(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott: TR: Tim Russell; KR: Kristin Rudrud)

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. (THEME FADE FOR.....)
GK: It was December, turning cold, and I was feeling lower than a plumber's pants. My radiator was groaning and the windows were all frosted over. No pigeons on the ledge: they were down at the bus depot looking for something heading south. It was so cold nobody was calling in on the radio call-in shows.

TR: (ON RADIO) So------ anybody have any gripes? Something you're all worked up about ---- something that's been a stone in your shoe for years, something that burns your bacon, that just plain rubs you the wrong way ----- maybe some public official you'd like to badger or hector ---- What do you say? (FADES) Any outrage out there?......chagrin?......peevishness?----- (MUSIC)

GK: Autumn was finally over and Minnesota had taken the long turn toward winter (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Yeah, come in. (DOOR OPEN)

KR: Mr. Noir? I'm with the Save the Algae Foundation. Could I have just a moment of your time to tell you about the death of (SHE CHOKES UP) microorganisms on ponds and marshes? Do you have any idea of the importance of protozoa in our world?

GK: Save the tears, sister. I been around scum all my life. I'm in that line of work. (DOOR SLAM. MUSIC) I put on my overcoat and headed over to Danny's Deli for a bite of lunch. (BLIZZARD, DOOR SHUT. FOOTSTEPS) ---- Wwwwwww. It's a cold one out there. What's for lunch, Maureen? You got stuffed cabbage today?

SS (LOW): No, but I could make you a sauerkraut sandwich. We got sloppy joes.

GK: How about a grilled cheese?

SS (LOW): Cottage cheese okay?

GK: Whatever. (MUSIC) I took the sandwich back to the Acme Building and I was just about to bite in when (PHONE RING) ---- (PICK UP) Yeah. Noir here.

KR (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir?

GK: Yes?

KR (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir, it's Sandy Engstrom up here in Grand Forks. Got a minute?

GK: Sure ----

KR (ON PHONE): I'm with the Economic Redevelopment Commission up here and --- we've been looking for a new name for North Dakota.

GK: A new name.

KR (ON PHONE): Well, the name "North Dakota" makes it
sound like we're in the Arctic or something. We're looking for a name that's more welcoming. We thought of changing it to Upper Dakota. Or maybe Boca Dakota. We also thought about calling it Paris.
GK: Sure.

KR (PHONE): We thought about West Carolina. Or New Canada. Or Classic Dakota. We also thought of calling it Noir Dakota.

GK: I don't think so.

KR (PHONE): No. ----Anyway, our best idea so far is Dakota Heights.

GK: Dakota Heights...

KR (ON PHONE): To kind of give us a lift.

GK: Very nice. How can I help, Miss Engstrom?

KR (ON PHONE): Well, we know for a fact that there's going to be opposition to this.

GK: I think you're right.

KR (ON PHONE): Could you come up to Grand Forks and just hang around and gauge public opinion for us? We can pay you money.

GK: That's an inducement.

KR (ON PHONE): And you can stay with my sister and brother-in-law. Glen and Gladys. Nicest people you'll ever meet.

GK: Why don't I just stay in a hotel?

KR (ON PHONE): There's a hockey series this weekend with Minnesota. The hotels are full of drunks and wackos. (MUSIC)

GK: So I flew up to Grand Forks and she picked me up and drove me to her sister's house, a little stucco rambler on the outskirts of town. Satellite dish in the yard, a few castiron deer, a snowmobile.

KR: I didn't have time to call em, but I'm sure it's okay. (KNOCKS) They got an extra bedroom now that the kids are gone, and they love guests. (DOOR OPEN) Hi!

SS: Hi! Come on in. Nice to see ya. Who's this, Sandy?

KR: This is Mr. Guy Noir, Gladys. He came up from the Cities.

SS: Well, come on in. (DOOR CLOSE, FOOTSTEPS) Glen!!! ----I apologize for the mess, Mr. Noir. ---- We've been busy getting ready to go to Florida.

GK: Your home is immaculate, what are you talking about?

SS: I meant to clean up and never got around to it.

