(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 quiet 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: I was sitting at my desk, feet up, waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it'd be someone with a case, not a welsher or a repo man. I was thinking about a barbecue chicken sandwich that I had ordered from the Zenith Deli fifteen minutes before when suddenly there it was.....(KNOCK) Yeah. Come in, Ricky. (DOOR OPEN)

TK (TEEN): Here's your sandwich, Mr. Noir.

GK: Chicken? (UNWRAP) Very nice. Very nice. I asked them to hold the mayo but I didn't really mean it, so that's okay. Appreciate it, Ricky. And tell Danny thank you. Okay? What you waiting for?

TK (TEEN): That's $2.75, Mr. Noir.

GK: What is?

TK (TEEN): The sandwich.

GK: Right. I was just looking at the sales slip. I told Danny to put it on my tab.

TK (TEEN): Danny said your tab is kind of full.

GK: Oh. Well----Can you take a credit card?

TK (TEEN): I don't think so.

GK: Okay. Fine. No problem. There's one, two.....two-fifty.....two sixty......two sixty-five.....two seventy-five.......okay? Is the tip included in the bill?

TK (TEEN): I don't think so.

GK: Okay. There's a quarter for you.

TK (TEEN): Thanks. Thanks a lot.

GK: Don't mention it.

TK (TEEN): By the way, Mr. Noir, there's a woman on her way up to see you and she's really steamed-----

GK: Thanks. Lock the door on your way out, okay. (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Uh oh. Too late. (DOOR OPEN) Uh, we're in the midst of a very important conference, ma'am. (FOOTSTEPS, MARCHING, TOWARD)

SS: Mr. Noir, how could you? I mean, how could you? The deceit! The effrontery! You big cheater!

GK: What is the problem, ma'am?

TK (TEEN): Sounds like you ran up a tab with her too, Mr. Noir.

GK: Maybe you better leave, Ricky.

TK (TEEN): Do I have to?

GK: Don't let the door hit you on your way out. Bye. (DOOR CLOSE) What's your name, Madame?

SS: It's Carruthers. Pamela Carruthers. And I'm talking about your painting I paid almost five hundred dollars for and I was expressly told it was a new work! I took it home and ----- I couldn't believe the dust on it! The paint was even cracked!

GK: What painting is this, madame?

SS: You know very well! It's your painting! From 1975. The one of the young woman washing her face. What a rip-off!

GK: Madame---- I am not a painter.

SS: You're not?

GK: No.

SS: You're sure?

GK: Believe me, I would know.

SS: Well, you're the only Noir in the phone book so----- I figured it had to be you.

GK: There's a painter named Noir?

SS: Yes.

GK: First name Guy?

SS: No. He has the initials, R.E.

GK: R.E. Noir. Renoir?

SS: Oh my gosh.

GK: Old painting?

SS: Yes.

GK: And it's dated '75?

SS: Yes.

GK: 1875. That's a Renoir. Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

SS: (WHISPER) And what---- what would you think it's worth? Mr. Noir----

GK: How much?


GK: Hard to say. Ballpark....Twenty million. Thirty. Depends. (SS FAINTS. THUD ON THE FLOOR) Miss Carruthers? Miss Carruthers---- (BRIDGE) It took a bottle of ammonia and a couple old gym socks to bring Miss Carruthers around and she was still in shock. All she could tell me was that she'd put the painting out on the curb that morning with her trash---- (STING) I hopped in my car and (SQUEAL OF TIRES) headed for the address in north Minneapolis and when I got there (BRAKES) there was nothing, just an empty trash can. I saw a garbage truck turn the corner a couple blocks ahead. (SQUEAL OF TIRES) I chased him a few blocks and finally convinced him to pull over. (BRAKES. CAR DOOR OPEN. OUTDOOR CITY AMBIENCE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. STOP.)

TK: Yeah? What you want?

GK: Did you pick up the trash at 2745 Buchanan Parkway?

TK: Buchanan Parkway isn't my route. Used to be, but no more. As of Friday.

GK: Whose route is it?

TK: Well, that's an interesting question. It was supposed to go to Shorty, if you figure seniority, which according to the contract is supposed to decide these things, but some big muckety-muck at the head office says, No, we're going to give it to Red.

GK: So Red has that route?

TK: So I heard about it, I hit the roof, I went down there, I walked right into his office, and I lean across the desk and I say, Red?!! My foot!!! I said that to him, I says, Red? My foot!! Are you kidding? He says, No, I'm not kidding. --- What're you waving the twenty dollar bill at me for?

GK: Just tell me who picked up the trash there. Okay?

TK: I was just getting to that. So I says to him, to the big boss, I says----- what's the fifty for?

GK: Tell me who.

TK: Harold.

GK: What happened to Red and Shorty?

