I had no reason to expect two snowdrops from the military police to walk into my detective office, but as soon as I saw them I knew exactly why they had come.
They were young guys. Tanned. Good-looking in their regulation haircuts and crisp pressed uniforms. Bright eyes and big fake smiles. I doubted that my own infantry uniform had ever fit me as well as theirs did. But now, fifteen years since I last hung it up, my aching knees and trembling hands and protruding gut made me feel miles out of their league.
Then again, I doubted that this pair had ever seen combat. Not in Korea, and not anywhere before that. They’d probably done their overseas tours in Japan, during the occupation. For one thing, they were too young for anything else. For another, they still had those bright eyes and big smiles.
The kind of eyes and smile I’d never have again. Not with all the heavy baggage I’d picked up during my time in France and Germany. Baggage I’d drag around with me until the day I finally keeled over and died—
“You know who we are, Lt Zahn?” asked one of the snowdrops.
“It’s Mr Zahn,” I said. “And sure, I’ve seen DIC insignia before.”
“All right then, Mr Zahn, do you know why we’re here?”
I didn’t answer right away. Instead, I opened my top desk drawer and took out a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. I unscrewed the cap and took a swig straight from the mouth, forcing the thick pink liquid down my throat.