Roger was about ten minutes from Eddie's office by foot. He didn't drive often, on Jessica's request. So that was out of the question. And he wasn't particularly fond of public transportation— nor it of him. Confined, dirty spaces, and a hygienic, hyperactive rabbit never mixed. He'd been banned from Red Car before the Cloverleaf fiasco.
Roger didn't mind walking, or hopping for that matter, so he leapt off in the direction of L.A.'s mixed sector. Before he could get very far, a brown Plymouth pulled up to pace him on the street. A honk caught Roger's attention and he squinted through the tinted windows to see Eddie.
"Hiya! I was just going over to see you!"
"What for?" Eddie already had a sneaking suspicion. He pulled the car over to the side of street and parked. Roger opened the passenger door and hopped in. He pulled the new magazines out of his overalls and shoved them into Eddie's face.
Presented with even more magazines as evidence, Eddie begrudgingly took them and gave them a once over, but a once over was all he needed.
"Betty, in color?" He mused aloud. Roger nodded his head so fast it dissolved into a blur. "Since when?"
"Since today! Look at Sunday's cover." Roger moved the other magazines aside, revealing the black and white photograph of Betty with Felix. Eddie gave it a closer inspection.
"This is shopped." Unlike the pictures of Roger and Betty, the featured picture was a photograph rather than a painted rendering. Toons could be painted in anywhere, their shadows added over top the background to make it seem like they were actually there, interacting with their surroundings. Indistinguishable from actual photographs of toons. It was odd seeing as how easy they were to fake, these photographs were something entirely different.
"Take a look." Eddie handed the magazine back over to Roger. He pointed at the bottom left corner. Roger cocked his head and squinted.
"I'm not seein' anything."
"There's a faint white outline around Betty; neither of them cast shadows on the wall behind them, either. Those are separate photographs, cut and pasted together. Why any editor would be dumb enough to let this print is beyond me."
Roger's eyes widened. How hadn't he caught that?
"What about the colored ones?"
"They look real enough to me. Could be drawn on, I can't be sure. They're like the ones you showed me earlier. I was just heading down to the Telltale to talk to Delancy; now I got more ammo." Eddie started his car and pulled back off onto the street.
"I was coming back from the Insider!" Roger chirped. Eddie gave him a confused look.
"I know a guy who works there, and I wanted to help with the case!" The rabbit explained, bouncing up and down in his seat. "He's a real swell toon, you outghta meet him sometime!"
"Did he know anything?"
Roger's bouncing abruptly stopped, causing the car to jitter and Eddie to brake a little harder than he would've liked.
"No. He tried talking to that one lady you mentioned earlier, Tallulah, but he said she was busy." Roger shrugged, palms up, "He said he'd try and find something out for me though."
"Well that helps. Listen, you wanna help out, I got two jobs for ya."
"YOU DO!?" Roger clasped his hands together, brought his knees to his chest, and crossed his big floppy feet. Even his ears spiraled into a tight knot. Eddie flinched back, waiting for the rabbit to explode. "Oh boy, oh boy tell me what they are, tell me!"
"First of all, don't do that."
Roger unwound, sat up straight, and placed his hands neatly into his lap. He shot Eddie a polite smile.
"And second of all, you need to stick to what I tell you. Run things by me first, you hear?"
"Anything you say, Eddie! I'll be your eyes and ears, but only if you say so!"
"You know Red Hot?"
"Riding Hood?" The rabbit leaned forward and cocked his head, swishing his ears along with the movement. One smacked Eddie in the face. He shooed it away and turned to give the toon a dour look, like a father reprimanding a rowdy three-year-old. Roger didn't seem to notice.
"Yeah. I saw her at Betty's." The P.I. continued, "She good friends with her?"
"In the BW?" Roger asked, baffled. "I don't know her near as well as Jessie does, but it sure seems odd that she'd go down there. She's pretty new."
"That's what I was thinkin'. She was visiting someone else, some guy, but she stopped and talked to me for a bit. Told me Betty wasn't home." Eddie shook his head and lowered his gaze onto the steering wheel. "Once she left, I busted in—"
"You broke and entered inta Betty's apartment!?" Roger's hangnail eyebrows shot about a foot above his head.
