Autumn came with a sledgehammer: it colored the leaves, bit the blooms, and, most sinisterly, oranged the pumpkins. Samwise Gamgee looked at the onslaught autumn had had on his employer's garden. Giant gardens, full of exotic plants like gingko trees by the gate and Venus flytraps under the kitchen window, all hissed silently at the gardener, as though the crisp breeze was his fault. He ignored them today and took a loving snip of grass. Maybe one of the last snips until April.
"Gamgee!" The two Baggins strolled out the door. Bilbo wore a red turban and Frodo a six-foot trailing cape. "Make sure no one comes in. We're going for a walk, then to the Dragon afterwards so we can eat canned ham with spoons and no napkins in front of everyone. So we'll be back late." Bilbo guffawed.
"Yes, Sir," saluted Sam. "I won't fail this time, Sir."
"See to it you don't," growled Frodo. They clicked open the many locks on the gate, from which hung a sign saying Go Away.
Sam, humming, went back to his clipping. This productivity lasted for five minutes until a sudden voice made him over-snip the perfect horizontal cut, drop his clippers, and fall backwards.
"Ohhhhh, Sam," warbled the Gaffer. "Why are you just sitting there, Sam? Is that how you clip grass? Worthless as the day you were born; you shame me, Sam." The Gaffer, whose real name, Hamfast Gamgee, had been forgotten by that Age, had had several children. Their names were Ham, Hal and Sam, and several daughters were around somewhere. The Gaffer had been in a creative mood the night of Sam's birth, when it was announced at the Green Dragon. Or maybe it had been a slur.
"I thought Ham had sent some," Sam said in a dry sweat.
"No, Sam; since Ham's been in the North Farthing, I ain't seen a mini-money. All my sons abandoned me. You must not fail me worse, Sam."
"I'll try, Gaffer!"
"And stop sitting there worthless-like."
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'll try harder, Gaffer." Sam started to furiously tug at the once-immaculate grass.
The Gaffer leaned to the fence. "I need my pay, Sam." The truth was that Sam was not the gardener, only the assistant of the gardener (i.e. the Gaffer), being not of age yet.
"Master Bilbo is out… I could ask when he gets back."
"Ohhhhh, doing this to your poor old Gaffer. You are an ingrate, Sam. After all the trouble I went through raising you," the Gaffer shook his prune-wrinkled head. "I need the pay soon, Sam." The Gaffer shuffled away to the Green Dragon Tavern, his abode, muttering "Worthless, worthless."
Sam sat for a moment, anxiously twiddling his clipper. Suddenly Frodo and Bilbo shoved into the yard at a vicious pace; Sam was surprised. He asked: "Did you eat the ham, Sirs?"
Bilbo shook his head, muttering, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! They're coming tonight, I forgot; oooh, I'm late, I'm late, I'm --" he slammed the round door shut behind him.
Sam wrung his hands in indecision; then he heard the Gaffer's voice in his head: "Gimme my pay, Sam. You don't want to disappoint your poor old Gaffer. Worthless…" Sam took a deep breath and tiptoed into the door of Bad End.
He heard a scurry of chairs and papers in distant halls, somewhere near the kitchen. He tiptoed, his heart far behind him, around the corner, passing dark rooms, ghouls and phantom shadows of the junk Bilbo had displayed in his hallway. Sam realized not a single light was on. "Dark for dark business," he heard Mister Baggins say with an echoing cackle. The miserable gardener wanted more than anything to turn back, yet he wanted less to face the Gaffer empty-handed.
He slunk into the dining room's doorway; only there held signs of life shown by a single candle that lit the whole room. The Bagginses were hunched over the table and what looked mysteriously like… catalogs. When his two masters noticed him, they rapidly gathered up the order books and shoved them under their bodies. "Whadya want?" gasped Bilbo.
"Well, uh, sir, I umm, the Gaffer, well, if you understand me…"
"No," said Frodo.
"I just wondered if you… Had. The Gaffer's. Pay."
"Oh, that," Bilbo waved dismissively. "Look in the flour barrel."
When Sam left twenty minutes later, head to toes covered in white powder and several monies in one fist, he thought and would think again – well, he did not call it thinking, he was not allowed to – he thought something big in a bad way was about to happen at Bad End… He did not notice a swarthy, long-faced fellow with quick, slanted eyes, smelling of sea salt and bearing an ear full of gold trimmings hunching in the rose bushes. The figure held a knife in his teeth; for an hour as the twilight painted on its last layers of darkness, he did not move, not even twitch. At the time of greatest night, then, and only then, did he move. Bad End had no lawn lights and all sight of the neighbors was blocked off by eight-foot red screens Bilbo had ordered Sam put up years ago, so no one saw the man slip in through the round door.
