GK: SINGS; He's smooth and he's cool, and quick with a gun,

A master of the boudoir.

A guy in a trenchcoat who gets the job done,

It's Guy.....Guy Noir.

SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions.....Guy Noir, Private Eye.

GK: It was one of those days toward the end of January when its cold and overcast and life feels like a virus. I'd gotten a call that morning to fly to Antigua and see if General and Mrs. Mills had left the keys to the Rolls on the veranda of their winter home and I went to the airport and heard my name being paged and made the mistake of picking up the white courtesy phone and General Mills's brother, the one who sings tenor in the group, told me to forget about it, that they didn't need the Rolls, they'd just take the Bentley. It was that kind of day. I was just about to head for the Five Spot to drown my sorrows in a sarsaparilla when (PHONE RING, PICKUP) Yeah, Noir here.

TK (ON PHONE): You a private eye?

GK: Yeah, right.

TK: You do surveillance?

GK: Right? what do you need surveilled?

TK: Listen, I'm involved in a very bitter dispute with a dry cleaner at the moment and I need you to come over and see if he's put a bucket of water up over my back door.

GK: Can't you just look out the back window and see for yourself?

TK: He has a way of hiding it up under the eaves.

GK: Well, why not use the front door?

TK: He puts em both places.

GK: You couldn't ask a neighbor to take a look?

TK: I asked the neighbor yesterday to look, and he did, and he said he didn't see anything, so out I go and bang, bucket of water hits me on the head. And I step on a pair of roller skates. And slip and fall on a sidewalk covered with carpet tacks.

GK: Listen. I'm late for a meeting, okay? (HANG UP) The life of a private eye. I looked at myself in the mirror. Whatever happened to that young idealist I once was? Who was this tired old guy in the dark blue suit with the coffee stains on the trousers? (MUSIC BRIDGE)


TR: Hey! Hiya, Guy.


TR: There was a guy in here looking for you a few minutes ago. Big guy in a double-breasted suit, scar on his chin, funny bulge under the jacket, and he was carrying a sack of cement.

GK: Ahh, I don't even care. Let em come and get me. Sick of it.

TR: Winter startin to get to you, huh?

GK: Jimmy, I'm a weasel caught in a leg trap and I need a good anesthetic before I start chewing through my ankle.

TR: Well, let me see......I can offer you one of those tropical drinks with the six different juices and the little paper umbrella....

GK: No, I don't think so.

TR: Or, I have the 130-year-old Malcolm of the Highlands Single Malt Scotch. Best single malt there is, they say.

GK: I'll have that.

TR: It's going to cost you, Guy.

GK: Put it on my tab. And don't tell me how much it costs, I don't want to hate myself.

TR: It's too much to put on a tab, Guy.

GK: That much, huh? Am I going to have to sign papers for this?

TR: I'm afraid so.

GK: A promissory note, huh?

TR: That's right.

GK: Okay, but I don't want to read it, okay? It'd only make me feel bad.

TR: There you are. (RUSTLE OF PAPERS) Just sign at the bottom. And initial the box in the margin.

GK: I'm curious. Does the phrase "indentured servitude" occur in this note I'm signing?

TR: Yes, it does.

GK: I see.

TR: It also mentions Australia. And something about leg irons.

GK: I don't care. (SWIFT SIGNATURE) There. Done.

TR: I'll get the Scotch for you. I gotta get a ladder. It's up on the very top shelf. You see it up there?

GK: The small earthen jug with the---- what is that?

TR: That's a dead badger tied to it. A hundred thirty years ago, they had a custom of tying a dead badger to their best whiskey to keep poachers away.

GK: Interesting.

TR (FADING): Be right back.


ST: Anybody sitting on that stool?

GK: Does it look like somebody's sitting on it?

ST: It was only a question.

GK: Sit down, Al. How you been?

ST: Not bad, Guy. Can't complain. You?

GK: Lousy. Absolutely lousy. It's January and I'm broke and I'm getting old and I'm not that attractive anymore. (FOOTSTEPS APPROACH, LADDER BEING ROLLED)

ST: What's the ladder for? What is this---- some kinda lending library?

GK: He's got to get a bottle off the very top shelf.

ST: Man, that's way up there.

TR: Don't worry. I'll have it down here in just a minute. (FOOTSTEPS STARTING UP LADDER) You wanted the hundred-thirty-year- old, right?

GK: Right.

ST: So, other than winter and insolvency and old age and physical unattractiveness, how are you?

GK: Aw, you know the story, Al. The private eye business is on the skids. Crime is down all over. People don't need us anymore. The guy in the trenchcoat and the porkpie hat, we're dinosaurs. We're out of here.

ST: Aw, we'll find a way to survive, don't worry. Something'll turn up. (CREAKING OF LADDER) HEY, LOOK OUT!----

GK: Hey, Jimmy, your ladder's tipping----- (FOOTSTEPS, HE STRUGGLES TO HOLD ONTO IT)

TR (OFF): It's a little unsteady!

GK: I see that!


GK: Hey, you just knocked down a bunch of liquor!

TR (OFF): It's only wine!!

GK: Oh. It's only wine, Al.

ST: Well ---- wine. No problem.


GK: Anyway, our time is gone, Al. People are calling me to come check their house and make sure the furnace is on. Lot of lost dog calls. Lost bikes. Car keys.

ST: Yeah, well, it sure isn't like it was, that's for sure.

TR: There! Hundred thirty-year-old Malcolm of the Highlands Single Malt Scotch. (BLOWS DUST OFF) With a dead badger.

