The Little Sister
The pebbled glass door panel is lettered in flaked black paint: “Philip Marlowe…Investigations.” It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization.
Marlowe seems to be feeling a bit tired and shabby himself. This could be a reflection of Chandler feeling down himself from dealing with the care of his ailing wife and having to deal with Hollywood.
The titular character, Orfamay Quest phones Marlowe in an attempt to persuade him to search for her brother Orrin. Orrin had moved to nearby Bay City (probably a bad sign) and has stopped writing letters home. Orfamay doesn’t offer much money and Marlowe doesn’t offer much hope but he starts the search and starts finding more than Orfamay may have thought he would.
The search leads Marlowe into Hollywood and Chandler gives Marlowe rein to vent a bit:
California – the most of everything and the best of nothing. I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it. It smelled stale and old like a living-room that had been closed too long. More wind-blown hair and sunglasses and attitudes and pseudo-refined voices and water-front morals.
Marlowe follows the threads of leads where they go. That is sometimes quite different than where those who hire Marlowe might want them to go.