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You Must Remember This Copyright © 2017 by John Michael Curlovich


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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.


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Digital ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-62601-420-6

Print ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-62601-421-3 



First edition published as Marrakesh by Ravenous Romance, 2009

Second edition, November 2017






Prologue


The Nazis, of course, aimed at nothing less than world domination and, at least in the early stages, their plan was simple: They planned to surround the Mediterranean, turning it into a “German lake.”

On the European Continent, they were off to a good beginning. They controlled Spain through their ally Franco, and Mussolini gave them Italy. They turned their eyes toward Greece and from there to the Middle East.

Across the sea they faced a much bigger problem. Rommel’s Afrika Korps had military goals in Egypt and Libya. Yet they persevered even in places where they hadn’t actually conquered, and over time they established a German presence across North Africa, from Egypt in the west all the way to Morocco in the east.

Their resources were limited, and their armies were stretched thin. But the mere threat of a German takeover—military or not—was enough to make the more pliable and ambitious local officials cooperate with them.

In Morocco, the last outpost of independence, untainted by Nazi ambition, was the city of Marrakesh. Poised on the edge of the great Sahara Desert, and built largely of local red stone, Marrakesh was distant enough from other population centers to maintain a large degree of autonomy. Marrakesh, uniquely, had managed to continue air service to Great Britain; two nightly flights left the desert’s edge and arrived in London, one in early evening and one in the dead of night.

Its remoteness made Marrakesh a town without many enforceable standards or morals. Sexual ambiguity was a given there. Substances frowned upon in more “civilized” places were easily available. A lively black market in stolen goods and contraband fed the economy. And so “questionable” types from across the globe made their way there.

Their numbers were swelled by refugees and political outcasts hoping, mostly in vain, to book passage on the London flights. The wealthier and smarter among them managed to do just that. The rest remained in Marrakesh, waiting and hoping, hoping and waiting.

It was only a matter of time before the Germans noticed the city.

Who could have guessed that for me it would turn into a city of passion and romance?



Chapter One


My name is Frank Chandler.

I came to Marrakesh—Dan and I did, that is—after separation from the army. Neither of us much wanted to return to the States, and with war raging in Europe, our options were fairly limited. We thought about Egypt for a while and even the Far East. But Morocco had a reputation for being a good place for outsiders, which we certainly were, so it seemed a good choice.

Marrakesh was not exactly the remotest part of the country, but it was the farthest point that could reasonably be described as a city, so our choice was obvious. I had had some experience running a night spot stateside, and there was no real competition there except a place called the Green Iguana, a shabby hole run by a tall, thin Englishman with steel grey hair who called himself Poppa Cherry. There were a few dozen native places even more uninviting than the Iguana. The city called out for something resembling nightlife, and so Marrakesh it was.

Like most of the country, Marrakesh had a fair-sized population of international types: Frenchmen, Danes, Swedes, Chinamen, even a few expatriate Germans. Most of them seemed to have come there to hide or to bury their past, which made it easy for us to fit in.

The Prefect of Police was a guy named Stephan Decae. This was technically “French Morocco,” after all, even though the French government in Paris had fallen to the Germans. But the war was hardly being felt yet in Marrakesh. Local officials, all of them French, carried on with their cheerfully corrupt “administration.” And Stephan was the most cheerful of them all.

He was tall, handsome, urbane, though it was obvious he was a bit past his prime. With bright red hair and piercing green eyes, he must have cut quite a figure when he was younger. But that was definitely in the past.

Stephan liked men and made no secret about it. Morocco is famous—or infamous—for the pleasures it offers men of that persuasion. And Stephan gloried in it. Every time a high-profile crime was committed in Marrakesh, which was roughly every other day, he would send out his police to round up a group of plausible suspects, always including a selection of handsome guys for him. If they played ball with him, they were let go. Catching the actual culprits was almost always a secondary concern.

Everyone in Marrakesh knew the game Stephan was playing, and nobody seemed to mind. Certainly the young men themselves didn’t object; they benefited from Stephan’s favor in all kinds of ways. The police would conveniently overlook their petty crimes, whether picking pockets, trafficking in the black market, or making themselves available to affluent tourists as well as the Prefect. Marrakesh was that kind of town.

Anyway, within our first few days there, we found a run-down shambles of a place that would be perfect for an American-style nightclub. Dan thought it was a ruin, but to my eye it looked merely dirty and messy; cleaning it up would take a lot of work but not a lot of cash.

We set to work, hired a few laborers—cheap, in Marrakesh—and within a month the place was looking pretty good. A coat of fresh paint and it would be ready for business. It wasn’t too hard to find men with the experience to work there—chefs, waiters, bartenders—and soon enough we were ready to go.

There was no need to advertise. Marrakesh floated on word-of-mouth—what in other places is called gossip. Soon the whole town was buzzing with the news that an American-style nightclub would be opening soon. We even decided to call it Frank’s American Nightclub, just so no one missed the point. And speculation was rife that the owner wouldn’t be too choosy about the activities his patrons got up to. This was Marrakesh, after all.

There were people around Marrakesh who whispered that these two Americans were crazy to open a nightclub in a town like that. Most of the residents had never even seen a club, much less visited one; they didn’t even have a clear idea what such a place was all about.

But I had a surprise up my sleeve, something that was sure to draw people in and keep them coming back, even after the initial novelty had worn off. And that surprise, in a word, was Dan.

