On June 21, 1954, Viktor Stepanovich leaves his apartment just before midnight in order to keep his appointment, takes a bus to St. Petersburg Station, and waits in a café. The Count enters and orders a cup of coffee. The Count thanks Viktor for coming, and then they see a scuffle between two fruit sellers on the other side of the café. After a brief exchange of blows, the manager drags the combatants out the doors and the accordion player starts to play, hoping to restore some cheer. The Count asks if Viktor has seen Casablanca. When he says that he has not, the Count describes the scene in which a crook is dragged away by the police, and the saloonkeeper instructs his bandleader to play on.
Viktor’s friendship also becomes valuable to the Count in helping to misdirect the police. The recurring references to Casablanca that pop up in the final chapters of the novel also help chronicle the change in artistic media over the course of this time period. While the beginning of the book is more in the style of a War and Peace or Anna Karenina, the adventure and escape of the Count at the end (particularly his fedora and jacket) have traces of film noir and Casablanca.
The following morning, members of the Russian intelligence agency arrive at the hotel to seek out the Count, but they cannot find him. The officers try to question the Bishop, but they cannot seem to find him either. Andrey and Emile hear a rumor that Sofia has gone missing in Paris.
The mystery of the Count and Sofia’s joint escape finally begins to be revealed to the other characters.
As Andrey and Emile discuss whether the Count could truly have escaped, the concierge delivers an envelope to each of them. They discover letters from the Count, thanking them for their friendship and gifting them each four gold coins. Emile shakes his head, asking what is to become of him now that the Count is gone and Andrey is afflicted with palsy. Andrey laughs and says that there is nothing wrong with his hands, taking four of the coins and juggling them agilely.
The Count provides Andrey and Emile with one final parting gesture in order to thank them for all they have done for him. Not only have they provided their friendship, but in having the job at the Boyarsky, the Count was also able to find purpose.
At five o’clock that afternoon, the Chief Administrator of a special branch of the country’s security (who is revealed to be Osip by the scar above his left ear) is reviewing a file when a young man knocks on his door and informs him that Sofia and the Count have both gone missing. They have also found the Bishop locked in a storeroom. He told him that he discovered Sofia’s plan to escape and was forced into the storeroom at gunpoint by the Count.
Small details that Towles has set up continue to recur, creating a sense of order and fate in the world of the narrative. Though readers have heard of the office of the secret police a few times by this point, the scar above the man’s left ear reveals one of its major officials to be Osip.
The young man goes on to say that it appears that the Count had stolen a Finnish passport and Finnish currency, as well as a hat and coat. Then investigators were sent to Leningradsky Railway station, where it was confirmed that a man wearing the hat and coat got on a train to Helsinki. The connection to the Finnish passport was made by the Bishop, who had seen the Count pick up a travel guide book for Finland. The young man wonders, however, why the Count did not shoot the Bishop. Osip answers that it is because the Bishop was not an aristocrat.
More details that the Count had set up continue to be discovered: the misdirection of the Finnish passport, money, and the guidebook that the Count picked up in front of the Bishop. As a final payoff from Towles regarding the Count’s escape, Osip reveals the reason the Count did not shoot the Bishop, because of the story he had told Osip years before about shooting the young Hussar officer. It’s also suggested that the Count never saw the Bishop as an equal, and therefore saw him as not even honorable enough to deserve being shot in a duel.
The narrator reveals that it was in fact Viktor Stepanovich who had boarded the train to Helsinki in the hat and coat. He had left the maps and clothes in the station in Vyborg, traveling unnoticed back to Moscow on the next train. A year later, Viktor finally watches Casablanca, seeing the police drag the crook from the salon. He notices that in the midst of all this chaos, Rick sets a cocktail glass upright, which had been knocked over during the skirmish—exhibiting a belief, Stepanovich reckons, that the smallest of actions can restore a sense of order to the world.
The small moment in Casablanca sums up the theme of fate, chance, and the thoughtfulness of a true “gentleman.” For in the midst of what seems like a life of chaos, small chance details can reveal a chain of events hinting at some order in the world. This is the philosophy in which the Count believed, and the guiding style in which Towles writes, making sure that every detail introduced in the beginning has some meaning or purpose by the story’s end.