Sharp Knives by Kathryn Ramage
Summary: A Frodo Investigates! mystery. When a very dear cousin of Frodo's is accused of murdering her husband and his lover, Frodo takes drastic steps to protect her while he hunts for the true murderer.
Categories: FPS > Pippin/Merry, FPS, FPS > Frodo/Sam, FPS > Sam/Frodo, FPS > Merry/Pippin Characters: Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam
Type: None
Warning: Het Content
Challenges: None
Series: Frodo Investigates!
Chapters: 35 Completed: Yes Word count: 53958 Read: 70883 Published: August 06, 2012 Updated: August 06, 2012
Chapter 9 by Kathryn Ramage
"We can share one room for tonight," Merry said as he and Frodo rode down the road toward Tookbank, "unless you're expecting Sam to join us. Where is he, by the way? I thought he'd be coming with you."

"He'll be along in a day or two," answered Frodo. "I left Bag End as soon as I received your message, but it's impossible for him to go off at a moment's notice anymore, not since... Not since poor Rosie died. He has to make arrangements to see that the children are looked after."

"I thought you'd hired a nursery-maid to do that?"

"I did, but a nurse is no substitute for a mother, or a father. It isn't so bad with the twins. They don't remember Rosie at all, but Elanor and little Frodo fret if Sam goes away from them unless he provides some diversion to take their minds off his absence--a visit to Aunt Dora's, or Marigold bringing their cousins up to Bag End to stay with them. If they're having some adventure of their own, they don't think about him being gone. He won't be able to join us 'til at least tomorrow. We can share until he arrives, then I'll take another room for Sam and myself. And of course we'll need one for Melly and Addy."

But when they arrived at the Bullroarer's Head and attempted to make these arrangements, they found Mr. Brundle to be apologetic but unyielding. He was happy to give them a room for as long as they liked, and would set another in reserve for when Mr. Gamgee joined them, but he couldn't have Mrs. Took at his tavern.

"Whyever not?" wondered Frodo.

"It an't me, Mr. Baggins," Mr. Brundle said in the same apologetic tone. "I told you, I have to think o' the Tooks."

"But the Thain himself has said that our cousin could lodge here with us," Merry protested.

"Well, his Thainship can say what he likes, Master Merry, but Tookbank won't stand for her being here. It's Mr. Everard they're thinking of," Brundle explained. "Everybody that lives here knew him from a little lad. Before there was all this trouble over the Clovers, they'd've said he was a good lad too. Anybody'll tell you that his dad, Mr. Adelard, is the best and kindest gent in all the Shire, excepting only the Thain himself. They're that fond o' him, and they took it hard when they heard how his son was murdered. Now, Tibby, like I told Mr. Baggins this morning, he was a troublemaker and we all knew he'd come to a bad end. He was an outsider to Tookbank besides, even if his dad was born here. Nobody minds particular much about Tibby, excepting his sister, but they mind about Mr. Everard. And everybody's heard from Chief Thornbreak how it was his wife that must've done it."

"That hasn't been proven," said Frodo.

"So you say, Mr. Baggins, and his Thainship must agree since he hasn't let Chief Thornbreak lock her up yet, but I was born here in Tookbank and never been more'n ten miles from it. I know the folk hereabouts. They don't know it's so. They won't like her being here. If they see her, it'll be hard on her. Even if they don't, it'll be hard on me. They'll hold it against me long after you're gone. So I'm sorry, Mr. Baggins, Master Merry, but I can't have her here."

Merry huffed in exasperation; Frodo turned to him and said, "I don't like it either, but if Mr. Brundle is right about feelings in Tookbank, it may be safer for Melly to stay on at Uncle Adelard's rather than be subjected to insults and possibly even danger. Who knows what they might do if they truly believe she's a murderess? We have to think of Melly's safety first of all."

"We can go and stay at the Green Hill Inn," Merry responded. "They aren't so beholden to the Tooks and won't object to having Melly lodge in one of their rooms. She'll be quite safe there."

"I don't think Uncle Paladin will let us take her so far from Tuckborough," said Frodo. "He only agreed to let her come here with us because of the way Aunt Eg was behaving."

"I won't go back to the Thain's Hall, Frodo. I refuse to step foot in that house again after the way she spoke about Melly and Mother. Lax upbringing! And Mother born a Took!"

"We needn't return to the Hall," Frodo said reasonably, seeing that his cousin was still fuming over that last scene in the Thain's parlor. "But if I'm to carry on my investigation here, I don't want to lodge so far away." He especially wanted to be near the Bullroarer's Head so that he could pick up the local gossip about hobbits who had had quarrels with Tibby. "Merry, you do see, don't you? Whether or not you choose to go to Green Hill, I have to stay on."

