by the near-riot which had just ended in his nightclub, the first thing he saw was a pretty girl triumphantly stalking down the main corridor towards him. This young lady’s gleeful grin was surely the result of the overflowing double armful of casino chips she was holding against her chest. That lucky female didn’t seem to mind the fact she was also dropping to the floor a steady stream of valuable gambling tokens after herself at every bouncing step.
Meeting a nightclub owner’s dumbfounded gaze, the unknown woman’s smile grew even wider. When she came right up to him standing there in astonishment, nothing was said by her to Rick. Instead, the strange lady then gave him the most brazen wink he’d ever received, a true Warner Brothers tough-broad salutation.
Too bewildered to react, Rick could only look after the girl passing him by with the clatter of falling casino chips following after her. A very familiar chuckle made Rick turn his head around, to then see Captain Renault strolling in turn along the corridor. This Frenchman’s face was set in an expression of absolute contentment, which matched his next words, “Ah, Rick, my fine friend, I truly look forward to visiting your country someday. My willingness for this has only increased at learning tonight that American woman are far more dangerous than American men.”
“What the hell are you blathering about?” growled Rick, becoming fed up with his so-called pal’s evident amusement.
Rick’s sudden bad mood wasn’t improved at all by receiving a very kind pat on his shoulder from Renault. The on-the-take policeman then declared in his most affable tone, “Let’s go upstairs to your rooms, and we’ll discuss this over your best bottle of Napoleon brandy there. You’ll find the whole story most fascinating, I’m sure.”
Giving Renault his most disbelieving fish-eye, Rick nevertheless turned to the steps. Muttering over his shoulder at the shorter man following after, Rick said tersely, “Okay, let’s talk, but no booze. You can get enough free drinks away from here, and I don’t have a bottle of brandy, anyway.”
From behind, Rick heard an expressive sniff of total incredulity. “Oh, please. After so many times we’ve searched your business, I know the vintage and cellar of every bit of liquor you possess. In case you’ve forgotten -- for which I forgive you in advance -- the brandy’s hidden at the back of the left lower drawer in your desk.”
Several minutes later, there was another, lower-voiced conversation taking place in a noisome alley off the street leading to a certain nightclub:
“Vi, why on earth are you putting them in the book? There’s no way they can be redeemed--”
“Are you kidding me, Giles? For-real gambling chips from Rick's Café Américain? The others back at the castle will love ’em for Christmas gifts! Speaking of presents, what’d you find in the piano? Have you looked yet?”
“Yes, and I still have a hard time believing it. So far, the only reasonable explanation I’ve come up with is that Willow located it somewhere else and put it in there for us to find. It doesn’t make any other kind of sense, not when the other Bogart film had the wrong one--”
“Just lemme see what it is, already!”
“Oh, very well.”
After a cloth was pulled back from what Giles was holding in his arms, the alley was momentarily silent due to one of the pair of New Council members becoming speechless. Eventually, a young woman then spoke with true awe in her voice, “Is that all gold?”
“Gold-plated, at the very most. If it was solid all the way through, even you’d have some difficulty in carrying it. The jewels are real, though.”
“Wow. All right, my chips are in the book, like Willow told us about storing the stuff we find on our challenges. You want to put that in there now?”
“Quite right, and then we’ll be off. If this is only the first of what’s to come, I can’t help but wonder about the next few dimensions.”
“You and me both, Giles.”
The older man gave one last look at what he was holding, just before placing the small yet priceless avian statuette inside the space created by Vi carefully tugging apart a magical tome. Just before leaving Giles’ fingers, the glittering eyes made from flawless rubies seemed to flash angrily in what passed for illumination in the darkened alley. It was almost as if the Maltese Falcon was somehow raging at once more being hidden from the sight of mankind.
Author’s Note: In this story and all others, Violet or Vi the Slayer will have the full name of Violet Day, as per the surname of the actress who played her on the series, Felicia Day.