A chance encounter (we are in late March, 1939) with hulking ex-con Moose Malloy on Los Angeles' Central Avenue, the part that is "not yet all negro", gets Marlowe into all kinds of trouble. Just released from prison, Malloy is looking for his one-time girlfriend, red-haired Velma, whom he last saw eight years ago. The nightclub where she used to sing, Florian's, is now a black "dine and dice emporium", and no one there has ever heard of her. Malloy flees after casually killing the black boss of the club, and Marlowe, the only white witness to Malloy's mayhem, is asked by a detective on the case, Nulty, to look for Velma. He learns the address of Florian's widow and visits her, a drunken middle-aged floozy. The widow tells him, unconvincingly, that Velma Valento is dead.
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