TK: Interesting you should ask. Shorty----

GK: Never mind! (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. CAR DOOR SLAM. SQUEAL OF TIRES) (BRIDGE) I caught up with Harold two hours later in a tavern called Big Wally's (BAR AMBIENCE) ---- he was in the back room, playing ping-pong. (PING PONG VOLLEY) Excuse me-Harold?

TR: Yeah!

GK: Harold, you drove your trash route today, right?


GK: If I could have your attention for one minute---- it'll only take a minute.

TR: Just a sec. Eight-thirteen. (ANOTHER VOLLEY). Okay, eight-fourteen.

GK: Maybe this hundred-dollar bill would be of interest to you-----

TR: What is it?

GK: You picked up a painting on Buchanan Parkway.

TR: Yeah. Right. I remember. (VOLLEY) Nine-fourteen.

GK: And---- where is it?

TR: The painting?

GK: Yes. Here's another hundred.

TR: Oh. Now I remember. I gave it to someone.

GK: Who?

TR: I'm trying to remember.

GK: Here. Maybe this'll help.

TR: Cheryl. Cheryl the waitrss over at Stubby's. (BRIDGE) (CAFE AMBIENCE)

GK: Stubby's was a greasy spoon down by the freightyard, patronized by the usual gang of roustabouts and gandy-dancers, and Cheryl was back in the kitchen, slinging the hash, a cigarette butt hanging from her lip. (RATTLE OF DISHES)

SS: You want java?

GK: Sure. Why not?

SS: One sec. ADAM AND EVE ON A RAFT AND BURN THE BOW WOW. (DISHES) Here. (POURS COFFEE) Harold told me you're looking for a painting.

GK: Right.

SS: Must be a pretty special painting, huh? RED MERK AND VIOLETS AND A PIG BETWEEN THE SHEETS! (DISH BEING SET OUT ON LEDGE) Harold said you laid a three hundred on him.

GK: Did I.

SS: That's what he said.

GK: Well, it's a painting that my uncle Bob did long ago and my aunt threw it out by mistake.

SS: Your uncle was a painter?

GK: Robert E. Noir. Yes.

SS: A professional painter?

GK: Semi-.

SS: Well, I wish I could help you.

GK: You don't have it?

SS: Gave it to my son. Steve.

GK: I see.

SS: He needed something for his dorm room.

GK: Sure. College dorm?


GK: Local college?

SS: Yale.

GK: The one in New Haven, Connecticut?

SS: Last I heard. (BRIDGE)

GK: So I hopped a plane to Hartford. New Haven was bustling when I arrived, full of guys in camel's hair coats and beanies, waving little pennants, learning the Whiffenpoof Song, and it took me awhile to locate Cheryl's son. He wasn't much like Cheryl. He was wearing a spiffy set of threads and looked like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

TR (RICH BOY): Hi. What's up? I'm in a bit of a rush.

GK: The name's Noir, Steve, and----

TR (RICH BOY): It's Stephen. Not Steven. Stephen.

GK: Stephen, I'm looking for that painting your mom gave you which ---- it's a long story, but my grandfather Robert E. Noir----

TR (RICH BOY): Mom said it was your uncle.

GK: Right. My uncle. R.E. Noir. The painter. Anyway----

TR (RICH BOY): And did he have a friend named Monnet, too?

GK: Uncle Bob?

TR (RICH BOY): Because there are two paintings. Your uncle's and one by Monnet.

GK: Monnet was Claude Monnet, my other uncle. Anyway, they're paintings that have a lot of sentimental value in my family, and I don't know what my brother was thinking of when he threw them out, but Mother is just heartsick- ---- she's 88, Mama, and she doesn't have long and these would mean the world to her. So I'm throwing myself on your mercy. I'd be happy to pay----

TR (RICH BOY): Well, they're in my room. I've got to go meet somebody over at Delta Gamma. You can talk to my roommate.

GK: Okay. What's his name?

TR (RICH BOY): Jennifer.

GK: Oh. Okay.

TR (RICH BOY): She's from Greenwich. Really smart. Tall girl.

GK: Probably an art history major.

TR (RICH BOY): Exactly. How did you know? (BRIDGE)

GK: I got over to his dorm. Prescott Tower, eighteenth floor, and knocked on the door, and (DOOR OPEN)---- there she was. (SEXY SAX)

SS: Hi. I'm Jennifer.

GK: She was a tall woman, and as a piece of sculpture, she was definitely museum quality. On a scale of ten, I'd say she was up in the twenties. She made a guy feel privileged just to be in the same room, breathing air she had recently exhaled.

SS: You must be Professor Twining. (BRIDGE)

GK: I thought it over for about a tenth of a second. I figured I could start out being ProfeSSor Twining and see how it went and if it didn't work out I could go back to being Noir. I couldn't be Noir and then become Professor Twining. It was a one-way street. (MUSIC STOPS) Yes, I'm Professor Twining, how are you, Jennifer?