^ - ^ - ^ - ^ - ^
Bilbo and Frodo Baggins sifted through catalogs; they had already marked most of the pages, which included several varieties of explosives, 15 barrels of slugs, and cheep paper forks and plates. "Do you think we should order the 12 oz or 16 oz?" Bilbo pointed to a page of teargas. Frodo did not answer because in the page appeared an upright, quivering knife.
They both looked up at a dark, bowed figure in the doorway. "Kei Kuhn! Welcome, welcome!" Bilbo extended his hands.
The tall expert-treasure hunter knocked his head on the doorpost and stooped further in, looking for a chair in the blackness. "Is the shrimp here yet? (No offense, B.)," said Kei Kuhn, sitting hard on the floor.
"He's here!" said a sinister, booming voice. A shadow, darker than the rest of the darkness leaked through the closed window and shaped into a black bearded, lithe form: a dangerous looking Dwarf, with shining black eyes.
"Flópi! I don't know how you do it." Bilbo shook his head, impressed.
Flópi son of Dópi took a chair and Kei Kuhn found one at last. The Man eyed the Dwarf warily. In their business they had "borrowed" from each other on several adverse occasions, usually leaving only rough feelings behind; but with Bilbo – The Illustrious Burglar Baggins, master thief of Dragons, Elves, Trolls, etc – as mediator, they could tolerate each other. Kei Kuhn's industry typically took him along the coasts and to the far south. Flópi had enterprises around tombs, temples and such. Among the members of the Expert Treasure Hunters' Union of Middle-earth (ETHUM), Bad End of Hobbiton was an epicenter. Through here did the rarest and most dangerous products of the business pass.
With the pleasantries past, Bilbo brought them to business matters. Frodo set out croissants and butter and sat down to listen. "Did you get the merchandise?" asked Bilbo, offering a croissant to Precious.
Kei Kuhn took a large sack from his trousers and upturned it on the table; the candlelight revealed Dragon teeth (Bilbo planned to hang them on the chandeliers), an enchanted yoyo (Bilbo always wanted one of those), and a Pharaoh's crown. Bilbo quickly replaced his powdered wig with it. "That one required me to work overtime," said Kei Kuhn, feeling several scars along his rump.
"And yes, you will be rewarded." Bilbo was clapping his hands in glee. "Frodo? Where are the diamonds – no, I mean the good diamonds. In the jelly, right; go fetch them!"
Frodo left and Bilbo then turned politely to Flópi.
"I have what you ordered," said the Dwarf.
Bilbo's breath quickened. "Then let usss have it!"
Flópi took a pouch from his beard and put his hand inside and pulled it out, clasping something. Blue light shown between his fingers, a light pure but dark, beautiful but malicious. "Behold!" said Flópi, opening his hand. "The Eye of the Monkey."
Kei Kuhn stood up in awe and cracked his head on the ceiling. Bilbo's false mustaches stood out on end. The large blue gem vibrated the air.
"Impossible," said Kei Kuhn, infinitely jealous. "The Eye of the Monkey was lost hundreds of years ago, no one knows where."
"It was in the East in the keeping of a hotel manager. And I helped the old man check out," Flópi laughed in his deep voice.
Kei Kuhn continued: "And it is cursed anyway. One cannot be the true master unless the old master is killed by the new master's hand. Otherwise a Curse of Evil Bad Luck falls upon the new master and all who have anything to do with him."
No one replied to the dirty Man. "This jewel is the opposite of worthless and brought great risk to its… buyer." Flópi eyed Bilbo expectantly.
"Yes, yes; will this do?" The Hobbit grunted and labored to pull a 9x6x6 chest onto the table, finally managing to and flinging it open to reveal close-packed gold coins. Flópi tossed Bilbo the Eye of the Monkey and a hiss of doom trailed through the air after; the smoke of which did not clear for five minutes.
Kei Kuhn ahemed. "Won't this mean Flópi must die? Because I could--"
"Don't be silly," said Bilbo, not listening, all eyes on the Eye. "I have jobs for you two yet. I need all this stuff delivered by September."
"No good stuff?" asked Flópi.
"The good stuff is in this one." Bilbo pulled out Kei Kuhn's knife and showed the catalog Black Market Bobbins and Baubles. The Dwarf and Man each rubbed together eager hands.
"The Monkey's Eye is perilous," Kei Kuhn insisted after a moment.
"I know enough about jewels, please, thank-you," sniffed Bilbo. "You know well the Arkenstone, and…" Bilbo muttered the names of several jewels, though neither of the other expert treasure hunters could pick them out. "Verily, my friends, you are looking at the greatest jewel thief in history!" Suddenly the candle blew out, Precious trembled, the earth shook, and distant dogs howled. "I meant except for Morgoth, yes," said Bilbo quickly, relighting the candle.
The other two chuckled nervously. Bilbo stabbed a croissant with the knife. "Just get my orders." Bilbo waggled the croissant at them. "I'm counting on you two for my Day of Doom." The Burglar took a bite and did not bother to swallow before saying, "My birthday, I mean."
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.