Philip Marlowe 33

I sipped the drink. The old man licked his lips watching me, over and over again, drawing one lip slowly across the other with a funeral absorption, like an undertaker dry-washing his hands.

‘Tell me about yourself, Mr Marlowe. I suppose I have a right to ask?’

‘Sure, but there’s very little to tell. I’m thirty-three years old, went to college once and can still speak English if there’s any demand for it. There isn’t much in my trade. I worked for Mr Wilde, the District Attorney, as an investigator once. His chief investigator, a man names Bernie Ohls, called me and told me you wanted to see me. I’m unmarried because I don’t like policemen’s wives.

‘And a little bit of a cynic,’ the old man smiled. ‘You didn’t like working for Wilde?’

‘I was fired. For insubordination. I test very high on insubordination, General.’