TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but high above the empty streets, a light burns on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building where one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions --- Guy Noir, Private Eye ---
GK: It was one of those December days in New York when the wind blows all day from the west and you can smell the Lysol from the kitchens of Newark. I was sitting in my office and watching a fly on crutches walk across the desk, when the phone rang. (RING) (PICKUP) Yeah. Noir here.
FM (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir? This is Joseph O'Connell.
GK: Joseph O'Connell, the Irish stepdancing star and heartthrob of middle America?
FM (ON PHONE): One and the same, Mr. Noir. I'm around the corner from you. In the Five Spot. Could we talk?
GK: I'll be right down, Mr. O'Connell. (MUSIC BRIDGE)
GK: So I put on my coat and walked around the block (TRAFFIC) and over to the Five Spot (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE), and there at the bar, his long black hair swirled back, his tight black leather trousers and leather shirt unlaced to the sternum, stood the Celtic Elvis---
FM: Thanks for coming over. Care for a beer?
TR: What'll you have, Guy?
GK: Gimme a bottle of----- what is that---- Zither?
FM: You mean Harp.
TR: Coming right up. (TR OFF, FOOTSTEPS, MUMBLING) GK: Read an article about you in People, Mr. O'Connell. It said that, having earned millions through personal appearances and videotape sales, you were about to write the story of your impoverished childhood in County Cork.
FM: That is not correct, Mr. Noir.
FM: I'll be frank, Mr. Noir. I was offered millions to write such a memoir, but the truth is: I had a perfectly normal childhood in Waterloo, Iowa ---- GK: Iowa? FM: Iowa. We were Methodists, my dad owned a shoe store, my mother taught piano ---- what can I say? --- I fished, I swam in the creek, my nickname was Buddy, I had a dog named Spot, a sister I called Sis.
GK: Iowa! But I thought-----
FM: You thought Ireland. So does everyone, Mr. Noir. That's my problem.
GK: You mean-----
FM: My real name is Jim Carlson.
GK: But----what about the-----
FM: When I was six, my mother dressed me up in a little sailor outfit and I sang "Girls of Kilkenny" and danced a jig at a Kiwanis Club luncheon and it changed my life. I became obsessed with the romance of Irishness, and I went to Dublin, and changed my name, and I took up punk rock and stepdancing, and formed my band, LiverTransplants.
GK: And criss-crossed America and played to packed houses and became a multi-millionaire.
FM: And now somebody's threatening to expose me.
GK: Aha. So that's why you called me, Mr. O'Connell----
FM: I need your help, Mr. Noir. LiverTransplants is about to sign a new record deal ---- there's a movie in the works ---- if it comes out that I'm from Iowa-----
GK: Let's start at the beginning, Mr. O'Connell (MUSIC BRIDGE)....let me see the note they sent you.... (BRIDGE).....
(KNOCKS ON DOOR)
GK: Hope she's home. Lot of takeout menus on the doormat though. Mail hasn't been picked up. Kind of careless for a blackmailer not to read her mail. (DOOR OPEN TO CHAIN)
DD: Yeah? Who's it?
GK: Linda Leggo? The name is Noir. Guy Noir. Publisher of Noir magazine? We Dish The Dirt On The Stars?
DD: Oh. ---- just a minute. Let me unlock the chain. (CLOSE DOOR. UNFASTEN CHAIN. OPEN DOOR) Come in. Thought maybe you were a bill collector. (FOOTSTEPS)
GK: Nice apartment.
DD: This dump? Nice for the roaches. What can I do for you?
GK: I'm interested in your story about the Irish stepdance idol who's really from Iowa.
DD: Him? How'd you hear about that?
GK: I'm a private eye, Miss Leggo ----
DD: Get out of here, you----- (BRIEF STRUGGLE) Ouch. Leggo of me.
GK: I've been learning a lot about you, Miss Leggo.
DD: It's none of your business, flatfoot.
GK: Mr. O'Connell thinks otherwise.
DD: So he sent you, huh?
GK: Needed some quick cash, did you? Things not quite work out with your writing career? Denise?
DD: Where'd you learn my name?
GK: Came here from Des Moines hoping to grab the literary brass ring and instead you became an office temp ---- right, Denise?
TR: (PUNK) Why don't you ask me, hero? Right behind you.
GK: Who are you?
TR: No sudden moves, hero. Hands in the air. Or I'll fill you with so much lead, they'll bury you in a hazardous waste site. (HE PATS DOWN GUY) Okay----- you're clean. Hands down. You got the ten grand?
DD: Easy, Wayne.
TR: Easy, nuthin---- you got the cabbage, hero? Cause if you don't, it's Nighty Night Mr. Noir....
