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

TR: 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 cold rainy days in March when a man in the lonely fight for truth and justice thinks maybe he'd like to just fight for warmth and comfort for awhile. A lethal rain pelted my office window and a gray chill spread in the room that put me in mind of Sunday afternoons at Aunt Marie's in my childhood when I sat with the elderly and made no noise for several hours ---- (PHONE RINGS, PICK UP) Yeah, Guy Noir here.

SS (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir? I'm calling to see if you'd be interested in trying a new long-distance phone service---

GK: No thanks.

SS (ON PHONE): ---that can save you 25% or more on your long-distance charges.

GK: No thanks.

SS (ON PHONE): Twenty-five percent is quite a savings.

GK: Not in my case, ma'am, because I don't call long-distance.

SS (ON PHONE): Oh, I'm sure that you must make some----

GK: I don't. I don't know anybody far away that I want to talk to.

SS (ON PHONE): But I'm sure that---

GK: If I want to talk to somebody, I go across the street to the Five Spot and talk to the bartender for free.

SS (ON PHONE): But maybe if you tried this for a month---

GK: Listen. Trust me. I know myself.

SS (ON PHONE): But what about your wife?

GK: I don't have a wife.

SS (ON PHONE): I see. May I ask a personal question? What do you look like, Mr. Noir?

GK: I'm disheveled, chronically gloomy, I have abysmal personal habits----

SS (ON PHONE): Your voice is very sexy.

GK: Listen. I never date telemarketers. It's a personal choice. (CLICK. MUSIC) It was the sort of cloudy day that makes a person think about going to the Five Spot and I was just putting on my coat, when (PHONE RING, ANOTHER RING. PICK UP) Yeah, Noir here.

TK (ON PHONE): This Guy Noir?

GK: Speaking.

TK (ON PHONE): The private eye?

GK: Right.

TK (ON PHONE): Listen. I got a problem. I've been diagnosed with Irish Alzheimers. You familiar with that?

GK: No, sir. What is it?

TK (ON PHONE): It's the one where you forget everything except the grudges.

GK: Okay.

TK (ON PHONE): That's the kind I got. And the problem is---- I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.

GK: It's your doctor, sir. Dr. Armbruster.

TK (ON PHONE): Oh, right. What'd you call me about?

GK: I called to tell you you're doing great.

TK (ON PHONE): Okay, but who am I still angry at after all these years?

GK: They've all gone to America and they're all in debt up to their eyebrows and got high blood pressure and they're on the verge of major cardiac experiences. Don't worry about em.

TK (ON PHONE): Okay. Thanks. Good to hear it.

GK: You're welcome.

TK (ON PHONE): And I'd like that with extra cheese and onions.

GK: I'll have it there in fifteen minutes, sir. (MUSIC) Cold day in March and a man thinks about how good a hot brandy would taste right now. (PHONE RING) A hot brandy with a cinnamon stick. (SECOND RING) Some sugar in it and maybe a plate of ginger snaps. (THIRD RING. PICK UP) Yeah, Guy Noir speaking.

TR (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir, does the name Guinness mean anything to you?

GK: Yes, it does. It means beer made from the wrong recipe that they forgot to chill.

TR (ON PHONE): Well, it also means the Guinness Book of World Records, and I'm calling to see if you'd investigate a man who claims to have broken wind for fifteen minutes without interruption.

GK: Fifteen minutes?

TR (ON PHONE): Yes. That's what he says.

GK: And this is a world record?

TR (ON PHONE): We want to make sure it's one long blast and not a couple hundred pops and fizzles.

GK: You know, this is not really my specialty, sir. I'm a detective, not a methane detector.

TR (ON PHONE): We'd pay.

GK: You're making this hard, you know that, don't you.

TR (ON PHONE): He says he'd be ready to go tomorrow, right after lunch.

GK: I don't think so. Sorry. (HANG UP. MUSIC) I don't know how I ever got the reputation as a guy you would call up if you needed a witness for an act of flatulence (RING)----it just goes to show you how the profession has gone downhill since Philip Marlowe. (RING) Since Nero Wolfe and Nick and Nora Charles. (RING, PICK UP) Yeah, Noir here.

SS (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir, would you just like to meet me for coffee?

GK: Lady, listen. Anybody who would be attracted to a guy like me is someone I wouldn't find it worthwhile to know, okay? (HANGUP) (MUSIC) I headed over to the Five Spot across the street (TRAFFIC PASSING) for some refreshment. I stopped at the newsstand on the way.

TK (TEEN): Daily Mirror, Mr. Noir?

GK: Yeah. And a copy of Crime Monthly, Walter.

TK (TEEN): Okay. If you don't mind my saying so, you could use some breath mints, too, Mr. Noir.

GK: Okay. Give me some of those.

TK (TEEN): That's a dollar fifteen, Mr. Noir.

GK: Okay. Let me see. (HE SEARCHES HIS POCKETS) Huh. I must've left my billfold in my other pants.

TK (TEEN): Mr. Noir, I know this one. The billfold in the other pants. We've been there, we've done that.

GK: Okay, okay, okay. Don't get testy. Here.

TK (TEEN): Thanks.

