A Murder in Rabbit Town
By: Steve Carr

It was one of those nights. It was a night when every lowlife and desperate bunny in Rabbit Town hopped up from the bowels of the warrens and crowded the rain–soaked streets. Thugs, mugs, dolls, dames, and pickpockets, huddled in the darkened storefront doorways, waiting for a break in the downpour before hightailing it to the nearest sleazy nightclub, gin joint, and dive. I didn't have the time to spare to try and avoid getting my new gray wool fedora and tan trench coat wet. Anyways, as my mother always said when she used to lick my unusually long ears, even for a bunny, I wasn't made of sugar and a little water wouldn't melt me.

I'm a copper, a flatfoot, a detective, a lepus chaser. My name is Harry Rabbit and I was looking for a bunny with an unsavory reputation who had suddenly disappeared.

The eyes of every bunny in every doorway was on me as I passed by them, splashing through the puddles with every leap. They all knew me, or knew of me. I was well– known in Rabbit Town, but loathed. Being a snitch is part of my job, but I couldn't shake that label when I was off–duty. In the warrens other rabbits didn't like sharing their burrows with a bunny who had caused their son or uncle to be sent to the slammer. I was always a private rabbit, so keeping to myself suited me just fine.

In the glare of the flashing neon signs and under the yellow orbs of light cast by streetlamps on Clover Street I dashed into Lucky Rabbit's Tobacco Emporium, shook the rain from my coat, and stepped up to the counter. The heady aromas of a dozen different flavors of pipe and cigar tobaccos hung in the air. Lucky was behind the counter putting freshly rolled turnip leaf cigars in the glass case under the counter. Lucky was a scrawny rabbit with one bent ear and drooping gray whiskers. When he was younger he spent several years in the big house for robbing a carrot store and shooting its owner, fortunately only injuring him. Murdering another rabbit was usually punished with being fried, and no rabbit wanted to end their life in a big skillet. The time in the hoosegow had hardened him, but wizened him. That was before I was even a kit. He kept his shop open late on Saturday nights to cater to the swells and gangsters who bar–hopped, had their pockets loaded with moola, and liked to show–off by buying expensive cigars.

"What can I do for ya, Harry?" he asked, his upper lip curled into a sneer, exposing his brown, tobacco–stained buck teeth.

"A beet leaf cigar," I said. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a slice of parsnip and tossed it on the counter. "And I need some information about your pal, Whitey Rabbit. He's missing."

Lucky grabbed a cigar from a box on the shelf behind him and tossed it on the counter. "What gives you the idea I'd tell you anything about Whitey?"

I picked up the cigar and rolled it between my fingers. "Because you wouldn't want to see him go to the joint and into the skillet on a bad rap for the murder of Snowy Rabbit," I said.

Lucky picked up the parsnip and put it in the cash register. He eyed me suspiciously. "What do you want to know?"

"Where was Whitey last Friday night?" I asked.

"Playin' poker in the back of Alice's Tavern," he said. "I know that 'cause I was there too. I lost a basketful of parsnips."

I put the cigar to my nose and inhaled the sweet fragrance of dried beets. "If you're lyin', Lucky, I'll make sure you end up back in the slammer."

Lucky glared at me, locking his eyes with mine. "If you're lookin' for Whitey go to Alice's and quit comin' to me every time you need information. I ain't a stooly."

"Why Alice's?" I asked.

"If you don't know it already, it was where Snowy hung out. He wasn't liked by some of the rabbits who swill their carrot juice there," he said. "Snowy had a habit of rubbing other rabbits the wrong way. He and Whitey didn't get along, but I'd bet a wheelbarrow of parsnips that Whitey didn't kill Snowy."

"I may hold you to that bet," I said.

I put the cigar in my mouth, turned, and hopped out of the shop. Rain fell in sheets. A fast flowing stream ran down the street gutter carrying pieces of celery and rabbit pellets with it. I pulled the collar of my coat up around my neck and hopped toward the sounds of croaking toads. Alice's Tavern sat on the edge of the algae–covered pond located on the outskirts of the city. In the two years that I had been a detective, I had only been to Alice's once. Its clientele was mainly the bucks on the verge of being outright down–and–outers and the does who followed them. It had little to offer the upper class partiers in search of slum–life thrills, or the mobsters and their molls who wanted to rub elbows with the rich.

I hopped down the street as fast as I could, stopping at times only to shake the water from my tail. At first I thought the sound of footsteps I heard behind me was coincidental, but then it became clear, they stopped when I did, and started again when I began. Before leaving the last light provided by streetlamps I stopped in front of a bookshop and pretended to peruse the used books shown in the window. After several minutes the rabbit came up to me.

