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Marlowe comes to after his beating and realizes that he has been tied up and handcuffed, and that he is in the house beside the garage. He also realizes that a woman is in the room with him. The woman is Mona Grant Eddie Mars's wife. Marlowe is sore from his beating, but this does not stop him from his typically hard and witty banter. He and Mona talk, and as he describes her it is clear he is attracted to her. Mona, whom Marlowe calls "Silver-Wig" because of the platinum wig she is wearing.
Mona defends Eddie Mars because she is in love with him, even when Marlowe accuses Mars of being a murderer—or worse, a murderer by proxy. Silver-Wig also assures Marlowe that her husband did not kill Rusty Regan. Nevertheless, Silver-Wig sets Marlowe free of his ropes. She cannot undo his handcuffs because Canino who has left Silver-Wig to watch over Marlowe, has left with the keys. Marlowe asks her to come with him for her own safety, but she refuses. Marlowe is about to leave, but not before he and Silver-Wig kiss.
Marlowe runs out of the house into the rain and toward the highway, going over in his mind the plan he perceives Canino and his henchman have to kill him. Marlowe runs to the highway and sees that his car has been repaired so that it could be driven away after the thugs were done with Marlowe. Marlowe grabs his gun from the car and heads back to the house. On the way there he is almost spotted by Canino in his car.
When Marlowe arrives back in the house, he is too impatient to allow the scene to play out and Silver-Wig to attempt her explanations. Instead, he throws gravel at the window, trying to lure Canino from the house. When that does not work, Marlowe turns on the car ignition, as Canino has left his keys inside. Marlowe turns the key but exits the car after doing so, knowing that Canino will shoot at the car, thinking that Marlowe is still inside.
Canino does just that, and Marlowe feigns a scream of pain. Canino laughs and sends Silver-Wig out to see if she can see Marlowe. Silver-Wig lies for Marlowe and screams out that she can see Marlowe's dead body behind the wheel. Fooled by Silver-Wig, Canino lets his guard down, and Marlowe manages to shoot him.
Marlowe is at the Missing Persons Bureau talking to Captain Gregory. We learn that Marlowe has been chided by the homicide bureau, and by the police in general, for having taken matters into his own hands. Marlowe tells Captain Gregory that he is done with the case, even though Rusty Regan has not been found and even though Captain Gregory knows that to ask of Marlowe such a request is all but futile. After leaving the Missing Persons Bureau, Marlowe gets the feeling that the Captain knows something and is not telling him.
That night, Marlowe finds himself unable to sleep, reliving the experiences of the night before. He thinks of Silver-Wig, who was eventually released by the police, and recalls recounting his story to the police, and his admission that he had shot Canino.
Suddenly Marlowe's phone rings. It is Norris, the Sternwoods' butler, asking if Marlowe might come to the house that morning at the request of General Sternwood. When Marlowe arrives at the house, he finds Sternwood deathly ill in his bed. During the conversation, Sternwood seemingly blames Marlowe for betrayal, claiming he had not directly asked Marlowe to find Regan.
After Marlowe tells the General he is done with the case, Sternwood reveals his true intentions. He tells Marlowe that he will give him an extra $1,000 to find Regan. The General gives his reasons for the request: he does not so much care that Regan abandoned his daughter, but he simply had taken a genuine liking to Regan and wanted to make sure he was alright. There is also the matter, of course, of the General's pride in his own judgment of character that he wants to prove.
When Marlowe awakes in Chapter 28, after having been beaten by Canino and Art Huck, he complains to Silver-Wig of the soreness in his jaw. Silver-Wig responds, "What did you expect, Mr. Marlowe—orchids?" This remark is a double-entendre on Chandler's part, as well as a piece of dramatic irony. In a sense, orchids are, symbolically, exactly what is to be expected of such a situation, given Chandler's setup of the orchid symbol in the early chapters. Orchids are full of beauty, just as Silver-Wig is, but they are also flowers that release a rotten smell and thrive in a "cloying" heat. Sliver-Wig is not aware of the significance of her own words, but we immediately recognize the literary device and perk up immediately, feeling a sudden sense of danger as well as the sexual tension that is released by the image.
There is immediate sexual energy between Marlowe and Silver-Wig, perhaps because they are similar in many regards. They are both "good" people caught in a dangerous world. Silver-Wig cannot help her love for Eddie, but she recognizes wrong when she sees it and she releases Marlowe. Meanwhile, Marlowe, who has been all edge and hardness, cannot help but reveal a tenderness behind his descriptions of this girl in the platinum wig. For instance, Marlowe says of Silver-Wig's voice, "It was a smooth slivery voice that matched her hair. It had a tiny tinkle in it, like bells in a doll's house. I thought that was silly as soon as I thought of it." We are meant to realize a hidden softness or sensitivity in Marlowe's tone, even when he reproaches himself for it.
Marlowe is not the only character that reveals a soft spot in these chapters. General Sternwood readily admits to a genuine affection for Rusty Regan. Perhaps because he is on his deathbed, we readily believe that he speaks the truth: he does not care so much about the abandonment of his daughter as he does about Regan himself, his safety and well being. However, we should also take into consideration the General's words: "I must be a little too vain about my judgment." The General does, then, display genuine affection in his words to Marlowe, but by adding the above statement, the General reveals that he is a double-sided and complex character whose intentions we must constantly question.
Furthermore, just as we have witnessed in the past, the tension between "coppers" and Marlowe resurfaces in Chapter 30. Marlowe is ready to take things into his own hands as long as he is working for his client (unless his client is crooked) and for the greater good. He does not believe in cover-ups, and he is honest about what he has done. Marlowe admits to having shot Canino, even if it endangers his position. He also refuses to take money for a job he does not believe to be finished—he has not yet found Regan.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Big Sleep!