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


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 October days when the air is like a fine Cabernet and a man who can still respirate gets a sense of grandeur that's not strictly supported by the facts. I opened up my office window one afternoon and got a nice westerly breeze and started to feel like Cary Grant. And then----- (SFX: PHONE RINGS, PICK UP)

GK: Yeah? Noir here.

TR: (ON PHONE) This is Bob W. Butts, Mr. Noir. -----Mr. Noir, I know that you care as I do about keeping America strong in the fight against terrorism.

GK: Excuse me. No campaign speeches. Please.

TR (ON PHONE): Sorry. I was sort of on automatic pilot there-----

GK: Just speak to me in English as one person talking to another, okay, Mr. Butts?

TR (ON PHONE): Okay. I'll try. I'm running for Congress ---- you've probably seen my lawn sign, Put Butts In Washington -----

GK: I've noticed it, yes.

TR (ON PHONE): And I'm in a really tight race and I need some help.

GK: If it's really tight, maybe Butts got too big.

TR (ON PHONE): I need you to dig up some dirt on my opponent, Mr. Noir. Something big. And I need it by Monday.

GK: Fine. But my retainer is $25,000, sir.

TR (ON PHONE): That's rather high.

GK: I set it high on purpose. To discourage people from asking me to do bad things.

TR (ON PHONE): I'll send someone over with the dough.

GK: Good. In cash, please. No checks. (MUSIC BRIDGE) The money arrived in a brown paper bag. Bundles of hundreds. Carried by a woman in black leather.

SS (TOUGH): You want to count it, Noir?

GK: I don't need to. I know $25,000 just by the look.

SS (TOUGH): We need the dirt by Monday.

GK: Hey, if I don't deliver in half an hour, then the next one is free. (MUSIC BRIDGE) Butts was running against this lulu named Cole Morgan whose ads I'd seen on TV.

TR (ON TV AUDIO): Public service is a very very special thing to me. It's a celebration of life. A joyful thing. And so if you elect me November 5, I'm going to be like totally dedicated, totally giving. I really mean that.

SS (AUDIO): Cole Morgan...an awesome candidate for U.S. Congress. He cares. (BRIDGE)

GK: I made a few phone calls and it seemed to me that Morgan was pretty much dirt free. The guy was a nature nut. What rocked his world was nature, natural foods, natural highs, mountain biking on organic mountains, protecting the great snowy owl against lumbermen and so forth. He was stylish. He was totally on message. Maybe his vinegar was not entirely balsamic, maybe he liked the wrong Crosby Stills Nash & Young album, maybe his safari jacket was a size too big, but otherwise he looked pretty clean. I spoke to a waitress at the Good Night Moon Cafe ----- she knew him.

SS: Not a waitress. A wait person.

GK: I'm sorry.

SS: We have no waitresses here.

GK: I didn't know that.

SS: That was back in the days of slavery. We are all wait persons now.

GK: That's good. Tell me about Cole Morgan. And here's twenty bucks to refresh your memory.

SS: A beautiful person.

GK: Ever see him stick his nose in an envelope and snort up some white dust?

SS: Never.

GK: Ever see him pull out a syringe, say, before the creme brulee comes, and tie his upper arm with a rubber hose and mainline heroin?

SS: No, of course not.

GK: Okay, you ever hear him refer to women as chicks or babes or broads or honey buns or heifers?

SS: No.

GK: He never called you a heifer?

SS: Never.

GK: Never said, "I'm gonna go out and find me a heifer."

SS: Nope. Mr. Morgan is one of the most caring persons I have ever encountered. I am grateful to have met him. (MUSIC)

GK: Finally, I dropped in at the Cole Morgan for Congress headquarters to meet the man in person. I'd told him I was writing for Alternative Energy magazine and he made time for me.

TR: Cole Morgan, Mr. Noir. I hope you're having a wonderful day.

GK: I hope you are, too.

TR: I am having an extraordinary day. I had some truly wonderful quality time with my children when I took them to their play dates this morning and then I had lunch with Deepak Chopra, and I just did 5000 situps. So it's been an extraordinary day. (MUSIC)

GK: We talked for two hours and if it hadn't been for the massive doses of espresso, I'd've passed out from boredom. The man was a robot.

TR: I want to validate the political system. Make it more accessible. The bottom line is participation. Voting is down. I mean, do the math. We need to make the system more voter-friendly, more centered. What goes around comes around. This whole thing has been a total learning experience for me. Gravitas is the name of the game. I mean, go figure. (HE GOES ON, MURMURING)

GK: And the moment he said "gravitas" I saw the picture. A snapshot taped to the wall beside his Sierra Club calendar. I said, "Look, there's a snowy owl in that tree" (TR: Where? Out there?) and distracted him so I could grab the photo and stick it in my pocket and take it over to the Butts for Congress people. (PASSAGE OF TIME MUSIC)

SS: Hey. Beautiful. Where'd you get it? Never mind ---- don't tell me. I love it. This is almost as good as Michael Dukakis riding in the tank with the helmet on.

GK: Well, it's just a guy with a baseball cap on his head backwards.

SS: He looks pretty dorky.

GK: Yeah.

SS: Why do men wear baseball hats backwards?

GK: Most men don't. I suppose he did because it made him feel young or something. Made him feel connected to his Higher Power.

SS: It just makes him look brain-damaged.

GK: Or hat-challenged.

SS: Thank you, Mr. Noir. You've just helped elect Bob Butts to Congress.

GK: Please. Don't make me ill. (MUSIC) I was thinking about how to spend the dough all the way over to the Five Spot (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE) (DOOR CLOSE)--- (FOOTSTEPS)

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

GK: Aw, not so bad, Jimmy, how's it with you?


TR (JIMMY): Pretty good. What can I get you? The usual?

GK: Naw. Think I'll have the unusual. How about an orange juice?

TR (JIMMY): Okay.
GK: World is going crazy out there, Jimmy.

TR (JIMMY): Oh well. It's an election year.

GK: In Iraq, too. Saddam Hussein got 100% of the vote in the election. You hear that?

TR (JIMMY): Quite impressive, 100%. More than twice what W. got two years ago.

GK: Well, Iraqi voters are like American voters. Why waste your vote on a second party candidate that isn't going to win anyhow?

TR (JIMMY): They say that spending on political ads will get up to about $1 billion. And this is a midterm election. Unbelievable. Why waste all that money to elect your candidate when a couple of old voting machines from Florida could do the trick?

GK: Well, some of that billion has come my way, Jimmy.

TR (JIMMY): You? Really?

GK: I'm just another political consultant now. Getting rich off the system. So maybe I better pay up my bar tab. How much is it?

TR (JIMMY): You want the truth or you want I should lie to you?

GK: I'm a voter. Lie to me.

TR (JIMMY): It's not that much. It's nothing to worry about. You're okay.

GK: Thanks, Jimmy. I appreciate it.


SS: 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.

© Garrison Keillor 2002