"I'm sorry I was followin' ya, but you're Harry Rabbit ain't you?" she said.

The bunny was a pretty, albeit cheap appearing doe. She looked as if she was wearing her maiden aunt's ratty hand–me downs. She wore between her petite ears a small, red hat with a black veil, festooned with dead sparrows and berries that dripped rain onto her rain–soaked and moth–eaten faux fox stole. A small red purse hung from her arm. Her lips were thickly covered in fire engine red lipstick. She was chewing gum that frequently snapped.

"Yes, I am," I said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Beatrice Rabbit," she said. Her voice was high pitched and squeaky, as if she had inhaled helium. "I used to be Snowy Rabbit's girlfriend. That was before that floozy got her furry paws on him."

"What floozy?" I asked.

She looked around her nervously, up the street from where we had just come from, and at the stretch of dark street leading to Alice's. "I never found out what her name was but when I heard that Snowy had been murdered I knew she had to have been involved in one way or another." She raised the net and stared at me with lovesick eyes. "Snowy was so good to me. Whatever I wanted, Snowy gave it to me. I had more carrots than any bunny in the burrows. That was before she came along." Her paw shook as she adjusted her hat. "Snowy didn't deserve ending up in the pond with his body riddled with bullets."

This dame was itchin' to get back at the doll who took her buck and she'd say anything to do it. I'd seen it a hundred times before. With almost every crime there's a doe who's been done wrong involved in it some way. "Do you have any proof?"

"Proof?" she asked, gazing at me innocently. "She stole Snowy from me. Isn't that enough proof?" She wiped raindrops from her nose.

"You're just another dizzy doe," I said.

I expected tears to come next. That was the way it was with these types of does. Instead, she smacked me, right in the kisser. The surprise of it stunned me for a moment. I thought about punching her, to teach her that no bunny lays a paw on Harry Rabbit and gets away with it. Just then there were thudding footsteps behind us. She stared at the large hare walking through the shadows cast by the streetlamps and coming toward us. She bit into her rouged lower lip, let out a small squeal, and then hopped across the street, and rushed up the sidewalk toward the heart of the city.

As the hare came closer I recognized that he was Jack Hare, a surly, short–eared lupus with a scar across his cheek from a knife fight fought out in the cattail swamps on the far side of Rabbit Town. I knew him, but not well. Hares were a mean lot who mostly stuck to themselves, but Jack was a bit different. He was always looking for a fight with a rabbit. His black Homburg hat was slanted over his forehead, hiding his black, seedy eyes.

His nose twitched. "What are ya doin' down in this neck of the woods, Harry?" he asked.

"Lookin' into the murder of Snowy Rabbit," I answered. "You know anything about it?"

In the shadow of the hat, I could see the cold glint of hatred in his eyes.

"I'm just glad someone had the good sense to knock him off," he said. "I woulda shot him myself if he had provoked me even just a little. Jack always packed heat and though nothing had ever been pinned on him, rumor had it that he wasn't afraid to use his gun. "That doe you were just talkin' to owes a gamblin' debt to the lepus mob over on the East End. When Snowy left her she kept gamblin' but had no way to pay her debts."

"Why are you tellin' me this?" I asked.

"Even if she's not a lepus, I hate seeing a doe like her get mixed up with the mob," he said. "it never ends well."

He was right. The lepus mob meant business when it came to being owed anything, especially parsnips. I suspected that Jack was a member of the mob, but I couldn't prove it.

"Do you know the whereabouts of Whitey Rabbit?" I asked.

"Nah, but someone in Alice's might be able to tell you. He was a fixture there until Snowy was murdered."

"That's what I heard," I said. "Where ya headed?"

"I was goin' down to Alice's for a bit of juice," he replied.

"That's where I'm headin'," I said. "I'll hop along with you."

His lips curled into a sardonic smile. "No thanks. Bein' seen goin' into Alice's with you would be like bein' asked to take poison. No decent lepus keeps any kind of company with a flatfoot. You go first and I'll come along later."

He leaned against the building and took a cigar from his black trench coat pocket. I turned and hopped to the tavern. The red neon sign above the door winked on and off. I could hear music from the jukebox and the low din of voices coming from inside the tavern. As I opened the door my nostrils were assaulted with the smell of fermented carrot juice. I had tried to kick the habit a few times, but even the slightest whiff of the juice immediately hooked me all over again. There were rabbits who shot it into their veins. They ended up down–and–outers begging for quick fixes in the back alleys of the city. I never got that bad. I stepped in and every rabbit in the joint turned and glared at me. Only the two rabbits doing a tango on the small dance floor seemed unaware that a copper had walked in. The tavern was dimly lit, which hid the peeling paint and ramshackle decor.

