(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell)


TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but high above the snowy streets, on the twelfth 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 a cold day in January, and I had opened up the radiators and stuffed the cracks around the window and wrapped myself in a couple of blankets and finally got to where I stopped shaking enough that I could write legibly on a piece of paper. And then, of course, it turned out that I had nothing to write down anyway. What can you say about cold except that it's cold. It hurts. That's why Minnesotans talk with their mouths shut. (PHONE RING. PICK UP) Yeah. Noir here.

SS (ON PHONE): Hey - I ordered my chicken thirty minutes ago. What gives? You people deliver or not??

GK: What chicken?

SS (ON PHONE): What chicken??? The Seven Joys of General Tsao Chicken Almond Ding.

GK: I don't know anything about it, sorry.

SS (ON PHONE): I ordered it half an hour ago. Six orders. My family is here.

GK: Listen, lady -

SS (ON PHONE): I invited them for dinner - they're sitting in the living room -

GK: Look, I can't help you out -

SS (ON PHONE): They're not that good at making conversation -

GK: Okay, but you've got the wrong -

SS (ON PHONE): They've talked about my nephew's basketball game for twenty minutes now.

GK: Okay, but this is not whoever -

SS (ON PHONE): Now they're sitting there in silence, glancing toward the kitchen -

GK: I'm trying to tell you something, ma'am -

SS (ON PHONE): When you deliver, bring it to the back door. Okay?

GK: Listen. Ma'am.

SS (ON PHONE): You listen - I want that chicken here in five minutes.

GK: Listen to me.

SS (ON PHONE): It's the Seven Joys of General Tsao -

GK: Ma'am. Listen.

SS (ON PHONE): I'm listening.

GK: You've got the wrong number.

SS (ON PHONE): I do?

GK: Yes.

SS (ON PHONE): This isn't the Moo Goo Gai Pan restaurant?

GK: My name is Noir. Guy Noir.

SS (ON PHONE): Well, why didn't you say so? (SHE HANGS UP) (MUSIC UNDER)

GK: The Seven Joys of General Tsao - I oughta order that someday - sounds good. (PHONE RING) (PICK UP) Moo Goo Gai Pan, may I take your order, please?

TR (ON PHONE): Hey hey hey hey. I know that famous voice anywhere. You can't fool me.

GK: Oh. Okay -

TR (ON PHONE): I'm a huge fan of yours, Mr. Madison - huge.

GK: Listen. This is Mr. Noir.

TR (ON PHONE): Guy Madison, the famous movie star of the forties and fifties, what a thrill this is - Listen -

GK: This is Guy Noir, Private Eye. This is not -

TR: My name is Todd Angst, Mr. Madison, and I write a weekly column for the Twin Cities Post-Intelligence called "Where Are They Now?" -in which we describe the pathetic lives of the formerly great. Mr. Madison - Tell me. Do you feel bitter? Have you come to hate the fans who forgot you -

GK: No, because I never had any, okay?

TR: So you are bitter. Is that why you moved to St. Paul?

GK: I'm not an actor, okay? I'm a -

TR: And what about the critics who agreed that you were not an actor, Mr. Madison -

GK: Listen, mister, you're trying my patience -

TR: This is an emotional subject for you -

GK: I got to get back to work here.

TR: One more question - Mr. Madison -

GK: What?

TR: Do you ever hope that, improbable as it may seem, there would be a sort of Guy Madison revival?

GK: You're getting on my nerves, pal. (HANG UP) (MUSIC UNDER) January is a tough month for a private eye. It's so cold you can't tail anybody because nobody goes anyplace anyway because if they did they'd freeze their tail off, which in this case is you. So they don't, and you don't either. (PHONE RING) So the well starts to go dry and your checking account goes flat and (RING) you start to wonder where your next take-out dinner is coming from - (RING)(PICK UP PHONE) Guy Noir, Private Eye.

TK (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir, this is Sandy, and I'm with M.C.I. - ?

GK: Could you call back later...maybe in ten years?

