10. The Shirriff Investigates
'Is the Mayor in?' Nod asked, without an answering smile. Goldi's own smile faded.
'Yes, he's at breakfast,' she said, but turned as Sam's voice was heard from the corridor.
'Just finished, as a matter of fact,' Mayor Samwise said. 'Nod? Would you like a bite?'
'No, Sir,' Nod answered, and Sam straightened slightly at his formality.
'Come on into the study, then,' the Mayor said, gesturing for the Shirriff to enter, and then nodding to the Sandymans behind him. 'Ted,' he said. 'Hodge, Ned, come in.' He turned to his daughter. 'Goldi, bring a pot of tea to the study...'
'No need,' the Shirriff said, and the Mayor's look of surprise was quickly replaced by thoughtful concern. He'd wait until they were in the study, with the door firmly closed, to ask, of course.
'Goldi, make sure the children are busy about their chores,' was all he said.
'Yes, Dad,' she answered, bobbing to the Shirriff and the miller, avoiding the tweens' eyes, and escaping to the kitchen. Sam heard Rose's voice raised in query, and Goldi's murmur in answer as he led the others to the study.
Once the door was safely closed behind them, he turned to the Shirriff. 'What's this all about, Nod?' he asked. He certainly hoped it wasn't as bad as the shooting accident a fortnight ago.
Nod took the knife from his pocket, held it out. 'Have you ever seen this before?' he asked.
Sam took the knife, turned it over in his hand. 'It looks like Frodo's, that he got from Fastred last year,' he said slowly. 'But what are you doing with it?' He looked to Ted Sandyman and his sons, but the lads would not meet his eyes, and the miller pointedly directed his attention back to the Shirriff. This was official business of the Shirriff, then, and the miller was a witness.
'Had you heard that chickens have been going missing?' Nod asked.
Sam nodded slowly. 'Yes, there was talk down at the Dragon about it, Merry and Pippin-lad told me. A fox or stoat, they said. I had the lads double-check the fence and coop, and we've had no losses.'
'Ted here's lost several hens, and now his prize rooster,' Nod said soberly.
'Ah, Ted,' Sam said sympathetically, turning to the miller. 'I'm sorry to hear that.'
'You'll be sorrier before the morning's out,' Ted said, but not unpleasantly. There was real regret in his tone. He had sons of his own, he knew a father's feelings; and he knew very well what was about to happen to the Gamgee family, having gone through it himself after the scouring of the Shire.
Sam shot him a puzzled look before the Shirriff claimed his attention again. 'I'm sorry, Samwise...'
'What does this have to do with Frodo's knife?' Sam asked. Nod held his hand out and Sam returned the knife to him. The Shirriff pocketed the knife once more. 'Well, Nod?'
'It was found in Sandymans' coop this morning,' Nod answered. 'after a hen and the prize rooster disappeared in the night.'
Sam stood, a polite half smile on his face, absorbing the information, but the smile turned to a look of shock as he comprehended the Shirriff's meaning.
'No!' he said, stepping back, looking from Nod to Ted. 'You cannot mean...'
'I need to talk to Frodo,' Nod said, 'and take a look into your own coop, if I may.'
'I...' Sam said, then nodded. Going to the study door, he jerked it open and called down the tunnel. 'Rosie!'
His wife poked her head out the kitchen door, a towel in her hands. 'Yes, Sam?' she asked cheerily. Goldi had been unable to tell her the reason for the Shirriff's visit, but it would evidently be short, since he'd turned down the offer of tea. Perhaps they'd already concluded their business and were wanting tea after all.
'Has Frodo-lad left yet?' he asked.
'No, he's just spading in our own garden before going off to the Burrows',' she answered.
'Send him here, will you, my dear?' Sam asked, keeping his tone light. No need to worry Rose just yet.
Rose told Goldi to fetch her brother, then turned back to ask, 'Did you want some tea?'
'No, thank you, Rosie, we won't be much longer,' Sam answered.
As soon as Frodo was there, they closeted themselves in the study once again.
'Hullo, Shirriff, Mr Sandyman, Hodge, Ned,' Frodo greeted each in turn. He shot a questioning look at Sam, who directed his gaze to the Shirriff.
