WHO WACKED ROGER RABBIT? by GARY K. WOLF
An excerpt from the third book in the uproariously noir toontown gumshoe series upon which the award winning film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was based. It doesn’t get more urban fantasy than this!
In Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?, hard-boiled gumshoe Eddie Valiant lands a plum job as Gary Cooper’s bodyguard while Coop and his director Barney Sands scout locations for Coop’s next movie—a screwball comedy titled Hi, Toon! Coop needs Eddie’s protection because a sinister hoodlum has threatened to murder Coop if the movie gets made.
Eddie’s dream job quickly turns into a nightmare. The film’s being shot in Toontown, and Coop’s co-star turns out to be none other than Roger Rabbit.
Eddie’s a big fan of Coop. Of Roger? Not so much.
Eddie, Coop, Roger, and the ever-glamorous Jessica Rabbit become embroiled in a mystery that could destroy Toontown. When Roger bites off more Toonish trouble than Eddie can swallow, the answer to the question Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? becomes no laughing matter.
We pulled up outside the intersection of Snigger and Snicker Streets.
According to Roger Rabbit’s Gossipy Guide To Toontown, the rabbit lived here. If so, his house was invisible. The address he listed was a weed-filled vacant lot.
I rechecked the rabbit’s map. We stood smack in front of the lot where he had drawn a big red X and written “This is where I live!”
Maybe his house had fallen down. Toon houses do that sometimes just for the perverse pleasure of it. Maybe a mischievous Toon tornado carried his house off. Like what happened in that Wizard of Oz movie. Maybe the same tornado that carried Dorothy off to Munchkinland took Roger Rabbit to kingdom come.
I should be so lucky.
A word balloon popped up out of a foot wide hole in the ground. “Welcome to my humble abode!” the balloon said in the slap happy lettering style you get out of a Toon that’s been slapped happy.
Maybe, just maybe, that balloon wasn’t the rabbit’s. Maybe the balloon popped out of some other Toon living in a hole in the ground. Some Toon with an ounce of sense to him. Some Toon that wouldn’t drive me nuts.
The next balloon sealed the deal. “I’m so p-p-p-pleased to see you!” I knew only one Toon who slobbered his P’s. Roger Rabbit was down there.
Roger popped out of the hole. I mean literally. He popped out of the hole like he was the cork in bottle of overly-bubbled champagne. He flew about ten feet into the air. He landed on the sidewalk, planted his feet, spread open his arms and put up a balloon that spelled out “Ta da!” in the kind of bright light bulbs they use on movie marquees. Roger Rabbit knew how to make an entrance.
Barney Sands’s grin resembled a quarter moon with teeth. He was filming the rabbit’s every move for his behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of his movie. “Love, love, love what you’re doing here,” he said. “Roger Rabbit rocketing into action.”
“Gee, thanks, Mister Sands,” said Roger. “That’s a swell compliment coming from a big deal movie maker like you.”
Roger was either greasing Sands good, or he hadn’t done his homework. I’d checked Sands’s background. The biggest Hollywood deal he’d ever swung was a two-for-one deal for burgers at the Steak and Shake on Melrose.
Sands pointed at me. “You know Eddie Valiant.”
“I sure do,” said Roger. “We’re like brothers, Eddie and me. Or maybe half brothers. Or maybe second cousins once removed, or maybe—”
“Yeah, Roger,” I said, stumping on his family tree. “We get the picture.”
Roger came towards me, his lips extended and puckered. Toons are always kissing. Why can’t they shake hands like normal people?
Oh, wait. I forgot. Because they’re not normal or people.
I held up my hands in front of my face. He wound up planting his big wet one on my left palm. “I told you the last time I saw you. No more kissing.”
“Sure, Eddie, sorry.” said the Rabbit. “I’m just so happy to see you that I forgot.”
“Yeah, well, I ain’t happy to see you.”
The rabbit physically deflated the way a soufflé does when given a cold shoulder from an oven. “Gee, Eddie. I thought we was friends. I thought that’s why you took this job. So you and me could spend more time together.”
