Hollywood, California. 1949.
"Mpfff!" Miles of rope immobilized Jessica Rabbit, the gorgeous cartoon woman who was the wife of Roger Rabbit. She sat in a rickety wooden chair. Her long arms were tied behind her back; her shapely legs were bound tightly together. A thick, green cloth gagged her, so that all she could do to express herself was to make indistinct sounds with her mouth and give appealing glances with the rest of her face, something she did marvelously well.
Two oaken barrels stood next to her, long fuses running down from the tops onto the floor. The fuses were not lit just then, but Jessica knew they would be, and very soon. She shifted her body slightly and prepared herself for when that would occur.
"C'mon, make a decision!" demanded Baby Herman impatiently, reaching absently for a cigar that wasn't there. He glared irritably at the weasel sitting across the card table.
"I'm thinking," mumbled Screwball, scratching his head, an act which sent several cartoon fleas scurrying away, protesting indignantly in their shrill, indistinct voices. "I got a queen, that's worth ten, and a nine, and that's worth nine, so ten and nine make, um
." He counted on his fingers. "Nineteen. Yeah, that's a good score, so I'll stand."
"I'll take another card," decided Baby Herman, dealing himself the jack of clubs. "Okay, six and eight and ten adds up to twenty-one. Tough luck, sucker; I win again."
"You always win," whined Liverlips, another cartoon weasel.
"That's cuz, unlike you dopes, I got stragety." Baby Herman shuffled the cards. "So, you up for losing some more simoleons?"
"Hey, Baby Herman, I got the stuff!" announced Knuckles. The weasel carefully closed the door to the former meat market and handed Baby Herman a brown paper bag.
"Anybody see you?" demanded Baby Herman.
"No, I was real careful-like. I only spotted Betty Boop on my way back here, and she wasn't paying me no attention. She's been acting kind of batty lately, if you ask me."
"Betty Boop, eh?" Baby Herman leaned back in his highchair and closed his eyes. "You know, once I would have said that sheba could come change my diaper any old time, yet now it's been, what, ten years or something since she made her last cartoon? Kind of makes you think."
"Think about what?" asked Screwball.
The outside door banged open. "Okay, Baby Herman, where is she?" demanded Eddie Valiant, a human detective who often interacted with toons. He swept by the startled weasels to stand by Baby Herman, roughly turning the diminutive toon around so that they faced one another.
"Where's who?" roared back Baby Herman.
"My p-p-p-precious Jessica!" screamed Roger Rabbit, who had followed Eddie in. He jumped up on the table, knocking the cards to the floor.
"Hey, a game of Fifty-Two Pickup!" exclaimed Screwball in delight, gathering them up.
"She's missing and I remember how you kidnapped her last year, so we're here to unkidnap her! Jessica, where are you? Your Roger has come to the rescue!" The toon rabbit bounced off the table; he looked into the dusty display cases and any other recess he could find in the old store, all the while calling out his wife's name wildly.
"You're barking up the wrong tree, pal," Baby Herman informed Eddie Valiant, talking loudly to be heard over Roger's increasing desperate shouts. "Kidnapping's a mug's game; I learned that. Besides, my finances are in much better shape now. With television busting out all over, I'm earning plenty of simoleons making commercials for diapers and formula. Today's modern moms and pops want only the best for their little bundles of joy, bless the little hellions," he added, smiling his most innocent.
"Then why all the secrecy?" demanded Eddie Valiant. "Why are you hiding here? I saw that weasel creeping along and he was acting so furtive I knew something was up."
"It's my image, Valiant," he explained. "The advertisers don't want no one pitching their junk unless he's squeaky clean, so me and the weasels lay low here where we can indulge in our vices." He opened the brown paper bag and pulled out a rectangular wooden box. "Care for a smoke?" he invited pleasantly.
"So, this is all for privacy's sake?" asked Eddie skeptically, waving off the proffered cigar curtly.
"You got it, pal," agreed Baby Herman.
"Hey, Baby Herman, that ain't quite right," said Screwball suddenly. "There's also the matter of those bookies you owe a ton of simoleons to that you don't want finding you."