The dozen–or–so customers sitting at the round tables, quickly returned to swilling their juice. They were a motley group of petty criminals, floozies, and deadbeats. I scanned the room, looking for Whitey. That's when I saw the dame sitting alone at the bar. She had legs that stretched from here to the other side of the pond and they were covered in expensive silk stockings. She wore a silver lamé dress that clung to her curvaceous body like a second skin. A long string of black pearls hung around her neck. She toyed with them as she sipped on a glass of juice. On the bar was her silver purse.

I walked to the bar and sat on a stool two down from hers. I shook the rain from my hat and put it back on and laid my coat on the stool on the right of me, between she and I.

"I don't appreciate you comin' in here and depressin' my clientele," Bugsy Rabbit, the bartender, said.

"Knock it off and get me a juice, on the rocks," I said.

After Bugsy put the glass of juice on the bar in front of me, I swirled the juice with a celery stick making the ice tinkle. I took a sip and turned and looked at the dame.

Her eyes were on me like prison yard searchlights. She was a bunny that from the looks of her was born to plenty of parsnips. I'd seen plenty of dames just like her; dolls and molls that hung out in dives just to be noticed.

"Finally, I meet face–to–face with the famous Harry Rabbit," she said. You could have poured her voice over a stack of pancakes.

"I didn't catch your name," I said, and then gulped down the rest of the juice. My attraction to this doll was dangerous, and toxic. This dame could have have easily turned me into a juice junkie.

"Pufftail Bunny," she said. She sipped from her glass, adding glossy pink lipstick to what already ringed it. "What brings you here tonight, Harry?" she asked.

"I'm lookin' for a guy named Whitey Rabbit," I said. "You heard of him?"

She nibbled on the celery stick. "Yeah, I've met him here once or twice. What has he done?"

"He's been missing since Snowy White's murder was discovered," I said.

The door to the tavern opened and Jack hopped in. His entrance caused a wave of hushed chatter among the rabbit patrons. He hopped across the tavern and sat down on the stool to the left of me. He placed a paw full of parsnip slices on the bar and said, "Give me a double juice with a mint chaser and keep 'em comin', barkeep."

Bugsy scooped up the slices and a moment later put a glass with the juice in it and a second glass of the green fermented mint next to it. The aroma of the mint wafted my direction. I never liked the stuff; it was too strong for my tastes, but was a popular drink among the lupus.

I turned my attention back to the dame. She was running her paw up and down her pearls like she was playing some kind of musical instrument. Dames like her displayed their jewelry the same way rabbits who were combat veterans displayed their medals. Dolls with jewels rarely spent time roosted on a bar stool in Alice's.

"Where were we?" I asked.

"You said something about Snowy Rabbit's murder," she said.

"Did you know him?" I asked.

She straightened the seam in her left stocking. She coulda had her gams insured for a million parsnips. "Yeah, I knew him. He was one helluva a great rabbit. He didn't deserve to die that way."

The tone in her voice was a mixture of fire and ice. My thoughts of making kits with this dame had blinded me to who she was. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the dame Beatrice told me about.

"You were Snowy's squeeze, weren't you?" I said.

"Her eyes turned cold, as if they had been replaced with ice cubes. "It wasn't like that with Snowy. I loved the guy and that weasel Whitey murdered him 'cause he wanted me himself. I would shoot him and throw his body in the pond, just like he did with Snowy, all over again if I could."

The sudden surprised expression on her face revealed her awareness that she had accidentally confessed to the murder of Whitey Rabbit.

I flashed my badge. "You're under arrest for the murder of Whitey Rabbit," I said.

"No copper is going to take me to the stony lonesome to be fried in a skillet," she snarled.

As I bent over to get my gun from my coat, she opened her purse and took out a Smith and Wesson and aimed it at me. I lurched at her just as she fired the gun. The bullet missed me but hit Jack in the throat. He fell from his stool onto the dirty floor where he died, his legs twitching until his final breath. I wrestled the gun from her paw and turned it on her.

"Put me out of my misery and shoot me," she begged.

I took the cigar from my coat and put it in my mouth. "Sorry, sister," I said. "I'm not a judge or jury, I'm just a rabbit who's a cop doin' his job."

The End

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