Prologue: An Affair to Remember
"I'd do anything for my husband, Roger…. Anything." –Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1989)
Hollywood, Paint-and-Ink Club, 1947
The detective grumpily settled down on a table not far from Martha Acme. Of all the crazy tasks that she had to be assigned to, she had to be tied to a case involving an affair between a tooniphile and a toon.
All because of a CEO getting worried about her A-list toon star's performance. Who believes in ToonTown Tabloids anway?
Edna turned to see Bertie Boop, a dashing toon star of the 1920s.
"Bertie? What are you doing here?"
Bertie adjusted his waiter's jacket, "Business has been kind of slow since cartoons went to color," he gave her a wink and his trademark Bertie Boop Flex, "But I still got it, Edna."
Edna smiled back, "Yeah, you still got it."
Majority of the female patrons screamed making her jump. In a semi-stampede, they rushed near the stage. On the front seats, Martha excitedly patted her hair and checked her make-up.
Edna gave Bertie a perplexed look while she jerked her head at Martha, "What's with her?"
Bertie fixed his tray on his hand, "Ms. Acme never misses a night when Jesse performs."
Edna's face became satiric as she leaned on her backrest with her arms folded.
"She has a thing for rabbits, huh?"
Silence hushed as a lone spotlight shined center stage. A clear masculine voice sang out.
"You have plenty suitors before you were twenty-two."
The curtains opened and Edna's mouth dropped in surprise, her body reacting at the sight before her.
"But they all fall short or made a fool out of you."
A tall, elegant toon of a man in a red tuxedo stood alone in the center. Ginger hair brushed over one emerald eye as he looks at the audience with an intensity that could burn through paper.
"Let me do you right, unlike the way that they do."
The women trilled, others have long swooned. A band of doves played a viscous jazz behind him, a lethargic background under the hypnotized air.
"Come over here,"
One woman reached up a hand to him but her knees gave way when he turned to look at her.
"Let me show it to you."
Edna slowly leaned to Bertie, not believing her own eyes. This was the husband of the bimbo bunny who kept hitting herself awhile ago?
"He's married to Rhoda Rabbit?" she whispered just in case there had been a mistake somewhere. The rabbit must have decided to keep her last name.
Bertie’s eyes turned dreamy at the rabbit's name. "Yeah, what a lucky goi."
He gently tapped Edna's chin to prevent flies from entering her mouth before walking away.
Jesse walked towards the audience, a king amongst lionesses –or a meat among she-wolves. The hunger in the women’s eyes were a blur of both slave and master.
"Now if you have your wits in those years ago,"
He knelt down to another woman who stared at him, enthralled. Jesse tipped her chin up as he smiled coolly at her.
"You wouldn't be wond'ring 'bout your tears and woes."
He sang as he left her to slump on her seat in a dazed manner.
"Let me do you right,
Unlike the way that they do."
Jesse stopped at the edge of the stage, looking down at Edna and Martha. He smoothly climbed down from the stage and took Martha's hand who have flirtatiously held it out to him.
"Come over here,"
He gave her a look that made her sigh before he kissed her hand.
"And let me show it to you."
He looked at Edna who stared back in surprise.
"Come over here,
And let me show it to you."
Before Edna could realize what's happening, Jesse had grabbed the backrest of her chair and tipped her backwards. She gasped in surprise as she found herself caged by his arm and emerald eyes.
"Let me do you right-“
Somewhere in the background, a woman moaned.
“Unlike the way that they…"
He leaned closer and for all of her reflexes, Edna's mind became blank.
He slowly leaned her upright again as he backed away, leaving Edna feel like she had ran for miles.
The detective silently peeped over the band instruments piled in a corner. A woman in a luxurious fur coat primped at her hair before knocking delicately at the door with a gilded star on it.
“Who is it?” the rabbit’s husband said from behind it.
“Jesse, darling, it’s me!” Martha Acme gushed, who seemed to pose as soon as the door opened.
“You sure slayed them tonight, honey. You were incredulous, I mean it!”
Edna crept silently towards the door as soon as it closed. Acme continued to speak.
"You were truly and absolutely the cat’s meow out there. You got them-”
She placed her ear closely to the door. Seeing the keyhole, she took a peep.
“-all fired up and wanting more. You whipped them into-”
Someone growled and Edna felt herself being tapped on the shoulder. Hard.
“What are you doing here, ugly?” an unwieldy gorilla bouncer snarled, her dinnerjacket threatening to burst from the seams.
Edna craned her neck to scowl all the way to her face. “Who are you calling ugly, hag-ly?”
Which might not have been the wisest decision in her part.
She momentarily reflected on her actions as she lay facedown on the trash outside the Ink-and-Paint Club.