I had to set this rabbit straight, and quick, or my time in Toontown would be even worse than I was expecting. “You thought wrong. I took the job in spite of you, not because of you.”
Roger lost another gallon of oomph. He got so saggy he almost turned into a soggy white, orange, red, blue, and yellow heap of heartache. That was when Sands said the magic words that pumped him back up.
“Roger, I’d like you to meet Gary Cooper.”
Roger instantly turned back into the spritely, lively, giddy rabbit everybody knows and everybody but me loves.
“Mister Cooper, what an honor.” Roger bowed at the waist the way you would kowtow to the King of Siam. “I am so happy to meet you.”
Roger straightened up. He should have stopped there. Except Toons always take everything to the extreme, do everything to excess.
Roger ran through his complete repertoire of greetings. He put his hands in a prayer position in front of his mouth and bowed his head. He raised his arm and waved. He put one hand on his scrawny chest over his heart and lobbed it up and down to mimic the beating of his heart. He cocked his elbow into a right angle, moved his hand to head level, and held it palm out like an Indian saying “Howdy!” to John Wayne. He dropped his hand, grabbed Cooper’s and shook. He leaned forward and kissed Cooper on both cheeks. He rubbed his nose against Cooper’s. He stuck out his butt. He couldn’t bump his rear end against Cooper’s since Cooper was sitting on a motorcycle. He settled for butt-bumping Cooper’s leg. He held one thumb up. He made an okay circle with his thumb and forefinger. He finished off with two salutes, the first one boy scout style, the second one military. There might have been a few greetings from a few countries in the remotest reaches of civilization that Roger didn’t cover. I’ll be darned if I knew what they were.
Cooper silently and impassively watched Roger go through his entire ritual. Then Cooper nodded his head a quarter of an inch. “Same.”
“I’m your biggest fan,” proclaimed Roger. “I’ve seen all your movies. I loved you in Arsenic and Old Lace and The Philadelphia Story.”
Cooper shook his head. “Cary Grant.”
“Oh,” said Roger. “Destry Rides Again? Mr. Smith Goes To Washington?”
“Mutiny on the Bounty? It Happened One Night?”
At this rate, we would be here all day. I was standing behind Cooper where he couldn’t see me. I waved at Roger. I pantomimed ringing a little bell.
Roger looked at me. A light bulb went on over his head. “He was in a movie called Dingaling?”
I shook my head. I mimed ringing the bell in a church steeple, pulling the rope down, letting the rope go back up.
Roger still didn’t get my hint. “I’m sorry, Eddie. I have no idea for whom the bell tolls.”
“Yup, me,” said Cooper.
“Huh?” said Roger.
“Great,” I said. “We got that straightened out.”
“We did?” said the rabbit.
“You wanna come inside?” asked Roger, pointing to the hole in the ground. “I’m sub-leasing from Bugs Bunny. He cashed in big and moved into a really deep hole on the Warner Bros. lot. Lucky rabbit.”
He hopped over and pointed at his home-sweet-hole-in-the-ground.
“Come on in and take a look. I got the place furnished real nice. Amazing the furniture you can make with dirt and a little water. I’ve got refreshments. Carrot cake, carrot juice, carrot pie, carrot stew, carrot dumplings.” His mouth started to water at the thought. A drooling rabbit is not a pretty sight. His saliva came out bright orange and hung down from his lips like snot dripping out of a jack o’lantern’s nose.
Sands turned off his camera. He wanted to film a documentary, not a horror movie. “So, Roger,” he said. “How about giving us a tour around Toontown? Show us some of the scene locations we talked about.”
“Okay, you bet,” Roger said cheerily. “I wish I had a copy of my Gossipy Guide To Toontown. That would be ideal for mapping our route. I only had one copy, though, and the book store sold that one. I’ll have to make another one. If you want to wait, making another copy will only take me a day or two. You can come in and keep me company while I work.”
