Rye–male, older than Pastrami but not by much
Dill–male, Pastrami’s age or slightly younger
Claire–female, French, 20s
–> NOTE: Claire’s name is pronounced by all characters with an “eh” in front of it so that is sounds like “eclair.” She accomplishes this by sniffling and in combination with her accent. Dill says it as though he is searching for her last name and resorting to just her first name. Pastrami and Rye will say it as if they need to search their notes for her name, also a side effect of normally using last names. And after hearing her pronounce her own name the characters may assume “eclair” is the correct pronunciation. <–
1940s, interior of an office building. Office made up of a reception area and then a separate room that is the main office. Two wooden desks sit at an angle facing each other and the audience at the same time. Each desk has a non-electric typewriter, some filing baskets (an ‘In’ basket and an ‘Out’ basket). One desk is definitely tidier than the other. There is a telephone partially buried under papers on the messier desk. Wooden swivel chair behind each desk, additional chair available for visitors/clients. Upstage center there is a door, wooden with the frosted/pebbled glass of the era.
. . . .
The story thus far: Private investigators Pastrami & Rye are in their office meeting their new potential client Claire and listening to her tale of woe.
. . . .
(Shadows approach the glass on the door. Dill and Claire are heard off-stage.)
Dill: Now-now, Miss…
Claire: (Sounds of sniffling and speaking with accent) eh, Claire.
Dill: Try to dry your eyes, these two are just as good as any G-man. Better even. (Knocks on the door before opening and leading Claire into the room. She is indeed good-looking and seems to know it.) Pastrami, Rye, may I present Miss eh, Claire. Miss eh, Claire, Pastrami and Rye, private eyes.
Pastrami: Please have a seat, Miss eh, Claire. (Leads her to the client chair.) Thank you, Dill.
Claire: Yes, thank you, Monsieur Dill. You are too kind.
Dill: It was no trouble, ma’am. That is why they pay me the big bucks. I will be right outside if you all need anything.
Rye: Thank you, Dill.
(Dill exits, shutting the door lightly.)
Welcome, Miss eh Claire. What seems to be the trouble? Our associate says you were reluctant to explain on the phone.
Claire: I apologize for zhat. Zis is a delicate business and I have previously been unsettled.
Pastrami: Take your time.
Claire: First I must thank you for agreeing to zee moi. I do not wish to burden you with my troubles, but I know of nowhere else to turn.
Rye: Other folks’ troubles are what pay the bills around here.
Pastrami: Please continue. We need the whole Megillah in order to help.
Claire: My father served in zee French army for years and recently retired at the rank of colonel. Over zee course of his military career he has developed a top-secret formula. A rather well-known company is interested in purchasing it. Unfortunately zee recipe has gone missing! And so has Papa’s personal secretary. (Begins crying. Pastrami leans over to pat her on the back.)
Rye: As sorry as I am for your predicament, may I ask why you are here instead of the Colonel?
Claire: Papa has suddenly been taken mysteriously and violently ill. He wants zee recipe found. Time is of zee essence as he fears for his life and zee livelihood of his family if he does not recover.
Claire: Zee second reason I have come to you and not another of my family involves his personal secretary.
Rye: You said this secretary is missing as well. Are we looking for a man or woman?
Claire: A man. D’john. He is also my fiancé.
Pastrami: Not that I am looking to chase away business, but why us? Why not go to the police?
Claire: My papa and I both wish for zhis to be taken care of as quietly as possible. If word got out zhat zee recipe is missing, it could be disastrous.
Pastrami: Fair play. So what exactly are you hiring us to do? We want the contract to be as clear as possible. Are we looking for the recipe, the secretary, the cause of the colonel’s illness, or all of the above?
Claire: Zee recipe is the most important zhing. But D’john is the second. Any other information you come across would be most helpful as well.
Rye: In order to smoke out the culprit and the missing, we need some details. Where were one or both last seen? When was it first noticed that they were missing? And what does D’john look like?
Claire: Two days ago Papa and D’john were in Papa’s office going over zee recipe when Papa was suddenly in great pain. D’john came to get me and we both rushed Papa downstairs to fetch a cab and go to zee hospital. D’john and Papa realized zee recipe was still out on the desk in zee office. D’john went back upstairs to lock it in the safe and promised to meet us at the hospital. Zhat is the last time we saw him.
Pastrami: He never made it to the hospital?
Claire: Non. And when Papa sent me home to check on zhings and for D’john, zee safe was open but all zhat was missing was zee recipe. (Begins lightly sniffling again. Opens purse and removes a picture which she hands to Rye on the during the following line.) Here is my beloved D’john.
Rye: Thank you. The more we know the easier it will be to get results. (Looks at picture before handing it off to Pastrami.) Is there anything else you can tell us?
Claire: Just zhat Papa’s recipe is well liked and he has been courted by more than one company.
Pastrami: Could we possibly get a list of the company names? Just to give us some direction?
Claire: Of course.
Pastrami: Here you go, honey (passes Claire a paper and pen).
Claire: Oh, let me think. (Quickly writes a couple of names) I zhink zeese are the main ones zhat have expressed interest.
Rye: (Takes the list) Is there anything else that you can think of that may be of use to us?
Claire: Zee only zhing I can zhink to add is that due to an injury during zee war D’john has a slight limp on his right leg and a scar on his left hand. Zee scar has zee shape of a crescent moon.
Rye: All this helps flesh out the picture. Thank you.
Pastrami: If that is all you have for us we can get started. Let’s go see Dill about typing up contract for you, Miss eh, Claire. (Pastrami and Claire rise and head for the door. Rye comes over to shake hands with Claire. As Pastrami walks through the door she calls out) Look sharp Dill.
(Rye picks up Claire’s list and begins studying it as the door closes behind Pastrami. He moves to his desk and begins digging through the drawers for a telephone book. Given the general disarray of his desk this takes time. Search extends to the filing baskets and stacks on the desk. Basically returns the desk to its state at the start of the play. Frustrated, he moves over to Pastrami’s desk and just starts to search. Door opens allowing Pastrami and Dill to enter. Dill has a small stack of items in his arms.)