'Frodo, I'd like a look at your pocket knife, if I may,' Nod said matter-of-factly. There was no accusation in his tone. After all, there might be two knives in existence with the initials "FG" scratched upon the handle. You never could tell.
Frodo's hand went to one of the buttoned pockets of his work coveralls. His nonchalant look turned to puzzlement as he brought out his hand, empty. 'That's funny,' he said. 'I always keep it in that pocket so it won't fall out whilst I'm weeding...'
'When was the last time you used it?' Nod asked.
Frodo scratched his head. 'A few days ago,' he said finally. 'I had to cut some twine, when I planted climbing beans over in Mr Proudfoot's garden. But I hadn't needed it since then... Been busy digging, don't need a knife for that.'
'Ah,' Nod said. 'Is there anywhere else you'd keep it?'
Frodo screwed up his face in concentration, then shook his head. 'When these coveralls go into the wash, I put it on the nightstand,' he answered, 'but the coveralls aren't in the wash, now, are they?'
'Let's check your nightstand,' Nod said. Frodo shot another puzzled glance at his father, but Sam nodded. They all trooped to the room Frodo shared with Merry and Pippin, saw that the top of the nightstand held no knife, watched Frodo open the drawer and rummage through the neatly organised contents, then sit back.
'Well, that's a shame,' he said. 'Seems as if I've lost a good knife.'
'Have you any idea where it might be?' Nod asked. 'Did one of your brothers borrow it? Would one of them have taken it from the nightstand?'
'Not without asking leave,' Frodo said, and Sam nodded. His lads did not take what didn't belong to them.
Frodo looked up at the others from where he'd sat on the bed to go through the drawer. 'What's all this about, anyhow?'
Nod took the knife from his pocket and held it out to Frodo. Sam took a breath as if to speak, but the Shirriff shot him a cautionary glance and he subsided.
'My knife!' Frodo said in surprse, taking it from the Shirriff's hand. 'But... what are you doing with it?'
Nod didn't answer this question, saying instead, 'Let us go and look at your chickens, shall we?'
Frodo looked to his father, but Sam only shook his head. Obviously the Shirriff was on about something, and Frodo knew it would have to come out eventually. He got up from the bed.
'Who tends your chickens, Sam?' Nod asked conversationally.
'Robin,' Sam answered.
'Would he notice if things were amiss?' Nod asked.
'He ought...' Sam started to say, but Frodo snorted.
'Frodo?' Nod said.
'His head's always in the clouds, dreaming of some adventure of other,' Frodo said.
Sam shook his head. 'He ought to notice,' he finished the thought, 'but Frodo's right. All too often the lad's in a dream.'
The chickens were still shut up, as a matter of fact, for Robin had gone to fill a bucket and been distracted by the workings of the pump handle. He was thinking he might be able to bring water right into the kitchen, without the use of buckets, when the Shirriff's little group hailed him.
'Robin, the Shirriff here has a few questions about the chickens,' Sam said.
'Chickens?' Robin asked, his mind still on pumps and pipes.
'Yes, have any gone missing? Have you noticed anything.... different?' Nod asked.
Robin rubbed the back of his neck. 'No,' he said slowly. 'As a matter of fact, we seem to be getting a few more eggs than we had been, so we can't be down any layers.'
'Ah,' Nod said wisely. He led the way to the chicken yard, opening the gate, then walked in, followed by the others.
'What's he on about?' Robin asked Frodo, who shrugged in reply. Curious young Gamgees looked up from their nearby labours to watch.
The Shirriff didn't bother with the little door, though he could hear the hens inside, and then the unmistakable crow of a rooster.
'What in the name of...?' Sam said, starting forward. Turning to Robin, he added, 'I thought old Cockspur died last week.'
'He did,' Robin said. 'We don't have a rooster, not until the latest hatching of chicks grow up.'
'It seems you have a rooster now,' Nod said quietly, opening the big door, surprising the hens, who were gathered about the small door awaiting their release.
Ted Sandyman gave an exclamation as he recognised his prize rooster.
Nod turned grimly to Frodo, taking him by the wrist with one hand, digging a short length of rope from his pocket with the other. As he bound the astonished young Gamgee before his father, the witnesses, and the other Gamgees watching nearby, he said the traditional words, 'Frodo Gamgee, also called Gardner, I hereby charge you with thievery...'
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.