Merry grumbled, but he didn't want to be far from Frodo or Melilot himself. He agreed to stay in the vicinity of Tuckborough until he could take Melly home.

"The folk of Tookbank won't resent us staying here, will they?" Frodo asked the tavern-keeper. "We are, after all, Mrs. Took's kinsman and interested in proving her innocence."

"Well, nobody can blame you for that, Mr. Baggins, seeing as how you've done the same for other folk up and down the Shire who're no kin to you at all," Mr. Brundle answered after considering the question. "If the two o' you are of a mind to stay on without Missus Took, I don't suppose there'll be much fuss over it. And whether or not you're right in the end, I don't expect the local folks'll hold it against me for giving you lodgings."

"Very well then!" said Frodo. "A room for two, if you please."

Once they'd engaged their room, they took their bags down the long corridor behind the public rooms. Merry sat down on the foot of the bed with another huff.

"We'll have to go and tell Melly what's happened. I don't like this, Frodo! I feel as if we're trapped in an enemy's land. Enemies--in the midst of the Shire, if you can believe that would ever be true. We might as well be surrounded by orcs as by Tooks. At least I know how to put up a good fight against an orc. I can't draw a sword against another hobbit, not even Aunt Eggie."

"It isn't so bad as that," Frodo said, still trying to be reasonable although he found this situation just as distressing and frustrating as Merry did. In spite of his intention to remain impartial while conducting his investigation, he couldn't help feeling as if the expressions of hostility they'd encountered from the Took family and here in Tookbank were forcing him to close ranks with Merry in Melly's defense. "I'll go back to Uncle Adelard's and tell Melly not to pack her things yet. While I'm gone, you can order our dinner. Under the circumstances, the private dining room would be best. We'll talk about what we're going to do." He sat down beside Merry and patted his arm. "Whatever kind of fight this is, I'm on your side. You know that. In each other's pockets, just as we always are."

For the first time since they'd met that morning, he saw Merry smile. "She wasn't far wrong in that, was she?"

"We both have the same goal, to aid Melly however we can. At least, none of the Tooks seem to believe that Melly is truly a murderer, not even Aunt Eglantine. That's to our advantage."

"I'd find it more advantageous if Uncle Paladin let me take her home," said Merry.

"You know why he can't, Merry. He's magistrate here and his own nephew has been murdered. Like it or not, Melly is suspected. He can't just let her go off to some other part of the Shire until the matter is cleared up. And it will be cleared up. If she's innocent of this crime, as I'm certain she is, I'll find proof of it. But until that's done, justice must be seen to be served."

"Justice must be seen!" Merry snorted. "I've been at the mercy of that same phrase, Frodo--you remember."

"Yes, of course I do." Frodo had begun his career as a detective when Merry had been suspected of murdering their cousin Berilac; Merry's father had had the sherriffs in Buckland lock him up in the Newbury gaol under the pretext of serving justice, and Merry had never forgiven his father for it. From his present attitude, it seemed to Frodo that Merry wouldn't forgive the Tooks either.

"It stayed between us until the day he died," said Merry, following Frodo's thoughts. "I care too much for Melly to let her suffer that same way. It's bad enough being shut up because you're suspected, and worse still when you know it's just for form's sake! We must get her out of here, Frodo. Never mind promises--I won't let her come to harm." He leapt up and, as he paced the floor restlessly, began to form a plan. "You say you'll go back to Uncle Adelard's tonight? When you go to her room, you'll be alone with her. You can take her out of the house through the window. She's on the garden side, but the Tooks will all be at dinner by the time you arrive. You can cross over the top of the hill, and I'll be waiting with the ponies ready in the road. We can be halfway to Buckland before they realize we've gone."

"What about little Addy?" Frodo asked.

"We certainly can't leave him behind. Melly wouldn't dream of going without him. Here, Frodo, you must say that Melly wants to see him, and take him to her room with you. We'll have to leave his things behind, but we can manage until we get them both home to Brandy Hall."

"Merry, we can't do that."

"You said you were on my side!"

"I am! But you must see reason," Frodo pleaded, knowing that Merry was too upset to be reasonable. "Running off will only convince everyone in the Took lands that she's guilty. They'll think she's fled to the Master's protection. You won't let anyone take her out of Buckland again once she's safely there."

"Quite true! I can protect her in Buckland."

"You can protect her as long as she remains in Buckland," Frodo pointed out, "but she won't ever be able to set foot on this side of the Brandywine again. You'll only be giving her a larger prison. Do you want her to be known as a murderess for the rest of her life?"

"I'd rather she had a nice, long life as a suspected murderess than be hanged as one," Merry responded.

Frodo was about to respond to this declaration but as he opened his mouth to speak, there was a tentative tap on the door. Instead of replying to Merry, he turned and asked, "Who is it?"

"It's me--Pippin."
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