On a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, there’s still one bunny trying to figure it all out–Bun Noir, private eye.
It was just after midnight when I stopped into The Bunny Hutch on 53rd street. I nodded to the owner who was behind the bar, a Flemish giant named Thumper who I’d known since the war. We’d met in Morocco. In Rabat. He was working for the French underground until a mole working for the other side blew his cover and he had to high-tail it out of town. He was an intimidating sort, but I’d always known him to be good bunny.
Thumper’s was no family restaurant, if you get my drift. It was a place for seedy action and catered to all types. Big shots and celebrities rubbed shoulders with hop-heads and bail jumpers. Off in a corner booth I saw Paul and Bunny Mellon with a couple other swells just up from Martha’s Veg Yard in Massachewsetts slumming for the evening. On the main floor there was song siren Debbie Hare giving nodding approval to the house band, Randy Jack and the Jackalopes, as they noodled their way through a booze addled twenty-minute cover of “White Rabbit”. But I wasn’t there for the entertainment. I was there to do my business. And my business was chewing things.
I was chewing on a $100 bill that night which I got from a bunny named Bugs, a bunny who gave me the creeps and the willies, the heebie-jeebies, and probably tularemia if I’d let him stand any closer to me.
Bugs was mobbed up, big time. He owned the Cottontail Club up in Harlem, and it provided him with a lot of green, a lot of lettuce, if you know what I mean. He had a girlfriend named Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit. She ran out on him. It was my job to find her, and not start a family with her. Not an easy job when you’re a bunny. But I got a tip that she might be working here.
The voice sounded like my cup of carrot juice, if you know what I mean. I thought my night was looking up till I turned and looked down at a tray of Procreate brand carrotettes hanging from the neck of one of the joint’s bimbae.
“No thanks,” I said. “Got anything to chew on that’s no calorie?”
“Or shoe leather.”
“Not my night I guess.”
She was hot. Really hot. At least I had to assume she was hot. She had on an angora sweater that started at her teeth and ran down to her to ankles. But then it hit me. An out of focus picture of Jessica from her days on the ARBA Best In Show circuit that I got with the C-note had been all I had to go on to that point. But it seemed like it was enough to tell me my search was over.
“You’re Rabbit, aren’t you,” I said.
“No way, Ace, I’ve had my shots.”
“I said Rabbit, not rabid.”
“No, that ain’t me. Maybe somebody who looks like me.”
Seemed possible. If you’ve seen one angora sweater you’ve seen ’em all. All the same, doing my business was starting to play second fiddle. “You’ve got a cute little nose,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, who don’t. Is that the best line you’ve got cuz I’m busy.”
“Say, why don’t you and me go back to my place and slip in a pirated video tape of Night of the Lepus.
“Too violent. Besides, I only watch movies that present rabbits in a positive light.”
“That ain’t got no rabbits in it. What d’ya take me for, a dumb bunny? Hey listen, I don’t have to take no scat from lowlifes like you. I’m not gonna be a carrotette girl forever ya’ know. I got class. I got talent. I’m gonna be in the pictures some day and I’m gonna be a star.”
“Yeah? What’s your name, so I can tell people I knew you before you became a star.”
“Yeah, that’s right. I’m gonna be a great comic actress.”
“Honey funny bunny?”
“Yeah, that’s right, just like my idol, Carrot Lombard. I was in Easter Parade in summer stock and got my name in the newspaper review.”
“What did ya’ play?”
“What d’ya think?”
While we talked I noticed I was getting the eyeball from a degenerate type with a cue ball head standing in front of an Employees Only door with his arms crossed.
“Who’s the gorilla?” I asked Honey.
“Where’s a gorilla? I don’t see no gorilla. How could a gorilla fit in here? What are you, nuts?”
“It’s a figure of speech. The thug by the door.”
“That’s the new bouncer. Name’s Fudd.”
“Yeah, that’s him. Know him?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Here he comes.”
“Wookin’ faw twuble, wabbit?”
He was like a cross between Peter Lorre, Struther Martin, and a dead hyena.
“Somebody wet you outta ya cage? What’s ya business, bunny?”
Before I had a chance to answer some dame from behind answered for me.
“He’s been asking a lot of questions about Wanda Scutnik. Says his newspaper is offering a $5,000 reward for any information which will help clear Frank Wiecek.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Bun Noir, private eye. Who are you?”
“Girl in bar number 2. Isn’t this Call Northside 777?”
“Oh, geez. This is so embarrassing. I gotta get out of here.”
I’d seen it before: characters from 50’s detective movies getting lost in all the dark and the shadows and then stumbling into other films by mistake. I remember in ’50 when Kirk Douglas was doing Detective Story. He got lost and ended up in Champion. In the big boxing scene the bell rang and both fighters came out of their corners. But Douglas was packing heat, and instead of dropping the guy with a right upper cut, he shot him.
Fudd talked a good game. It was time to move on.
It had been a long day. All I wanted to do was get back to my place, pour myself a tall carrot juice, and curl up with a copy of Watership Down, which most people think is a story about a damaged submarine, but it’s not.
However, it wasn’t going to be so easy. The phone was ringing when I hopped through the door.
“Yeah?” I said.
“Yeah, that’s me. Who’s this?”
“You don’t know me, but I got a job for you.”
“What is it?”
He seemed nervous, afraid to say what he had to tell me. But he managed to pull himself together.
“Bunny Lake is missing.”
On a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, one bunny is still trying to figure it all out–Bun Noir, private eye.
(with apologies to Keillor)