TK: I'm wondering if you're satisfied with your current long-distance provider -

GK: Yes except I wish they were providing me with a longer distance between you and me. (HANG UP) (MUSIC UNDER...) There didn't seem to be much point sitting in a cold office waiting to hear from more people I didn't want to talk to, so I slipped around the corner to the Five Spot. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLES. FOOTSTEPS) The joint was empty except for Jimmy the bartender.

TR (JIMMY): Hey Guy, how's it going?

GK: Not so bad, Jimmy. How's everything with you?

TR (JIMMY): Hey, I got through New Year's Eve. Nobody broke the mirror this year.

GK: I see that. Did you have enough hats and noisemakers to go around?

TR: More than enough. People weren't that festive this year.

GK: No?

TR: Nope. Ninety-nine. It's got an ominous ring to it. Mostly people sat around drinking cranberry juice and talking about the 2KY problem.

GK: Ah, that's too bad. I say, Never pass up a chance to have a party. There aren't enough opportunities that you should waste one.

TR (JIMMY): Right. What can I get for you, Guy?

GK: A cranberry juice, Jimmy.

TR (JIMMY): Just a plain cranberry juice?

GK: Yeah.

TR: Coming right up.

GK: Some of that 2KY stuff might not be all bad, Jimmy. Like if the telephone system went kaput because the computer chips got confused - I mean a person has to question the usefulness of the telephone as an invention, you know? The telegram was a very civilized medium of communications, Jimmy. And now we're going back to it, in the form of e-mail. Instant communication, but written, so if you're a quick reader, it's not as agonizing.

TR: Of course you get e-mail over the phone lines -

GK: Right. I realized I was wrong the moment I said it.

TR: Here's your cranberry juice. - No, no - on the house.

GK: Gee. Thanks.

TR: Didn't see you over the holidays. Figured you must've been busy.

GK: Yeah. Had a lot of cases in December. Mostly people asking me to investigate what kinds of Christmas gifts people were going to give them so they could give a gift of similar value in return - so, if your boss gives you a box of chocolates, you don't give him a sterling silver soup tureen and ladle -

TR (JIMMY): Uh huh. Interesting. You have to break into people's houses to find out that stuff -

GK: Had to do some of that, Jimmy. Some of that. Snoop around in closets for packages. There was an interesting case out in White Bear Lake - (MUSIC, TIME CHANGE) And I told Jimmy about the Murchison mansion. Champ Murchison, the St. Paul dry cleaning tycoon and owner of our professional curling team, the Skidders, and in the past, Mr. Murchison had given his management team expensive gifts, like 18- carat gold picture frames with a portrait of him in it, and his assistant vice-president for spot removal, a woman named Francis Fenwick...

SS: I haven't had a decent night's sleep in three weeks, Mr. Noir. I'm desperate.

GK: You need to know what he's giving you for Christmas -

SS: I don't want to be a fool at the employees party, Mr. Noir.

GK: I understand.

SS: I'm sure that Mrs. Murchison purchases the presents -

GK: Mrs. Murchison purchases them.

SS: It's mostly merchandise purchased from merchants Mrs. Murchisan personally patronizes.

GK: In other words, high class stuff.

SS: Always.

GK: I'll head out there and find out, Miss Fenwick.


GK: So late one night, I drove to the Murchison mansion (CAR SLOWING AND STOP, MOTOR TURNED OFF. DOOR OPEN QUIETLY, FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL, UNDER...) and parked in the driveway and walked toward the vast white edifice patterned after the Temple of Athena. Amazing what you can achieve in life just by keeping labor costs low. (FOOTSTEPS ON WALK, TIPTOE) I walked around back of the house. There were security signs everywhere. So I rang the bell. (DOOR OPEN)

TR (ENGLISH): Yes, sir?

GK: I'm with Mississippi Security Systems, sir -

TR (ENGLISH): Is there a problem, sir?

GK: Just checking the system. Only take a minute. We had an intermittent crossover fade on the VMG response, so - I had to come look -

TR (ENGLISH): Yes, sir. But the family is upstairs, sleeping -

GK: Won't bother them. Honest. Only take a minute. I'll look at the quasars. Maybe replace the 2KY chips.

TR (ENGLISH): The circuit box is in the basement -

GK: I know. I installed this baby. Listen, do me a favor -

TR (ENGLISH): What's that, sir?