KR: You're going to Florida??? I didn't know that----

SS: Well, Glen's got business down there. It's not a vacation or anything. Yeah, we were supposed to leave today, but I donno-----How about a cup of coffee, Mr. Noir? Afraid all we got is the Folger's but if you rather have the fresh ground, I can go out for beans and stop by the hardware store for a grinder, only take half an hour or so.....

GK: No, thanks. No, thanks.. (FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

SS: Oh, here's Glen. Glen, this is Mr. Noir from the Cities. Friend of Sandy's----

TR: Oh sure. How ya doin there?

SS: How about a snack, Mr. Noir ? Can I make you a sandwich? All we got is braunschweiger but I could run down to the grocery and pick up a ham or something----

GK: No, thanks, I ate before I left----

TR: We could microwave a hot dog. Got plenty of chili to go with it.

SS: It's no trouble.

GK: Really, I'm fine.

SS: At least let me get you some cheese and crackers.

GK: No, thanks. You must be busy if you're leaving on a trip----

SS: Mr. Noir, I could not live with myself if a guest came to my house and sat there hungry. I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror.

KR: Glen and Gladys are Lutherans, Mr. Noir. They take guilt very seriously.

TR: Besides, it don't look like we're going to Florida after all.

SS: Yeah, we misplaced our plane tickets. Had our bags packed and Glen put em in the car and ---- anyway, are you sure I can't get you a bowl of chili? ----- turkey chili ---- It's no trouble at all to defrost it.

GK: I'm not hungry, thanks.

TR: How about a beer then?

GK: No, thanks. Where did you misplace your plane tickets?

SS: Oh it's so dumb. I tell ya.

TR: You won't believe this one, Mr. Noir.

SS: It's our own dang fault, that's for sure.

GK: Are the plane tickets here in the house?

TR: Yeah. Right down the basement.

GK: You want me to find them for you?

KR: Mr. Noir is a detective, Gladys.

SS: A detective! Oh, my. Well, that must be interesting. Anyway. The problem --- and by the way, it's all my fault---- I don't know what was going through my head -----

TR: No honey, I'll take the bullet on this one. I shoulda put those tickets in my sportcoat pocket, I was meaning to do it, and then I got to thinking about something else. -------

SS: Anyway, we forgot the combination to our safe.

GK: You need a safe opened-----?

KR: He's a detective, you know.

TR: I wrote down the combination on a piece of paper and then I forgot where I put it. Boy, for dumb. I'm telling you. If that don't take the cake.

GK: Where's your safe?

TR: Boy, I tell you ----- me putting that slip of paper someplace and forgetting where---- not too swift, huh? A few peas short of a casserole, if you ask me.

GK: Where's your safe?

SS: Oh, you don't have time to bother with this, Mr. Noir. You're a busy man. You and Sandy probably have a whole busy schedule lined up-----

TR: We'll just stay home and make the best of it.

SS: No sense in getting our hopes up anyway.

TR: I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

GK: Folks, shut up.

TR: Just trying to---

GK: Shut up.

SS: What Glen is trying to say, Mr. Noir, is-----

GK: Stop. Stop apologizing. Okay? You understand? Enough of the cringing and the breast beating. Okay? I mean it.

TR: Well, now we've gone and put you in a bad mood-----

GK: Stop. Please. Tell me where your safe is-----

SS: Okay, but I just feel bad that now we've gone and upset you ---

GK: Just tell me where the safe is.

TR: You sure you don't mind? This is quite an imposition, if you ask me.

GK: Where is the safe? Upstairs?

SS: Oh, Mr. Noir. You are so kind. Let me tell you, I am going to remember this as long as I live.

GK: Show me the safe, then I'll go stay at a hotel.

SS: It's this way, down the basement. ( DOOR OPEN, FOOTSTEPS ON STAIRS) What a mess. Junk everywhere. I am so ashamed I could weep.

GK: Your basement is immaculate, Gladys. You could eat off these steps. (FOOTSTEPS)

SS: Speaking of that, I got frozen pizza----

GK: No thanks.

TR: Watch your head on the ceiling there. (FOOTSTEPS, ON STAIRS) I keep meaning to fix that and just never get around to it.