"Aha," said Baby Herman weakly, smiling sheepishly at Eddie after favoring the weasel with a venomous glare. "Well, now," he began, knocking a hair's width of ash off his cigar in order to give himself time to think of his next words. "Look, Valiant, if I kidnapped Roger's wife for ransom then everyone would automatically suspect me after what happened last time, so that's out." He twiddled the cigar, gaining confidence. "And what other reason could I possibly have to snatch her?"
"You tell me," replied Eddie, locking his gaze onto Baby Herman's.
"I'm making tons of simoleons in commercials too!" announced Roger, finally realizing Jessica wasn't in the building. "I play this rabbit who always tries to trick kids out of their breakfast cereal, and Jessica's starring in one about a new caramel popcorn snack that's simply exploding with flavor and oh my Jessica! Eddie, we have to find her fast!"
"Yeah, we'll find her," the detective promised him. "You know all the lowlifes in Toon Town," Eddie told Baby Herman. "Any ideas where we should look for her?"
"Me, knowing lowlifes?" asked Baby Herman. "Honest, I didn't even know the dame was missing until you came storming in here, but I can offer you this. Someone said that Betty Boop's been acting awfully screwy lately. You might want to try asking her a few questions. She always was a bit sweet on Roger, you know."
"Thanks, Baby Herman, that's what we'll do," agreed Eddie. "Come on, Roger, let's go."
Finding Betty Boop had turned out to be very easy; she was standing right outside the door. "Got a couple minutes to answer some questions, Betty?" Eddie asked her.
"Oh, Roger, I'm so sorry to hear about Jessica missing!" she exclaimed, ignoring the question as she wiggled over to the toon rabbit. "Can I do anything for you?"
"You can help me find my Jessica?" he wailed in reply.
"Betty, how did you know Jessica was missing?" demanded Eddie.
"Because Roger was looking all over Toon Town for her earlier today. I guess that's why he's with you now. You'll find her for him, won't you, Eddie?"
"Of course he will!" exclaimed Roger. "When I woke up this morning and Jessica wasn't home, I knew the case would be as good as solved the moment I walked into his office!"
"You had quite a crush on Roger once, didn't you Betty?" asked Eddie.
"Gee, I sure did," admitted Betty, looking slyly at Roger. "I was so devastated when he married Jessica; I cried buckets that day. But I cheered up when I remembered there were plenty of other fellas in the sea."
"Having a hard time finding work now, aren't you?" pressed Eddie. He felt guilty treating Betty so harshly, but he sensed time slipping away and needed to determine quickly if she were involved in Jessica's disappearance, so he swallowed his feelings.
"No, Eddie; everything's swell, really," she replied. "Like a lot of others, I jumped at the chance to make commercials for television, which works out great for a black-and-white toon like me. Although I do have to cover up a bit more for them," she added coyly, favoring him with her trademark wink. "It's worked out so well that I've even able to give up my concessionaire gig at the Ink and Paint Club."
"That's it!" yelled Roger Rabbit, hopping up and down. "Eddie, you remember that popcorn snack commercial I told you about with Jessica? Betty tried out for that, too, but didn't make it! Now she's out to kill two stones with one bird. She thinks getting rid of Jessica will free up a spot for her in that commercial and in my life!"
"No, Roger, it's not like that at all," pleaded Betty, stepping back anxiously; fear written in her wide eyes as Roger lunged forward. Eddie grabbed him before he could reach Betty, though. "I was happy for Jessica when she got that part; really, it's okay that I'm spending today in Toon Town's seedy side instead of in front of the cameras creating a thirty second adventure that tells people to eat those Cracker Jack knockoffs. I would never do anything bad to Jessica."
"Roger! Calm down!" ordered Eddie, panting hard. It was all he could do to restrain him.
"Don't listen to her Eddie!" pleaded Roger. "She's got Jessica hidden away somewhere and is going to do something terrible to her out of jealousy if we don't rescue her!"
