Marlowe is sitting across from Captain Gregory at the Missing Persons Bureau. The cop has heard all about Marlowe’s encounter with Canino. The Captain asks who told Marlowe where Mona was hiding, and Marlowe tells him about Jones. Gregory says maybe he ought to have found Mona himself, and Marlowe agrees.
The two men discuss Marlowe’s encounter with Canino openly, as both know where the other stands; in particular, Marlowe knows that Eddie Mars has paid off Gregory. Marlowe does not hide his disappointment in the corrupt cop.
Gregory says maybe he left Eddie and Mona to “play a little game like that.” Marlowe says he hadn’t thought about that, even though Eddie had known that Gregory and Marlowe had talked last time.
Marlowe hadn’t considered that Gregory could still be acting according to his own intuition, under his own autonomy, because as seen before Marlowe tends to see things in black and white, even though he bends the rules when it suits him too.
Captain Gregory raises his eyebrows and says he’s as honest as policemen come in this world. He says he wishes the world was fairer, but Eddie Mars will not likely end up in prison anytime soon. That’s not what the country is like, he says. Marlowe sits in silence.
Gregory continues that he doesn’t think Eddie killed Regan, and that Regan will likely appear sometime soon. The Captain explains that Eddie confessed to hiding Mona to the police the previous night, but Eddie had said he hadn’t realized that Canino was a killer, and claimed he hadn’t heard about Geiger’s racket.
Given Eddie already admitted to Mars he knew about Geiger’s racket, the reader can assume Eddie’s other claims are also lies. Eddie gets away with his obvious falsehoods because he has friends in high places to protect him, not to mention within the police force itself.
Captain Gregory tells Marlowe that the private detective “played it smart” by telling the police everything about his encounter with Canino. Marlowe explains he and Mona had filed statements and the police let Mona go.
In contrast, Marlowe protects himself by staying just on the right side of the law and dealing completely honestly with the police when it comes time to disclose his statement. Marlowe doesn’t have the same influence as Eddie Mars, and so has to play it safer.
Sighing, Gregory tells Marlowe he’s “too rough” for the Sternwoods. Marlowe gets up to leave, and Gregory asks the detective if he still thinks he can find Regan. Marlowe says he’s not even going to try, and leaves.
Marlowe has already endangered his life several times to investigate a mystery that is not even technically his case. With nothing to gain from investigating further, perhaps Marlowe is telling the truth this time.
Marlowe drives home and tries to sleep, but can’t. He makes a drink and tries to sleep again. He thinks back to the previous night, when he had driven to District Attorney Wilde’s place with Mona and told the police the whole story. He had taken them to Jones’s office to show them the body, and they had found Canino’s print to verify Marlowe’s version of events. Later, Eddie Mars had also gone to Wilde’s place to collect Mona and smooth things over.
While Eddie Mars has the resources to devise elaborate ruses to misguide the police, Marlowe’s only hope to avoid imprisonment or worse is to tell the whole story to the police. For him, his freedom is secured by the one fingerprint Canino left behind in Jones’s office to confirm his story. Eddie, in comparison, breezes in and out of Wilde’s office with a few words of thanks.
Back in the present, Marlowe’s phone rings. The Sternwoods’ butler, Norris, is calling to invite Marlowe to a meeting with General Sternwood. Marlowe makes himself presentable and drives straight over.
Marlowe remains on call for his former client, General Sternwood. Given that Marlowe has already received his pay, his promptness in responding to Sternwood’s invitation reflects a sense of loyalty born from their employer/employee relationship.
Only five days since the first time he rang the bell on the pristine mansion, it feels to Marlowe like a year has passed. He sees the knight in the stained glass window again, noticing the knight still hasn’t saved the damsel.
Norris greets Marlowe and leads him to General Sternwood’s room, where the old man is resting in bed at midday. The general tells Marlowe he was not hired to find Rusty. Marlowe tells the old man he had wanted the detective to find Rusty. The General says he feels betrayed. Marlowe offers his money back, for an “unsatisfactory job.”
In contrast to the other characters in the novel, who use any opportunity to make money or further their own ends, Marlowe admits fault and offers money to an already rich man to makes things right. Thus, Marlowe is focused on higher goals than his own survival.
The General asks Marlowe why he went to see Captain Gregory. Marlowe tells Sternwood he thought the old man was afraid Rusty was involved in Geiger’s blackmail scheme somehow. Marlowe explains Gregory knows a lot more than he lets on, so Marlowe let Gregory believe the detective was looking for Rusty, to see what the Captain knew.
Marlowe had been following up on potential leads as he read through the lines of his employer’s original request, to see what the old man really wanted to know. To do the job to his high standards—Marlowe’s true goal—the detective had investigated deeper than the old man had requested.
Continuing, Marlowe explains Norris thought the job was done when Geiger was out of the way, but Marlowe didn’t see things that way. The detective says Geiger was trying to find out if Sternwood was hiding anything, that is, if he knew something about Rusty.
Marlowe’s conscientiousness had brought him to the real mystery behind the case—why Geiger would specifically blackmail Sternwood. If Sternwood paid out on a small threat, that meant he was scared of something much bigger, something Geiger could make a lot more money from.
The General tells Marlowe to see the job through, offering the detective $1,000 if he can find Rusty, and just to make sure Rusty is okay, or if he needs money. Marlowe says he’ll try. The General is exhausted, and Marlowe leaves to let him rest.
The General’s intentions are mixed. While he wishes to soothe his own sense of pride by reassuring himself Rusty hadn’t fooled him, the old man also wishes to help Rusty for his own sake. The General in part assumes the worst in Regan, but also hopes he has assumed incorrectly.