GK: Great. Pour me a glass. ---- Care for one, Al?

ST: No thanks.

TR: One hundred-thirty-year-old single malt coming up. (HE EASES CORK OUT OF BOTTLE AND POURS SLOWLY) There you go, Guy. 1868. Single-malt.

GK: I love these old whiskeys. (HE SIPS) Oh man. Boy, that makes you feel like you're sailing up the Firth of Forth on an October day, the wind and the rain in your face, and a beautiful red-haired woman on your arm-----

ST: Yeah, but is it worth six-thousand bucks a shot? (GK BIG TAKE, SPITTING, DROPPING SHOT GLASS ON COUNTER)


ST: Did I say something wrong?


ST: You missed a little bit over here----


ST: How was it?

GK: It was good.


TR: Care for another round?

GK: Oh, I don't know. You care for a shot, Al?

ST: Oh. I don't know. I never cared for the hundred-thirty-year-old that much.

GK: No?

ST: No, I think the eighty-six year-old leaves the hundred-and- thirty-year-old in the dust. There was less rain that year. The barley had to really stretch. You got any of that , bartender?

TR: You want the eighty-six-year-old? The 1912?

GK: Is that --- up ---

TR: Top shelf. There in the corner.

GK: Is that a flag around it?

ST: That's a Norwegian farmer's long underwear.

GK: I see.

ST: It was the custom in Scotland, eighty-six years ago, to wrap a Norwegian farmer's long underwear around their best bottles of whiskey. They ran out of badgers.

GK: Of course.

TR: Okay. Eighty-six-year-old it is. (FOOTSTEPS START UP LADDER)

ST: I know what you mean about work being slow. I've been working for Channel 8 Eyewitness News, going out every afternoon trying to dig up some decent crimes for them to put on the air, and some days, you're scraping the bottom of the barrel. I've seen em do live remotes from street corners where somebody had jaywalked. (LADDER CREAKS) HEY, LOOK OUT! (FOOTSTEPS, STRUGGLE)

GK: I got it. Easy.


GK: Just more wines.

ST: Right. Looks like Chardonnays.

GK: It's good for the floors, white wines.

ST: Cuts down on the wax buildup.

GK: You okay up there??

TR (OFF): Thanks for helping out!! (FOOTSTEPS)

ST: It was different when you and I were young, Guy. Radio ---- you had to use your imagination. You heard gunfire, fistfights, and you thought, hey, I wonder what it would be like to do that myself. So you got into the business. Television takes all the mystery out of it. People watch violence on TV and then they go to bed. It's not the same.

GK: Face it. It's a lousy time to be a private eye. (FOOTSTEPS COMING DOWN LADDER) People hire me to do surveillance on their children. In their backyard. It's embarrassing. Hide behind the garage, watching kids on the swingset. Next thing you know, the kids are sneaking up behind me, in the alley. Kid grabs me by the pantleg, I almost lose my lunch. Next thing you know we're playing hide and go seek. t's babysitting is all it is.

TR: Okay. Here's the eighty-six-year-old. I'll just remove the underwear (LONG RIP), and (BLOWS DUST OFF) clean it up a little, and (EASES CORK OUT) there you are. A 1912 single-malt. Care for a glass?

ST: Of course. And one for my friend.

TR: Okay. Just sign here. (QUICK SIGNATURE) Thank you. Two shots of 1912. (HE POURS BOTH)

ST: Here's to you, Guy. (CLINK OF GLASSES)


ST: Good, isn't it.

GK: Good isn't the word for it. It's sacred. It's Scotland.

ST: You can smell the coal smoke and see the stone walls in the rain, the stone walls that run up the hills to the meadows where the sheep graze. The sheep who made their own contributions to the Scotch.

GK: It's a glorious whiskey all right.

ST: Did you hear bagpipes just now? I thought I heard bagpipes. Did you? (DOOR OPEN,JINGLE, FOOTSTEPS) Guess not.

TR (PUNK): Hey----- you Guy Noir?

GK: You talking to me, punk?

TR: If you're him, I am.

GK: I'm not him. He's him. I'm me. Get it?

TR: Listen, pinhead----- one more crack and I'll-----

ST: Careful, punk. I'm an old man but I'm a vicious dirty old man. You mess with me and you'll be missing out on your golden years, pal.

TR: Okay, okay, okay---- I just come in cause I need you to find out something for me.

GK: What is it?

TR: I want to know the meaning of the word "jejune".

GK: Jejune.

TR: Jejune.

ST: J-e-j-u-n-e, jejune?

TR: Jejune. A guy called me "jejune" and I need to know if I oughta go punch out his lights or buy him a beer. So what does it mean anyway?

GK: Well, it means a number of things. Youthful, in a way.

ST: Childish.

GK: Maybe not that bright.

ST: It means "young and tedious."

TR: Huh? Not that bright?

GK: Listen. Why not look it up yourself?

TR: You got a dictionary?

GK: Right up there. Top shelf. Careful with the ladder. It tends to tip.

TR: Okay. Be right back. (FADING, FOOTSTEPS ON LADDER) "Jejune".....young....boring....

GK: Where'd Jimmy go?

ST: The bartender? Think he went to the men's room.

GK: Let me freshen up your drink a little. (POURING)

ST: Here's to Scotland.


SS: A dark night in a city that keeps its secrets, where one guy is still trying to find the answers...Guy Noir, Private Eye. (MUSIC OUT)

© 1998 Garrison Keillor