The Mystery of the Mayor's Son by Kathryn Ramage

That evening, Frodo waited for Merry and Pippin to return to Bag End. His cousins were spending the summer with him, but they had been away the past two days, attending the pony races at Michel Delving.

"It looks like you had a good time," he said when they came in, laughing and cheerful, just in time for dinner. "Did you see Lad Whitfoot there?"

"Yes, certainly!" said Pippin, still laughing; he didn't seem to find the question odd. "You know Lad would never miss a racing day, especially now he has a share in Milo's new pony."

Milo Burrows, who was a cousin to all three boys to one degree or another, was something of a gambler. He had gotten into deep financial trouble over a series of ill-fated wagers in the previous racing season, but had since gone into partnership with his friend Lad in the purchase of a fast pony in hopes that it would change his fortunes for the better.

"How did it go?" Frodo asked.

"The pony?" said Merry. "Fast as the wind! He won all three races Milo put him in."

"We had a wager on the first race ourselves, before anyone had seen him run," Pippin told Frodo enthusiastically. "You should've been there when he dashed out ahead of the other ponies, head and tail. Nothing could catch him! We wagered on the next two races after that, but winning them wasn't as much fun as it was that first time. You've never seen Milo so happy."

"Did you speak to them--to Lad or Milo? Have they forgiven us?"

"For suspecting them of murder?" Merry grinned. "I don't think we ever told them, not about the things we all thought after Pimple turned up dead. As for our spying and poking into everybody's secrets after he went missing... well, they don't seem to hold that against us now that nothing's come of it. After the last race was over yesterday, we bought them a round of ales to show there was no hard feelings. Lad was more forgiving than Milo."

"But I don't think either of them will tell us their secrets so easily next time," Pippin added, "if you want us to go asking them questions again. Do you, Frodo?"

"Yes, Frodo, what this all about?" asked Merry, curious also. "Why this interest in Milo and Lad? Have they done something?"

"Not Milo... I hope. It's Lad." As they went into the kitchen, where Sam was setting the table for dinner, Frodo told his cousins of the mayor's visit and the job he had agreed to undertake.

When he heard of the mayor's worst fears about Lad's mysterious absences, Merry laughed. "Another girl? Impossible! Lad wouldn't dare. Jelly'd kill him if she thought he was courting someone else."

"Did you notice Lad acting oddly?" Frodo asked. "Did he say anything about where he was going after the races last night?"

Both hobbits shook their heads. "He left the inn before it got dark outside," said Merry. "We didn't think to ask where he was going. We thought he was only going home."

"Why don't you come with us next time, Frodo--and you too, Sam?" Pippin offered. "There'll be another race at Michel Delving this coming Highday, and Lad is sure to be there. You can keep an eye on him yourself, and we'll be happy to help!"

"You'll need our help," Merry said with a teasing grin. "You would never have solved Pimple's disappearance without us. Besides, if you're going to take up investigating as a profession, you'll want to do it properly."

"I wasn't planning to," Frodo admitted, "but if people continue to turn to me to solve their puzzles for them, I don't see how I can refuse. Mayor Whitfoot is right: A young hobbit ought to have an occupation. Uncle Bilbo was once hired as a professional burglar. I suppose this is a step up for the Bagginses!"
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