“And don’t let me catch you peepin’ around here again!” the gorilla roared before slamming the door close.
She got up, cursing the menopausal butch of a gorilla under her breath. Using her acrobatic skills, she hanged herself upside-down outside Jesse's dressing room window.
“Come over here, Jesse. Come over here.” Martha’s voice was soft. “I got everything arranged right here on the bed.”
Jesse’s voice sounded tired. “Not tonight, Martha. I have a headache.”
Martha’s voice seemed to pout. “But Jesse, you promised!”
There was a sigh. “Oh alright. But this time, take off the hand buzzer.”
Edna angled her camera to the window, careful not to be seen. She took a shot.
“Patty-cake… Patty-cake… Patty-cake, patty-cake-“
“-patty-cake, patty-cake, patty-cake-”
Her eyes widened in shock when she saw what's happening inside. Martha’s excited voice rang out.
"I don't believe this," Edna muttered as she takes picture after picture of the bawdy scene.
Hollywood, Maroon Cartoon Studios, 1947
"Patty-cake! Patty-cake!" Rhoda Rabbit bawled miserably as she pounded the window where Acme Factory could be seen across the road.
She dropped down and slumped on Maroon’s table, "This is my entire fault! I let this happen!"
Mrs. Maroon rubbed her back sympathetically, giving her own napkin. Edna watched them apathetically. It was amazing how Maroon could revert from a shrewd CEO who convinced her to accept the job to a compassionate pro-toon Mother Goose.
There are women who still look beautiful when they cry. Their eyes shimmer before a dignified tear rolls down their cheek.
Rhoda Rabbit was not one of them.
Snot and tears glistened down her face as her shoulders racked with sobs. Rhoda blew her nose with the same pitch as that of an elephant.
"I-I should have seen it coming! He'd been coming home late at night! I'd wake up and he wouldn't be there! I should have -hic! I should have -hic! I should have-"
She suddenly made a sound of a dying animal, pounding her yellow-gloved fists on the table.
Edna gaped at her as though she was a dying animal. Mrs. Maroon gingerly took away her soiled napkin and threw it in the trash.
The rabbit shakily lifted herself from the table, her arms quivering with tremendous effort, "I c-can't believe it! My Jesse isn't like that! He isn't so!"
Edna rolled her eyes. Toons, she thought.
"You better believe it, girl. I took the pictures myself," she held out the photos to the rabbit who looked at her like a baby seal about to be clubbed, "Your husband played patty-cake."
Rhoda desperately held the photos closed to widened eyes; looking for a trick of light, an illusion, anything! Her head whipped from side-to-side as she flipped through them like an animatronic, her ears swishing in a blur.
"No. No. No. No! No! No! No! No! No! NO! It can't be! Jesse's my husband! It's just absolutely impossible!"
She threw away the photos as she collapsed on her knees, the scandalous pictures falling around her.
"I can't believe it! I don't want to believe it!" she said, clutching herself as she rocked back and forth, "Jesse's the man of my life, the prince of my story, the knight of my chess pieces!"
It hurt Edna not to roll her eyes. There are two things she couldn’t stand: toons and emotional women. Right now, this rabbit was both. She took a shot of Scotch to make her tolerate the situation.
"Well, you better start playing without one 'cause Acme got that piece now."
"It's so hard to believe it," Maroon said sympathetically, as she guided a limp Rhoda off the floor into her office chair, "Martha has been my friend and neighbour for 30 years. Who would have thought she's a couger?"
"Jesse wouldn't do this to me," Rhoda wailed weakly, her lips trembling, "Did I push him to do this? Have I been focusing too much on my career? Have I been letting myself go? Is there something wrong with me?"
Edna bit down a remark that would not end the conversation well. Instead, she just scooped away the offending photos.
Women, she thought.
Maroon soothingly rubbed her back, "Oh no, sweetie! Don't blame yourself! That Jesse is a cad! You've got no one to blame but him!"
Rhoda looked down, her eyes hollow, "Jesse isn't a cad."
Then what kind of a husband flirts to make a living among other things? Edna thought, taking another shot. At least Maroon got alcohol in her office.
"Oh, dearie. I know this is painful for you," Maroon took the Scotch out of Edna's hands and poured a shot.
"Here, girl, take this. It will make you feel better."
Rhoda blearily grabbed the shot glass and drank it straight.
The glass fell from slacked fingers. Her arms droop limply to her sides as she stood still, her head bowed.
Edna pauses in mid-drink. Alcohol always, ALWAYS have an paroxysmic effect on toons. Edna swore in surprise when Maroon suddenly grabbed her and ducked for cover.
Silence. A sob.