GK: Stand here at the door. You got a watch? Good. Every 60 seconds, I'd like you to quietly open the door and then close it. Okay?

TR (ENGLISH): Every 60 seconds.

GK: Every 60 seconds.

TR (ENGLISH): Very good, sir. (MUSIC) (FOOTSTEPS)

GK: I walked through the refectory, the conservatory, the library, to the front of the house, and looked in the front closet, which is where, nine times out of ten, you find Christmas gifts for non-family, but (DOOR OPEN) no luck, so I had to head upstairs (FOOTSTEPS UP STAIRS, SLIGHT CREAKS) and check the second most likely spot, the closet of the master bedroom...(DOOR EASED OPEN) (TK SNORING PATTERN, STARTS, OFF-MIKE)...there was a bed the size of a tennis court and Mr. and Mrs. Murchison asleep at opposite ends as if volleying - I checked the closet (DOOR EASED VERY SLOWLY OPEN) and all I could see were suits, a row of them about twenty yards long...and then I spotted the faint glitter of gift wrap at the end (RUSTLING OF CLOTHING)...and I looked through the pile until I found one addressed to Fenwick and (VERY QUIET RUSTLING OF PAPER) I had it about half unwrapped when...


GK: My heart suddenly pumped about ten gallons of blood straight into my brain. I stopped breathing.

SS (SLEEPY, OFF): Honey, what are you doing in there?

GK: I'm sorry, Mom. I couldn't wait.

SS (SLEEPY): Go back to bed, Brent. Those are employee gifts.

GK: Sorry, Mom.

SS (SLEEPY): That's okay, Snuggums. Go back to bed.

GK: Okay.

SS (SLEEPY): You sound funny. Is something wrong?

GK: I'm coming down with something.

SS (SLEEPY): Well, come here and give your mama a kiss.

GK: Actually I think I've already got it. (COUGHS) See you in the morning, Mom.

SS: Good night. I love you, honey.

GK: Love you, Mom.

SS: And be quiet so you don't wake up Daddy. (MUSIC, END OF TK SNORING SEQUENCE)

GK: Waking up Daddy was the last thing I wanted. I got out quick. By then I'd looked in the package anyway. I hustled past the butler -

TR (ENGLISH): All finished, sir?

GK: System is go. Call me if there's any problem.

TR (ENGLISH): Yes, of course. Goodnight, sir. (MUSIC UNDER...)

GK: And I drove back and reported to Miss Fenwick - (MUSIC STOP)

SS: Handkerchiefs!!!

GK: A set of six linen handkerchiefs.

SS: After fifteen years of service I get six hankies????

GK: White linen handkerchiefs.

SS: I am devastated, Mr. Noir. Utterly devastated.

GK: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

SS: I assumed that my work was valued -

GK: Speaking of the value of work, Miss Fenwick -

SS: I had purchased for Mr. Murchison an ornamental torch.

GK: Ah, well, maybe you can return it. Merry Christmas, Miss Fenwick. (MUSIC, TIME TRANSITION)

TR (JIMMY): Wow. So did she return the torch, Guy?

GK: She got a full refund, and she gave Mr. Murchison a church key.

TR (JIMMY): You mean a bottle opener?

GK: Exactly.

TR (JIMMY): So what'd you get for Christmas, Guy?

GK: I skipped Christmas this year, Jimmy.


GK: Every seven years I like to have a Jewish Christmas.

TR (JIMMY): You went to the movies?

GK: Exactly. Double feature. Had a great time. And you?

TR (JIMMY): Me too.

GK: You were at the movies, too?

TR (JIMMY): In the third row.

GK: So that was you!

TR (JIMMY): The guy in the tan raincoat.

GK: I thought he looked familiar.

TR (JIMMY): I didn't know you liked Guy Madison -

GK: Are you kidding? I love his movies.

TR (JIMMY): The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock. I never get tired of it.

GK: Neither do I, Jimmy.


SS: A dark night and there on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building a light shines where one guy is still trying to find the answers...Guy Noir, Private Eye.


(c) 1999 by Garrison Keillor