GK: You two are playing a dangerous game. I hope you're aware of that.
TR: Answer my question. Fork over the simoleons or I'm going to put your sportcoat out of its misery.
GK: I have the money. But first, let me tell you something, Denise ---- and you too, mister----
TR: What are you talking about, hero? Zip it up. Y' hear?
DD: (QUIETLY, RECOGNIZING DEFEAT) He's onto us.
GK: Your name isn't Wayne, Wayne.
TR: Oh yeah?
GK: It's Trevor. Trevor Trendhurst. And you're an English major. Iowa State. Class of 75. Wrote your senior thesis on Emily Dickinson.
TR: (SWITCHES FROM PUNK VOICE TO TEEN VOICE) Oh darn. (HE SETS PISTOL ON TABLE) All that work for nothing. What gave me away, Mister? Was I holding the gun wrong? What was it? Man. What a bummer.
DD: Mr. Carlson was a friend of my uncle's, Mr. Noir. That's how I heard about him. I figured, hey, he's rich, he could spare the money ---- I never would've told anybody. Believe me.
GK: It's okay. I won't tell anybody either. Just wanted to clear the air, okay?
TR: What was it? Was I slouching funny? Was it the phrase "put your sportcoat out of its misery" ---- was it too literary or something?
GK: It was the toothpick, Trevor.
TR: Did I have it on the wrong side of my mouth or something?
GK: You forgot to use it. I saw the raw tuna between your teeth, Trevor. Punks don't eat sushi. Not teppa maki, they don't. And the extortion note: you cut the words out of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. See you around, you two. Keep out of trouble, okay? (MUSIC BRIDGE) (BAR INTERIOR)
FM: So Denise ---- she's okay, then? you didn't scare her or anything? Her uncle and I went to high school together.
GK: Naw. She'll be okay. Boyfriend's not too bright, but----
FM: Care for a beer?
FM: Barkeep?! ---- Maybe I ought to look her up. Maybe offer her a job. GK: Yeah. She's a nice kid, Denise.
FM: Well, I'm glad it's all over.
TR: (COMES OVER, WITH GLASSES) You care for a glass of Harp, Guy?
GK: If he's buying, I'd rather have a whiskey.
TR: What'll you have?
GK: Gimme a double shot of that 35-year-old McCourt-----
TR: McCourt! That's the most expensive whiskey in the bar!
GK: A double shot.
TR: We keep that stuff in a safe in the basement.
GK: Well, go get it. (TR OFF, MUMBLING) So I guess the coast is clear for you to sign that record deal.
FM: No, I've decided to quit the LiverTransplants.
FM: There's something about blackmail that makes a man want to get his life in order, Noir. I'm giving up Irish dancing.
GK: But you're the Celtic Merce Cunningham ---- the Hibernian Baryshikov----
FM: I'm starting a Swedish punk dance group called The Devil's Lingonberries. A hundred dancers in overalls, bleached blonde, doing the schottische.
GK: Going back to your roots, huh?
FM: Absolutely. Life is too short to be living a lie.
GK: You may be right.
FM: And what about you, Guy?
GK: What about me?
FM: You think it isn't obvious that you grew up on a dairy farm?
GK: A dairy farm! Me? Ha!
FM: It's written all over you.
FM: Your Lutheranism.
GK: You gotta be kidding. Would I be talking like this if I were Lutheran? Huh?
(TR ARRIVE, SETS GLASS DOWN)
TR: There. The 35-year-old McCourt, right?
TR: A hundred and fifty bucks a shot.
GK: A double for me and a double for him. (POURS TWO SHOTS)
FM: I'll bet you got a mother back in Minnesota, and she's got a Praying Hands plaque on the dining room wall and a dish full of plastic fruit.
GK: My mother is in the Cocktail Waitress Retirement Home in Teaneck, New Jersey, and she takes a bus every morning to Atlantic City to play the slot machines.
FM: I'll bet your mother has all of the Readers Digest Condensed Books and she grows hydrangeas and she sits down at her little spinet piano and plays "Whispering Hope".
GK: My mother wouldn't know a hydrangea if it walked up and introduced itself. All she reads is the Racing News. She's a Sinatra fan.
FM: I'll bet she used to be a Cub Scout den mother.
GK: Nobody'd ever want my mother around their kids, she swears like a sailor.
FM: And I'll bet she fixes the best meatloaf in Minnesota.
GK: Strictly takeout Chinese since I was a kid. --- Here's to you, O'Connell.
FM: Here's to you, Noir. (CLINK OF GLASSES)
DD: A dark night in a city that keeps its secrets, and there on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building is a guy still trying to find the answers to life's questions.....Guy Noir, private eye.
©1997 Garrison Keillor