SS: Thank you for coming right over.

GK: Not a problem. You seem surprised----

SS: Well. When I talked to you on the phone, you sounded more southern.

GK: Yes. Right. What can I do for you'all? You'all wouldn't happen to have some bourbon and branch water on hand, would you? And maybe a plate of Moon Pies?

SS: I called because ---- my roommate Stephen came in today with these two paintings, Professor Twining....

GK: Well, shut my mouth.

SS: A Renoir and a Monet.

GK: Lordy mama.

SS: I don't know if I should call the police or what---- he brought them all the way from Minnesota in this garbage bag. Said his mother gave them to him.

GK: Interesting. No need to bring in the gendarmes, Miss Jennifer. First thing to do is test these for authenticity. The brushwork on the Renoir seems coarse for him, somehow. And the colors seem fox.

SS: Fox?

GK: An art term, Jennifer. Fake.

SS: You mean faux?

GK: That too. Anyway, I'll put these under a spectrometer, I'll be able to tell you in twenty-four hours.

SS: Should I bring them down to your office?

GK: I'll take them. Don't bother. I'm headed that way anyway. Honey child. You'all don't worry your pretty head about it. You have yourself a sarsaparilla and I'll be in touch right quick. Okay? (DOOR OPEN)

TR: Hi, Jennifer. Oh, hi, Mr. Noir. I see you found the paintings.

SS: Mr. Noir?

GK: It's a pen name. A nom de plumee. I write all my books under that name. The ones about French artists.

TR: Mr. Noir came all the way out from St. Paul to get his uncle's---

GK: Shhhhh. I heard something.

SS: Are you sure you're Professor Twining?

GK: Shhhhh. I heard footsteps.

SS: I don't----

GK: Shhhhh. In the hall. Someone tiptoeing towards your door. Probably the guy in the beret. Saw him lurking downstairs. I thought he looked dangerous. Should've said something. Listen----this guy may be armed. I have the Renoir ---- Stephen, you hide the Monnet ---- I'm going out the window----- put it under the bed---- no---- don't----

SS: I wish you would---- Stephen-----

GK: Ssshhhhhh. No time for that now....

TR: Where should I meet you?

GK: My office. Twenty minutes. Use the back stairs.

SS: Are you sure you----

GK: Sshhhhhh. Be careful. And if the phone rings, don't answer it. (BRIDGE) I went out the window and crawled along the ledge, the Renoir in hand. (RUSTLING OF MAN CRAWLING, PANICKY BREATHING) To my left, a sheer drop of eighteen stories, and to my right, some people engaged in interesting consensual activities. (TK & SS PASSIONATE MURMURING) I don't ordinarily go in for death-defying stunts but the girl had my number and for a slice of twelve or eighteen million bucks, I don't mind a little vertigo. (SS SCREAM) Sorry, lady. I wasn't looking. I swear. I wasn't looking. ---- I made it to the fire escape and (FEET ON STAIRS, FAST) came down 18 stories at a dead run, and headed for the main drag. (TWO-FINGER WHISTLE) (BRAKES SCREECH) To the airport. And step on it. (CAR ACCEL) (BRIDGE) And somewhere between there and the airport, I took a closer look at the Renoir. I was having bad feelings about it. And then I found another name on the back of the frame. F.W. Woolworth. Not an artist I was familiar with. If he'd collaborated with Renoir on that picture, it probably wasn't worth nearly as much. (BRIDGE)(DOOR OPEN,JINGLE, CLOSE.)

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

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

TR (JIMMY): Heard you were on the TRail of a major art heist.

GK: No. Not a heist. An art disposal.

TR (JIMMY): Someone said you were spreading the greenbacks around, fishing for information. Must've been pretty important, huh? Some Old Master?

GK: I wish, Jimmy.

TR (JIMMY): Kind of hush hush, huh?

GK: Yeah. I hope so.

TR (JIMMY): Someone said you flew out East.

GK: People fly east every day, Jimmy. And other people fly west. It means nothing.

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

GK: The usual. Martini with two soybeans.

TR (JIMMY): Wouldn't have been a Rembrandt you were looking for, by any chance?

GK: No, it wouldn't have been.

TR (JIMMY): One Martini, coming up. (POURS, SHAKES) How about Monet?

GK: Yeah, how about him? Quite a boy, huh.

TR (JIMMY): I don't suppose it was a Renoir.

GK: Unfortunately, it wasn't. And quit bugging me.

TR (JIMMY): Just trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions.

GK: Hey, that's my line!


SS: A dark night in the city that knows how to keep its secrets, but a light shines on the 12th floor of the Acme Building -- Guy Noir, Private Eye.... (THEME UP AND OUT)

(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor