“Sure, Lieutenant, I’m a drunk, and a two-bit grifter, I’m a defrocked priest and a disgraced cop, I’m a deserter and a coward and a traitor, I’m a hop-head and a three-card monte artist and a race-horse juicer – but I’m tellin’ ya and it’s the God’s honest truth – I didn’t bump Kincaid and I don’t know who did!”
“You forgot one little thing,” said Stein, and he blew cigar smoke into my face.
“Oh,” I said, blinking. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” he said.
He tapped his cigar ash onto my lap. I had just had this suit dry-cleaned at the Chinaman’s not a month before, too.
“One little thing,” he said again.
I would’ve brushed the ash off my lap except my hands were handcuffed behind my back.
“One tiny little thing,” he said.
“Just one little thing, Lieutenant?”
He blew on the lit end of the cigar and it glowed ruby red.
“Yeah,” he said. “One thing.”
Some guys’ll keep it up all night unless you feed them their cues. I didn’t feel like having that stogie stubbed out on my arm so I gave him his goddam cue.
“What’s that thing, Lieutenant? I mean if you don’t mind my asking.”
“You forgot to mention you’re a goddam liar, Molloy, a compulsive liar, a habitual liar. A liar.”
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah. I forgot. You’re right. I’m a liar. And that’s the God’s honest truth, too, Lieutenant.”
The God’s Honest Truth, by Horace P. Sternwall ; an Atlas paperback original, 1949; republished as A Most Mendacious Fellow, by “Hank P. Sterne”, a Panther paperback “original” (UK), 1952.
(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)