GK: Wow. I never saw a basement like this. It's like a Gothic cathedral. Forty foot ceilings. Chandeliers. (TINKLE OF GLASS)

KR: I never saw this before either.

SS: It's just something we did on weekends. There was a Minuteman silo here and we figured we might as well fix it up.

GK: It's beautiful.

KR: Gladys. You never showed me down here before.

SS: Well, I was meaning to, soon as I got it redecorated.

GK: You do all this paneling yourself?

TR: Buncha walnut I salvaged from the Masonic lodge. Paid too much for it.

GK: It's beautiful.

TR: I was in too big of a rush. Coupla places where it's crooked----- so we hung the tapestries to try to cover em up.

GK: These tapestries---- they're like museum originals. Are they?

SS: Just something I threw together from a pattern in a Martha Stewart book.

GK: They're gorgeous.

SS: They're a pain in the neck to keep clean, let me tell you.

GK: And a grand piano. You play the piano?

SS: If you can call it playing. I sit down and noodle with it sometimes. Too busy. (FOOTSTEPS STOP)(A VERY FANCY PROFESSIONAL ARPEGGIO, UP THE SCALE AND DOWN AND BACK UP) (FOOTSTEPS RESUME) Sounds flat. I better get it tuned.

KR: I had no idea you played the piano, Gladys.

SS: I don't, not really.

GK: Marble floors-----this looks like Carrera marble.

TR: Got it on sale and tried to install it myself and never could get it level.

GK: It's perfect. It's like a temple or something.

TR: Got some low spots I keep meaning to fix, and you know, there just aren't enough hours in the day.

GK: What's this, a sauna?

TR: Put that in, thinking it'd humidify the upstairs but it's still dry as all heck up there.

KR: I had no idea you did this.

SS: Anyway, the safe is right over here. In the corner. (FOOTSTEPS)

GK: Nice safe. I'll just get out my stethoscope-- three numbers, you say?

TR: Yeah, three. Wish I could remember em, but------

GK: No problem. Here goes. (TURNING PINWHEEL, CLICK, THEN TURN BACK, CLICK, THEN TURN AGAIN. CLICK. AND DOOR OPENS, SQUEAKING.) There you go. Easy as pie. And here's your plane tickets to Florida. Aha. First class, no less.

TR: First class was all they had left. We upgraded with mileage.

SS: We are so grateful to you, Mr. Noir. Oh, Sandy---- don't walk over there----

TR: Don't push that switch, Sandy----

SS: Don't-----


GK: Suddenly, the wall slid open and there---- (GLISS) was a whole wing beyond, a vast pleasure palace, rooms with mosaic tile floors and gold leaf on the ceilings, a long hallway with flaming torches in sconces and a heated swimming pool and steam vents (HISS) and hundreds of exotic plants and little trees and vines and a Jacuzzi. (BUBBLING WATER) --- and a bird. (BIRD SHRIEK)

SS: I know it looks extravagant, but we did all the work ourselves. Bought stuff with trading stamps. Won the Jacuzzi in a contest.

KR: My gosh. It looks like the Taj Mahal or something.

SS: It's not for us, Sandy. We didn't do it for us.

TR: Heavens, no.

GK: (FOOTSTEPS) Very swanky. Sunlamps. Nice. Wicker chaises. Ceiling fans. Wow. Thick towels.

SS: Factory seconds. Got em at a white sale. They were marked down 50%.

GK: And a tiki bar with all the makings for banana daiquiris, I see.

KR: You two are drinkers?

TR: We put that in for guests.

GK: This is a toucan, I believe. (BIRD SHRIEK)

SS: We adopted her, Mr. Noir.
TR: Toucans are very delicate birds.

SS: We couldn't bear to think of her suffering through a Grand Forks winter.

SS: So we fixed up this abandoned missile silo for her----

GK: For your toucan-----Listen. Folks. It's okay to experience pleasure. No need to feel guilty. It's okay.

TR: But it wasn't for us.

SS: We were thinking of opening it as a teen center. Or maybe a home for old pastors.

TR: Soon as I get the floors level.

KR: Does anybody at church know about this? Did you tell Mother?

TR: Oh, gosh, no.

SS: We kept it a secret even from the kids..