GK: Have a nice day. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS) I walked in. No patrons at the bar. Just Jimmy the bartender, wiping glasses. ----Hey, Jimmy, how's it going?

TR (JIMMY): Hey, Guy. Not so bad. How's yourself?

GK: Oh. About the same. Can't complain.

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

GK: Gimme a Bailey's Irish cream with a dash of buttermilk and creme de cacao and milk of magnesia.

TR (JIMMY): Okay. One Irish Sunrise, coming up. (POURING AND MIXING) I didn't know you were Irish, Guy.

GK: I wasn't. And I'm still not. I'll let you know if I decide to switch. You Irish?

TR: Me. Heck yes. Most bartenders are. Just like cops. I'm Irish on my father's side. My mother was something else.

GK: So what does your father do, Jimmy?

TR: He doesn't do anything. He's dead.

GK: What did he do before he died?

TR: Right before he died, he put his hands up to his throat and went, AAARRRRRGGHHHHHHHH.

GK: You are Irish, aren't you.

TR: Here's your Sunrise. (SETS GLASS DOWN)

GK: Thanks. (FOOTSTEPS, OFF) Just then I heard footsteps behind me. (FOOTSTEPS, SLOW) I could tell right away that the person approaching was female, approximately 105 pounds, 5'4", red-haired, and extremely beautiful and wearing a black dress so tight you could see the embroidery on her underwear. And I was right. (SEXY SAX) Except for the underwear. It wasn't embroidered. Just an ordinary cross-stitch. --- What can I do for you, ma'am?

SS: Hey, Noir, how ya doin.

GK: Do I know you?

SS: Lieutenant Cathy Mulcahy, 14th Precinct.

GK: Hey, I never would've recognized you in that dress, Lieutenant.

SS: Not looking where you're looking, no, you probably wouldn't have.

GK: Sorry. So you're working undercover, huh?

SS: Yeah, and I need your help. I'm on this stepdancer case. Illegal Irish stepdancers. Maybe you read about it in the paper.

GK: Illegal stepdancers?

SS: They're bringin em in over the border from Canada. By the thousands. Greenbacks, we call em. Black-haired long-legged lasses with green eyes and big black shoes who stand in one place, arms at their sides, and do jigs and hornpipes and drive audiences into a frenzy. Thousands of Moiras and Fionas and Caitlyns and Marys, kidnapped from Donegal and Connemara and forced to dance until they're worn out and then they're sold for waitresses to Irish pubs.

GK: But that's slavery----

SS: Do you know how many Riverdance touring companies there are? Fifty. And Las Vegas ---- at the Celtic Sands Hotel, they have a dance line of 300 girls doing six shows a day ---

GK: It's madness.

SS: But where are they coming in? who's at the bottom of it? where do they live? That's what I need to know, Noir.

GK: Must be the mob. The big guys.

SS: And it's not just illegal stepdancers. It's everything Irish. Green beer. Green caps. Green apples. And illegal sweaters.

GK: Sweaters!

SS: Anything Irish is hot right now. Sweaters, snifters, saucers, censers, swatters, blotters, halters, filters, boaters, boosters, bolsters, lighters, slicers, dicers, oysters, sifters, bitters, setters, sceptres, garters, gaiters, purses, putters, platters, posters, plasters, shutters, scooters, motors, mashers, beaters, meters, splicers, threshers, thrusters, tractors, pressers, printers, jointers, routers, nectars, casters, coasters, toasters, holsters ---- are you listening to me?

GK: I'm sorry. I was distracted. Could you go through that again?

SS: A lot of Irish products are being smuggled into the country. But these stepdancers are my main concern.

GK: Where'd you get that sweater, Lieutenant?

SS: This? It's a fisherman's sweater. Bought it from a sidewalk vendor.

GK: From a young woman?

SS: Yes. Why?

GK: One with black hair and green eyes and rather muscular calves?

SS: Oh, my gosh. Yes. Yes, it was.

GK: This is an Irish cable knit sweater, Lieutenant. The stitches tell a story. The different patterns of cables, the subtle variations in the weave --- it's been awhile since I've translated one of these, but this says: "457 of us are held captive by Freemasons" --- see the Masonic symbol there ---- "held captive by Freemasons and forced to stitch by day and stepdance by night. Come quickly. It is unguent."

SS: "It is unguent"?? Don't you mean, "It is urgent".

GK: Could be that she slipped a stitch there. Yes, probably it is urgent. And there's a P.S.

SS: What's that?

GK: "Probably you won't ever read this so why do I bother?"

SS: What's that mean?

GK: It means they're Irish. A dark people, Lieutenant.

SS: I gotta move. Thanks, Noir. I owe you one.

GK: How about we have dinner one of these nights?

SS: Which night?

GK: You name it.

SS: When are you free?

GK: You tell me.

SS: It's up to you.

GK: Any night. I'm free.

SS: So name one.

GK: Tuesday.

SS: I'm busy.

GK: Thursday.

SS: Sorry.

GK: Saturday.

SS: I can't.

GK: Some other time then.

SS: Some other time.


TR: A dark night in the city that keeps its secrets, where one guy is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions --- Guy Noir, Private Eye.


(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor