The Little Sister
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Her name is Orfamay Quest and she's come all the way from Manhattan, Kansas, to find her missing brother Orrin. Or least ways that's what she tells PI Philip Marlowe, offering him a measly twenty bucks for the privilege. But Marlowe's feeling charitable though it's not long before he wishes he wasn't so sweet. You see, Orrin's trail leads Marlowe to luscious movie starlets, uppity gangsters, suspicious cops and corpses with ice picks jammed in their necks. When trouble comes calling, sometimes it's best to pretend to be out.
long I forgot. But you know me, pal. Once a softy always a softy.’ The man on the bed looked old and hard and shrunken without his toupee. The yellow mask of death was beginning to set his face into rigid lines. French said calmly: ‘Well, that takes a load off my mind. This punk ain’t going to be no twenty-four-hour-a-day job. The hell with him.’ He replaced the toupee over one eye and stood up off the bed. ‘That’s all for you two,’ he said to Flack and me. Flack stood up. ‘Thanks for the
voices and water-front morals. Now, wait a minute. Lots of nice people work in pictures. You’ve got the wrong attitude, Marlowe. You’re not human to-night. I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it. It smelled stale and old like a living-room that had been closed too long. But the coloured lights fooled you. The lights were wonderful. There ought to be a monument to the man who invented neon lights. Fifteen stories high, solid marble. There’s a boy who really made something out of nothing. So I
but one sedan across the way and the boss mortician sniffing a tree-rose on his way back to count the take. With a beaming smile he faded into his neat colonial doorway and the world was still and empty again. The sedan that was left hadn’t moved. I drove along and made a U-turn and came up behind it. The driver wore blue serge and a soft cap with a shiny peak. He was doing a crossword puzzle from the morning paper. I stuck a pair of those diaphanous mirror sunglasses on my nose and strolled past
bedroom. It was a small compact doctor’s office. An open door showed a part of an examination room. A sterilizer was working in the corner. There were a lot of needles cooking in it. ‘That’s a lot of needles,’ I said, always quick with an idea. ‘Sit down, Mr Marlowe.’ He went behind the desk and sat down and picked up a long thin letter-opening knife. He looked at me levelly from his sorrowful eyes. ‘No, I don’t know anyone named Orrin Quest, Mr Marlowe. I can’t imagine any reason in the
monkeys in the Brazilian jungle. It had nothing to do with me. ‘I’d kill him if I had to,’ I said, licking along my lips. I was leaning a little, knees bent, all set for a jump again. ‘Good night, amigo. I wear black because I am beautiful and wicked – and lost.’ She held the gun out to me. I took it. I just stood there holding it. For another silent moment neither of us moved. Then she smiled and tossed her head and jumped into the car. She started the motor and slammed the door shut. She