Then a high-pitched scream of rage rang out.Edna peeped over their hiding place. Still screaming, steam gushed out of
the rabbit's ears. Her eyes shone blood-red, fire bursting from her body as she clenched
her fist and bought it down in a fury of explosion.
The detective yelled in shock as dust and debris flew everywhere. Edna crouched still in their hiding place, her heart pounding. It was World War 2 again when a bombshell landed too close for comfort.
When the dust settled down, both Edna and Maroon carefully stood up to see a pile of ash where the office table used to be. The rabbit stood there panting with one smoking fist dangling uselessly on her side.
Then without warning, she collapsed out cold on the ground.
"Son of a…" Edna said, a bit breathless. Talk about a woman on her period, scorned and toony to boot.
Maroon came to Rhoda's aid, dragging her by the rabbit ears away from the disaster area, "I do apologize for this, Ms. Valiant. But Rhoda needs to let it all out."
Edna shrugged it off. She had worked with toons before.
"My job here is done. What about that carrot you owed me?"
Maroon gave her a check, "A deal's a deal," she said primly.
There was a groan and they both looked at the prone rabbit.
"Oooohh… Hangover," she moaned, holding her head as she sat up.
Rhoda sniffed, putting her face to her hands. Edna couldn’t decide if she look like an abandoned puppy or the worst example of the jilted lover.
"You okay, dear?" Maroon asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. The rabbit shook her head.
"What am I going to do?" she whimpered, her eyes watering again.
Edna paused in patting her check inside her pocket.
"What are you going to do? Are you serious?" she asked incredulously.
Rhoda weakly looked up to her but then cried in surprise as the pictures slapped her across the face.
"Pull yourself together, you crazy toon!" Edna yelled, whacking her with each word.
Rhoda looked at her in shock and Edna glared at her.
"You're not the first woman whose husband cheated on her and the heck will you even be the last!"
Edna pointed a finger at her.
"You'd do what every woman who has hired me would do when I caught their men with their pants down! You're going to confront him, kick him out of the house, destroy his belongings and slap him with a divorce! You'd get over him and life goes on 'cause this ain't a cartoon!"
Maroon tried to placate her, "Ms. Valiant, I think that's a bit too early to tell her tha-"
Maroon looked at her with surprise.
"I should move on," Rhoda said, more to herself, "I can do this," she straightened up, "It's time to face facts, cut ties, break clean. I –I don't matter to him anymore. I'm a hard hare, I can do this."
"I mean, I'd probably never love again. I'd probably become a crazy cat lady –a crazy rabbit lady, a crazy lady rabbit cat, a rabbit cat lady crazy, a-" She shook her head.
Then her eyes cleared, "Why am I the one acting like I suffered a loss? He's the one who cheated on me! I don't deserve him! And you know what?"
She pumped her fist determinedly, her fluffy cottontail poofing up with a fight; "He made his decision when he played patty-cake and it's time I make mine!"
She slammed the door as she left the room.
A few seconds later, they suddenly heard someone wailing miserably outside the door.
Edna gave the door a withering stare, "That's her decision?"
Maroon gave a once-over at what remained of the table, "At least she took it well."
What was she going to do?
Rhoda slid down against the door of Mrs. Maroon's office, her hands clutching her face. Her chest rose with breaths, heavy and rapid (though as a toon, she didn't have to).
Morning had been ages ago. The ToonTown Gossip Column, her messing her lines, the director's disgusted face.
Then the whole day was a confused blur of that feeling eating inside her.
That feeling that something was wrong. That feeling that something had happened, was happening and will happen.
But she didn't know what.
That feeling took a big chunk in one bite when the detective showed her the pictures. This must be what it feels like being shot in the chest, seeing Jesse-
She clutched her face harder, her eyes shutting tighter.
But the detective had snapped her out of her grief –slapping the photos across her face to literally knock some sense into her. Edna Valiant.
Brave words. Brave front. Edna's words had been all that she could hold on back in Maroon's office. But she broke once out of sight and here she was.
What was she going to do?
Compulsion seized her by the feet and she took off running. Where? She didn't care, it's better than-
The corridors suddenly spun and Rhoda tumbled. Her stomach heaved and her eyes desperately looked for a wastebasket.
Her stomach heaved again and she clamped her mouth shut, stumbling to the nearest trash can. Knees crashed and she clutched the rim, retching.
Her throat spasmed and she bowed her head down.
Then she retched.
Her eyes widen in disbelief and then with growing horror, when she realized it wasn't vomit.
It was bubbles.
She stared open-mouthed as they float lazily up the ceiling.
Adult toons would burp bubbles upon alcohol or soap consumption.
But Toons NEVER barf bubbles, not unless they're-
Her breath hitched.
End of Prologue