"No, I don't have anything to do with Jessica's disappearance, I swear!" insisted Betty. "Jessica's my friend. I even came out this way to look for her. I'm sure Baby Herman has kidnapped her again and that she's inside that place of his. I've been watching it for hours now, to see if I could find out something."
"He's not in there, Betty," grunted Eddie, still holding Roger tightly. "We were just inside and had a good look around."
"Then he's got her somewhere else," decided Betty. "Use some of your rough detective stuff on him and I'm sure he'll come cleaner than a baby's bottom. Every toon knows he's scared to pieces about those bookies. Sure, he's making more simoleons now, but he's gambling more, too. Baby Herman's got Jessica hidden somewhere, and only you can find out where!"
"Not guilty, Toots," announced Baby Herman mildly. He was leaning against the store wall, watching the proceedings with bemused interest. Nearby, three weasel heads poked cautiously out the door. "Betty Boop's the culprit, all right. Grill her a bit, Valiant, and she'll crack like a soft-boiled egg."
"Baby Herman, you sure got a lot of nerve, showing your face out here," said Betty Boop. "Where have you hidden Jessica?"
"Where have you hidden her?" returned Baby Herman.
"I didn't kidnap her," protested Betty Boop. "Come on, Eddie, you believe me, right?"
"I'm not the kidnapper either," said Baby Herman hotly. "And the gumshoe knows it, too. Don't you, Eddie?"
"P-p-p-please, Eddie, I don't know what's going on, but we've got to find my darling Jessica!" Roger Rabbit reached up and pressed his long ears down against his head. "Can't you figure out who did it? Was it Baby Herman or Betty Boop? Where is she, Eddie?"
"Everybody, shut up!" ordered Eddie. He reviewed everything he had heard that day, and then, just like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle being gently nudged into place, the chaos in his mind formed a clear picture. "You want to know where she is?" he asked suddenly, frowning intently at Roger Rabbit. "Fine, I'll take you to her right now!"
"Mpfff!" It seemed to Jessica Rabbit that she had been bound and gagged for a very long time. She glanced ahead, looking slightly off to one side; a perfect expression of the classic damsel in distress written on her features.
Hsss! The fuses were lit; two tiny tongues of red flame raced across the floor and then up the sides of the barrels. In just seconds they would reach the end
"Don't worry Jessica; I'll save you!" shouted Roger Rabbit. His legs spun in a blur as he raced forward. He snatched Jessica off the chair, for she was not actually tied to it, and carried her in his arms, settling her gently on the floor some distance away. "Jessica, are you okay?" he asked anxiously, tugging at rope ends until she was free.
"Mmm, yes Roger," she answered him, "and it was very sweet of you to come to my rescue. However, next time, do you think you could
Kablooey! The two barrels exploded with a peculiar popping noise; debris flung up into the air.
"Hey, it's raining popcorn inside!" exclaimed Roger, cramming a fistful into his mouth. "Yummy caramel flavor, too. Hey, Jessica, who are all those fellows over there and why are they looking all mad at me?'
"What do you think you're doing, ruining that take, you numbskull bunny?" screamed a cameraman. "Now we got to do it all over again!"
"Somebody, sweep up this mess," ordered the director angrily, "and then set out a couple more barrels of this garbage!"
Jessica continued talking as if there had been no interruption. "
wait to save me until after I've finished shooting my commercial?"
"Oops," said Roger, looking guilty. "Sorry, Jessica, I forgot you were doing this today. And sorry to you too, Eddie."
"It's okay, Roger; what else would I expect from a toon?" shrugged the detective. "Just so long as Jessica's okay, I'm happy."
"Okay, places everybody!" shouted the director. "Let's do this again and no slipups this time. He looked meaningfully at Roger. "If you're going to stay, then keep QUIET!"
"Yes sir; I'll sit here silently until it's completely over," he promised. "You won't hear a sound out of me; no, not a peep or a word or a whisper or a sigh or a mutter or
"Yes, you do that, my honey bunny," Jessica interrupted him gently. She returned to her chair and settled down with a smile. "Now, could somebody please tie me up so that I can get back to work?"