TR: I mean, what we pay for electricity --- a person could feed a whole village of lepers for that!

GK: But it's your money, you have the right to enjoy it----

TR: We earned the money to do this by recycling newspapers and glass and tinfoil. And reusing our Baggies.

GK: That's how you paid for this?

SS: Well, we saved up some money and the truth is----- one night, we were in Reno for the National Lutheran Conference on Care and Concern, and I tiptoed out of the room with a fistful of twenties----

KR: Lord in heaven.

TR: You never told me, Gladys.

SS: I went downstairs and, gosh, I'd never played roulette in my life, but I put all my chips on the 7. And suddenly I had a whole wheelbarrow full of chips.

TR: I had no idea.

SS: And I put all those chips on the 11, and next thing I knew, I had a check in my hand for several million bucks.

TR: I thought it came from the recycling.

SS: Came back home and I knew folks at church'd get all riled up if they found out, so I kept it a secret. I'm sorry I never told you before, Glen.

TR: So the money we got from recycling-----

SS: It was gambling money, Glen. It all came from a game of chance.

GK: And just then, out in the middle of the pool ----- (WHOOSH OF WATER, SHAKING OF HEAD AND WATER DROPS) ------ a golden woman surfaced and shook her golden locks and smiled a dazzling smile and paddled toward the side. (SWIMMING) And climbed out of the pool. (SEXY SAX) And suddenly I knew what moths feel like when they see the porchlight on.

SS: Hi. I'm Meghan.

GK: Oh Meghan. I've been expecting you. All my life. (ROMANTIC PIANO) I did my best not to look too closely but she had a figure that made Jennifer Lopez look like a sack of newspapers. She was wearing a little tiny two-piece bathing suit that if you wadded it up you could fit it into my right ear and still have room for your index finger. Saying she was beautiful was like saying that Michael Jackson got a nose job. She seemed to need a whole new language to describe her. Words like carnivacious and bodiverous.

SS: What a beautiful pool.

GK: Her voice wrapped itself around me like a thick towel just out of the dryer.

SS: I didn't mean to interrupt or anything.

GK: Oh Meghan. At last, I have a reason to live.

SS: I was swimming at the Y and I found myself in an underground cavern of some sort.

TR: So that's where that sand in the pool came from. I was wondering-----

GK: How about a banana daiquiri, Meghan?

SS: I can't. ---- I must get back. Nice place you got. ----- See you. (DIVE INTO WATER)

GK: And she was gone. The woman of my dreams. Just like that. Vanished. (MUSIC) I finally got Glen and Gladys off to catch their plane to Florida ---

SS: I don't know how to thank you.

TR: You sure you won't take a check, Mr. Noir?

SS: Be sure to help yourself to anything in the fridge. Bye now. (DOOR CLOSE) (MUSIC)

GK: Sandy and I stayed to keep an eye on the place. We changed into our swimwear and sat beside the pool, with our banana daiquiris.

KR: I don't know what I'd do if somebody from church dropped in and saw me here with you, Mr. Noir. I wouldn't know how to explain it. Sitting with a strange man beside an underground pool at 3 a.m. in December. What in the world am I thinking?

GK: No need to think, kiddo. Just enjoy warmth wherever you can find it.

KR: But what if someone walked in right now?

GK: Don't worry about it.

KR: You waiting for that lady in the two piece to come back?

GK: No, but if she does, I want to tell her there's a thread coming loose on the seam of her top. Right up here. I thought I should point that out.

KR: I can't believe I'm here right now. (DIVING BOARD, SPLASH) Hey! Nice dive! I never would've guessed you could do a backward pike with one and a half gainers, Mr. Noir.

GK: (PADDLING) Learned it in the Navy, kid. I was in the elite Walrus unit. (STEPS OUT OF WATER, DRIPPING) Woods, air, land, rivers, underwater snorkeling. (MAKES WALRUS SOUND) (BIRD SHRIEK) Shut up, Tina.

KR: You're so----- manly.

GK: Hey. It's a specialty of mine.

KR: Do you consider me attractive?

GK: In December......in Grand Forks.......I'd say you're carnivacious, kid.

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. (MUSIC OUT)

© Garrison Keillor, Dan Fiorella 2001