The Mystery of the Mayor's Son by Kathryn Ramage

Story notes: There is no murder in this mystery (only a glimpse at the seamier side of the Shire: pony racing! gambling! hobbit hussies!). After the last two stories, and with the upcoming "Too Many Tooks," I thought I'd killed enough hobbits for awhile and caused the crime rate in the Shire to skyrocket, especially among the better families. It was time for something lighter and less bloody.

Like my previous mysteries, this story uses elements from the book, but also uses two key points from the film version of LOTR: the Shire is untouched, and the four main hobbits are all around the same age.

This story takes place in the summer of 1420 (S.R.), a few weeks after the end of "Lotho Sackville-Baggins Is Missing."

Disclaimer: The characters and overall storyline are certainly not mine. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien's estate, and I'm just playing with them to entertain myself and anyone else who likes this kind of thing. Some of the names used in this story are taken from the Baggins family tree in Appendix C, but the characterizations are mostly my own.

March 2005

The Frodo Investigates! series
"All young hobbits need some sort of occupation," said Mayor Will Whitfoot. "I daresay that's what wrong with so many of you lads these days--you want some work to do. My Lad more than most."

"Is it Lad you've come to see me about?" Frodo asked, puzzled.

He didn't know quite what to make of the impressive visitor who sat before him. Mayor Whitfoot was the largest hobbit in all the Shire, and he not only took up the whole settee, but seemed to fill Bag End's best parlor. He had apparently traveled all the way from Michel Delving to Hobbiton to call upon Frodo, "on a most personal and private matter," or so the mayor had explained when Sam had shown him into the room. Mayor Whitfoot spoke as if the matter was most urgent, and yet he seemed to have difficulty in coming to the point.

Mayor Whitfoot smiled and looked relieved at the question. "Yes, that's it exactly! I've got a job for you, Frodo Baggins."

"A job?"

"I understand you investigate mysterious happenings. That's so, isn't it?"

Frodo glanced at Sam, who was standing at the doorway behind the mayor. Was he gaining a reputation for this sort of thing? "I have conducted investigations," he admitted, "once or twice."

"It was Lad himself who told me you did. You had a hand in finding your cousin Lotho, or so I've heard tell. Now, it seems to me that investigating's as good a profession as any other for a young hobbit to take up, and one that needs a sharp wit to do properly. I've always said you were a clever lad, Frodo."

The mayor was beginning to wander from his point again. Sam asked him, "What's wrong with Mr. Aladell?"

Mayor Whitfoot turned to look at him, surprised to find that Frodo's companion was still in the room.

Frodo repeated the question, "What is the trouble with Lad, sir? You may tell us whatever you wish," he added, for the mayor was still looking at Sam. "Mr. Gamgee is the soul of discretion. I rely upon his assistance in all my investigations. I promise you that anything said here will remain in the strictest confidence."

The mayor evidently found some reassurance in Frodo's words, for he told them, "Well, Lad's been behaving very odd of late. It's his comings and goings. He's keeping secrets, and that's not like him at all. Oh, he's always been one for riding about the Shire to visit his friends, but now he's staying away at nights and won't tell us where he's been! I know he can't be going far from Michel Delving, since he's always home in time for breakfast. I've made inquiries at his favorite inn near the fair-field, where he sometimes takes lodgings if he's having a late night after the pony races, but they tell me he hasn't taken a room there in weeks. He's beginning to worry his mother, and me."

"Are you afraid he's up to something?" Frodo asked delicately. "Something... wrong?" He wasn't sure exactly what he meant to imply. Did the mayor believe that his son had committed a crime or was behaving in an outrageously scandalous fashion? It seemed unlikely.

"Not 'wrong' precisely," said Will Whitfoot. "Foolish. There's never been any harm in my Lad, but he's never had much common sense either. I'm afraid he might be spoiling the one sensible thing he's ever done."

"What's that?"

The mayor hesitated again. "Well, you must know he's been courting your cousin, Miss Angelica."

Frodo nodded. He could see why Will Whitfoot would be eager to have Angelica as a daughter-in-law. "She's a very pretty girl."

"Uncommonly pretty," the mayor agreed, "and she'll come into a good bit of money one day." It was common knowledge that Angelica was not only her parents' sole child and heir, but she was expected to receive a portion of her great-aunt Dora's property when the old lady died. "A pleasant face and a respectable fortune never did a girl any harm when the time comes for her to pick a husband but, mind you, Miss Angelica has more exceptional qualities too. It'd do my Lad a world of good to have a clever, managing sort of wife to keep him in order."

"Yes, that's certainly Angelica," said Frodo.

"I know your family doesn't approve of them courting, but I'm sure that if Lad shapes up right, they'll see he can make a decent match for her." Then the mayor frowned. "But if he's up to some mischief, especially with another girl--Well, Miss Angelica won't have another thing to do with him, and I couldn't blame her!"
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