"––but nothin' was there. Everything was gone, like no one'd ever lived there."
"W-was is ransacked?" Roger asked. With a heavy sigh, Eddie shook his head and shrugged.
"Not even. It was too clean to be a loot job. No robber woulda been that thorough, and even the TTPD wouldn't take that long to respond to a break in. The door was locked and I couldn't find any signs of lock picking or attempts at breaking in through the windows." The white rabbit lowered his ears until the dropped down over his forehead along with his orange tuft of hair.
He faced forward, his large, blue eyes reading across invisible lines written on the windshield.
"Looks like it."
"But––" Roger sat up, his ears perking up along with the rest of his body, "but what if it wasn't a break in. What if it wasn't a crime?"
"That she left? That's along the lines of what I've been thinking. And it might have something to do with this case of yours."
Roger cocked his head and scrunched his nose.
"Maybe. It's the only lead we got." Eddie said as he pulled the car over once more.
They'd reached the Telltale, a dumpy looking brick building that didn't stand out much compared to it's bouncing, singing counterparts. Roger almost seemed hesitant to enter.
"What's the matter, the business too serious for you?" Eddie held the door open, looking annoyed. He'd dealt with enough toon logic for that day, but he couldn't quite bring himself to scold Roger just yet. The rabbit wilted, looking like a kicked puppy. He backpedaled a few skirmish steps, twisting his hands around like he'd just spilt a glass of milk. "What?"
"I don't trust buildings that don't smile."
Eddie could only stare.
"Roger, we were just in one not a few hours ago. My office?"
"Yeah but human buildings can't smile. Toon ones are a'pposed to!"
"Fine," Eddie grumbled, "you're scared of faceless buildings, fine. You still wanna help me, right?"
Roger nodded eagerly.
"Find out who's responsible for the picture on this cover." Eddie tossed Roger the black and white magazine. "Report back."
The toon caught it clumsily, but not after letting it wallop him in the face, and then stood ramrod straight, snapping his lanky arm into a salute. Within a second his posture folded and Roger looked up to Eddie with great concern.
"How am I gonna do that?"
Eddie walked over to the rabbit and pulled the magazine from his hands. He flipped it open to the front page and pointed at a line of text.
Cover photo and centerfold spread credit: Carol Masters, 1950, DeGreasy Studios.
Roger's mouth formed a perfect O.
"You're a genius Eddie!" he hopped from foot to foot, almost making a circle around the detective before Eddie threw a hand out and grabbed Roger by his ears.
"Calm down, will ya? If I didn't know any better I'd think you never opened a book before."
Roger scrambled in Eddie's grip, swatting at his hands until Eddie released the toon. He fell to the ground with an 'umph', and then gave a pouty look up at the P.I.
"You said you'd stop yanking my ears."
"You said you'd cut the 'antics'."
"Fine," Roger's huff broke into a sly smile, and despite Eddie's warning her nuzzled his head against the detective's side, looking up at him expectantly, "but it's gonna be hard not to once I tell you why I'm so happy!" he finished in a sing song voice.
Eddie grumbled, shaking his arm to unlodge Roger from his spot.
"Fine, I'll bite."
"I KNOW CAROL!"
Roger, in a rare display of minding personal boundaries, skipped tugging on Eddie's coat lapels and danced around the man instead, throwing his arms up in joy.
"Masters? The photographer?"
"The one and only! She was MY photographer back before I was with Maroon!"
Eddie had to smile at that, for once bringing Roger along might've proved useful.
"Huh, that's convenient for us. Alright, go talk to her and see what you can find out. Meet me back at the office. And who knows, maybe you'll earn that R. Rabbit Associate label you keep writing on my office door. It's a pain to wipe that shit off."
Roger's beaming smile blinded him for a few moments. Eddie covered his sight with an arm, and only removed it once the radiant yellow had disappeared; but so had Roger, leaving nothing but a trail of rabbit shaped dust in his wake. A lazy word balloon floated down before Eddie. It wasn't often the rabbit chose to communicate through them. This one read: I'll earn my badge yet! The P.I. shrugged; at least he was enthusiastic, if nothing else.
Eddie wished he could say the same about himself.