I reached into my coat and pulled out his book. “You mean this?”
He took the book. “Aw, Eddie. Jeez. You were the one who bought my book! Golly, thanks. You don’t know how much that means to me.”
He leaned forward, lips puckered, ready to plant a big wet one on my cheek. I backed away. “What did I tell you? No kissing. Never. Not ever.”
“Sure, Eddie. I remember. I get carried away.”
“How about carrying us away from here?” I said. “Let’s get this tour on the road.”
The sooner we started, the quicker we ended and I could get back to civilization where every conversation didn’t start with knock knock and end with a punch line.
Roger rummaged around in his overall pockets. He pulled out a sheet of paper. “I got your list of shooting locations.”
Roger opened his Guidebook. He unfolded a page. He unfolded that page again. Again. And again. Until he had a page roughly the size of an elephant’s bedspread.
“We’ll start with the Toontown Trolley.”
The completely unfolded page was a Toontown Trolley route map. The route might have been laid out by a three year-old in his first year of scrawl school. Trolley tracks circled around, back, forth, around again, crossed over themselves and over themselves again. I’ve seen fewer twists and turns on a roller coaster.
“Now I know why Toons have dizzy natures. Too many years of riding this Trolley,” I said.
“You’re quite the kidder, Eddie,” said Roger. “You always make me laugh. He started to climb on the motorcycle behind me and Coop. “Let’s get going. The nearest stop’s three blocks away.”
“No, no, no,” I said. “No room. You ride up in Sands’s truck.”
“I love riding motorcycles. Can’t I ride with you? P-p-p-please, p-p-p-please?”
I jerked a thumb toward the truck.
“Aw, okay. I’ll get my own ride.”
Roger disappeared down his rabbit hole.
A couple of minutes passed. Then a large, square section of the vacant lawn hinged up out of the ground.
From deep underground, I heard the throaty roar of a powerful engine.
Roger Rabbit came sailing out of the opening. He was going so fast he went airborne.
He was riding a red, white and blue motorcycle that resembled a mammoth Harley. Except Harley never made a motorcycle with an eyeball for a headlight. Or a motorcycle that could talk.
This motorcycle came off the same assembly line that gave the world Benny the Cab.
Roger wore an outfit identical to Cooper’s. Same black leather jacket, same mushroom-shaped cap. “Meet my friend Charlie Cycle,” said Roger introducing us to his ride.
“How you doin’, pukes?’ said Charlie in the skinny, vertical word balloon felons used to send messages through the bars of their jail cells. “Waddya say we burn some rubbers? And I’m talking tires, not the kind you slip over your exhaust pipes. Follow me. If you can.”
Charlie spun his rear wheel, side slipped, and took off down the street in a cloud of smoke.
The speed and acceleration lifted Roger right off his seat. He hung on to Charlie’s handlebars, becoming the rabbitty equivalent of a raccoon tail.
“Go, go, go!” shouted Sands to his secretary, Miss Ethyl, who was driving his truck. His camera stayed focused on Charlie and Roger who were almost out of sight.
Miss Ethyl punched the accelerator. The truck didn’t have nearly enough power to catch the motorcycle and the rabbit. Miss Ethyl barely managed to keep them in sight.
We pulled up to the embarkation terminal for The Toontown Trolley.
“Heady,” Coop said. His face was blackened by the exhaust fumes of the truck. He used his tongue and his fingernail to dislodge the bugs caught in his teeth.
“I’m gonna grab me a few brews,” said Charlie to Roger. “If you need me to give you a ride home,” he winked his headlight eyeball, “call a cab. Cause in short order I’m gonna be too drunk to drive.”
I could grow to like this hunk of junk.
This excerpt from Who wacked Roger Rabbit? is copyright © Gary. K. Wolf. All Rights Reserved.
Title artwork is Copyright © Duncan Long. All Rights Reserved.
To buy the complete novel, visit Gary’s web site www.garywolf.com.
Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is available from Musa Publishing.
Pick up the whole series – then watch the movie!