Dan was originally from Pittsburgh, and before he was drafted he had earned a living in the jazz clubs in that city’s Hill District. He had played with all the greats, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Bix Beiderbecke and a lot more. The draft and the army had put an end to that, of course, but I had heard him play a lot, and he was terrific. And when he accompanied himself on vocals, the effect was almost electric.

Marrakesh had never heard American jazz before. Even if the natives found it odd—as some of them were sure to do—the city’s large international population was certain to love it. If nothing else, there were scores of Frenchmen, and if there was one place in the Old World where jazz was popular, it was Paris. With Dan playing in the club, we were sure to be a hit.

I had met Dan—Dan Jackson, to give him his full due—in the service. We were both stationed in England, near London. I was a mechanic in the Air Corps. Dan was in a “segregated” unit doing construction. Ordinarily we would never have even met, unless we found ourselves in combat together. What the army called fraternizing was strictly forbidden.

But one night I stopped in a little jazz club in London’s West End. There was this terribly handsome black guy playing the piano, improvising, and singing “Satin Doll” in the richest, mellowest baritone I had ever heard. I struck up a conversation between sets, we learned we were both in the service, and an abiding friendship started to grow.

“Don’t tell the army I’m playing here, okay?” he asked me. “They don’t like us mixing with civilians.”

“I won’t tell on you if you don’t tell on me.”

He laughed. “They’re even more down on us black soldiers. They say we give a false impression of America.”

“More false than the military life?”

It wasn’t just his music that captivated me. Dan had a warmest smile and the wryest sense of humor. And as I said he was terrifically handsome. Even though it was against regulations, we started keeping company.

One really hot night we were listening to some Glenn Miller records, and he took his shirt off. And he had the body of a god. I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t help myself.

I had never done anything like it before. I had been with a few women—my first time was with a whore—but, like I said, I couldn’t take my eyes off Dan. I was afraid he’d notice and be offended.

But when he saw me staring, he smiled. “It’s too damn hot,” he said, grinning at me like an eager schoolboy. “Why don’t we get undressed?”

And so it happened. His body felt so good beside mine. He kissed me, and it was better than any woman I had ever known. His hands on me were so strong and reassuring. Dan taught me for the first time all the kinds of pleasure my body was capable of.

We made love to each other every chance we got, and we explored each other’s bodies from the top of our heads to the soles of our feet. When Dan kissed me, it was as if I had never been kissed before, as if the very idea of kissing had been invented then and there. We kissed, fondled, licked. When I felt him inside me, I knew an electricity like nothing I’d ever imagined. When I felt him come in me, it thrilled me as nothing ever had, or could.

When we were finished, I always felt bad about it, unfulfilled. It was the result of years of being told there was something wrong with men like us. I knew that was bullshit, but I could never quite shake the feeling. I always made myself ignore it. The pleasure-the ecstasy—was so intense.

We started seeing each other a lot more after that night. Hitting London’s queer bars together, and of course the jazz clubs. And everywhere we went we made a sensation. We even took a little flat together for when we were on leave. And we tried our best to coordinate our leaves so we could be together.

The Brits were shocked and I think a bit scandalized at what they called this “salt and pepper” couple. Even some of the other American GIs who hung out in the queer bars disapproved.

People talked. It was only a matter of time before word got back to our CO.

Not that we didn’t try to be discreet. But rumors get repeated.

And so the top sergeant showed up at our little flat with a contingent of MPs one night when we were in bed together. He pounded on the door ferociously. “Open up! Military police.” We rushed to get our clothes on, but they were in the room almost before we knew it.

We were arrested, court martialed, and kicked out of the army. The one decent thing they did—through the intervention of a secretly queer lieutenant we knew—was give us the opportunity to stay in Europe rather than shipping us home. They kept us in separate cells, but we managed to communicate. And both of us had heard stories about what had happened to guys who were given “blue discharges.” Shunned by friends and family, unable to find work with any employer who checked their records… The military managed to make them into the outsiders they had tried so hard not to be.

So, on the whole, war-torn Europe seemed preferable for us. We bummed around London for a few weeks, where some friends gave us what help they could. Then we moved on to Amsterdam, and from there to Paris. And it was there that Dan heard about Morocco, how it had always been welcoming to men like us, as long as they lived discreetly.

Life in those weeks in Paris ended so unhappily for me. There was a woman, Lilli. I thought I was in love, and she treated me as badly as the femme fatale in a Hollywood picture. Dan watched it all with a kind of amused detachment.

It all left me confused and full of doubts about myself. I was depressed and almost suicidal. Dan and I stopped sleeping together, though our friendship remained strong. And he pulled me through. On the eve of the German occupation, he managed to get us out of the city to Marseilles and from there on a boat across the Mediterranean to, inevitably, Morocco.

“You’ll forget her there, Frank. You’ll remember your true self.”

“My true self. What a laugh.”

“Don’t be that way, Frank.”

“You think I can help it?”

And so soon enough, hoping to go where no one knew us or could, and with Dan taking charge, we found our way to Marrakesh. The opportunities presented by opening a night spot became clear almost at once. If we were a success, all the important people in town would soon be our customers; and they were contacts we could use. I threw myself into it all. Having something to occupy my mind helped me forget Lilli, as Dan had promised. I was starting to feel alive again.

Dan noticed I was more cynical than I had been before; he seemed to feel an obligation to try and cheer me up. But I told him I didn’t want or need cheering.


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