Franc Noir



Cutchogue. North Fork of Long Island. The dimly lit, smoke filled office of private detective Haven S. Loam. Light coming in through venetian blinds at the end of the day. A fan turns lazily overhead casting shadows. Slow jazz plays in the background.

HL:          It was another beautiful day on the North Fork. I’d had enough of the sunshine and was in my office going over my client list – a grand total of zero. I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a day in the city. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. Plus one bottle of some red wine from a friend of mine down the road. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn't care who knew it. I lit myself a Lucky.

All of a sudden there was a knock at the door. I took a sip and told whoever it was to go away. The door swung open.

HL:         Hey what’s the big idea?

She stood in the doorway, a good looking brunette. From twenty feet away she looked like a lot of class. She gave me a smile that I felt in my hip pocket.

SB:          May I come in?

HL:         Looks like you already have. Take a seat.

SB:          My uncle said you were the best in town.

HL:         That depends what you’re talking about and who your uncle is.

She held out a gloved hand. I expect she wanted me to shake it. She was a great looking dame, but I’d seen plenty of great looking dames before and they were nothing but trouble.

SB:          The name’s Blanc.  Sauvignon Blanc. But my friends call me Kitty.

HL:        French huh?

I stood to shake her hand.

HL:         Nice to meet you.

SB:          Tall, aren't you.

HL:         I didn't mean to be.  So what can I do for you Ms. Blanc?

She sat demurely and I could see that she was upset.

SB:          It’s about my husband, Franc.

HL:         Oh, you have one of those?

SB:          Yes.

Her lips started to tremble. I could see the water works were going to start any second.

SB:         I haven’t seen him in years and I need your help to try and find him.

HL:         Drink?

SB:          That would be swell Mr.?

HL:         It’s not important. So when was the last time you saw your husband?

SB:          It’s been years. We met many years ago. I thought he was French but I found out later he was from the País Vasco –you know, Basque Country. He was going with some floozy from Brittany – Magdeline or something like that. He could be so wild and verdurous back then. Mon Dieu, it was all so long ago. We weren’t supposed to be together but…you know how things can go.

HL:         Yes, ma'am I do.

She lowered her eyelashes and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain. I was paying close attention. I needed a job and she was dressed like a million bucks. I was so broke that lately I’d been rubbing 2 nickels together to see if they could mate. I took a deep drag off my Lucky.

HL:         Tell me about him.

SB:          He has other children you know, with her - before he met me of course. She gave them some crazy names like Malbec and Merlot. She had quite a reputation – children all over France with different fathers. Quite a scandal. I’m afraid that maybe he’s gone back to her. I brought a picture…

She reached into her bag and slid a photograph across the desk, a five-by-three glazed still of a beautiful blonde.

HL:       She looks like she could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

SB:          Apparently she’s very lovely and passionate.

HL:         And exclusive as a mailbox. But enough about her. Tell me more about this Franc.

SB:          Well, years ago some American friends of ours had an idea that he would be a huge success out in California – just like our son. We argued about it but one day I woke up and he was off. I haven’t seen or heard much from him since.

California – I’d been there. The winds come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. It’s the kind of place with ugly homes, too much sun and lots of alcohol. A guy could get tired from all that sunshine.

HL:         You and this, Frank…

SB:          Franc

HL:         Right, Franc - you said your son is out there with him?

SB:          Yes my son –we call him Cab. He’s such a nice boy. He was born in France. He went to California first and I think Franc wanted to be closer to him. Once Cab moved out west he became so full of himself - I think all the alcohol had a bad effect on him.  If you saw him today you’d think he wasn’t even related to us.

The tears started to fall again. I gave her a tissue.

SB:          Do you think you can help me?

I looked at the bottle I was about to pour. The label read “Cabernet Franc.” I had to do a double take. Sometimes old habits can help you when you’re not looking. I realized I just hit the jackpot.

HL:         I think you came to right place Ms. Blanc. Fact is, he’s been making quite a name for himself out here. Allow me?

I poured her a glass.

SB:          No it can’t be. Really?

She took a taste, swirled it around in her mouth and her eyes got as big as saucers.

SB:          It’s him! My Franc! And he’s just like I remembered him. In fact he’s better than ever. How did you ever find him?

HL:          I do a great deal of research - particularly in the apartments of tall blondes.

SB:          Oh please I need to go find him now. I don’t ever want to lose him again.

HL:         I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding him. He’s about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. He’s all over the North Fork. In fact, I think you both could be very happy here.

SB:          I think so too! Thank you mister..?

HL:         Loam. Haven Loam. But all the dames call me Terry. It’s short for Terroir.

(Special thanks to Raymond Chandler for the inspiration and dialogue.)