Four minutes later I was debating whether I should head over to the Green Dragon, or just pop open the bottle of stout I keep with my short sword in the bottom drawer of my desk and start tonight's drunk all by myself, when the door popped open and a strange looking character burst in. He was maybe as tall as me, about average for a hobbit, but stooped over like he was carrying all his troubles around with him. From where I was sitting, they looked to weigh about as much as a house. He had long arms that hung way below the rags he wore as a loincloth, and bloated, pale eyes, eyes that reminded me of a girl I once fished out of the Water years ago. We had been close, the girl and I, and the memory made me shiver. Or maybe it was just the guy himself.
"Is it Marlowes, Precious?" he said suddenly. "Is it the dectives, hmm?"
"That's right," I said. "Marlowe's the name. Pippin Marlowe."
"Hmm, Precious, we heard Peregrin, yes Peregrine Marlowe, gollum." He made a hideous swallowing noise that remined me of a hoe against a chalkboard, and glared at me. A green light seemed to flicker in his eyes.
"Peregrine's what my mother called me, when she was alive. Most people just call me Marlowe. What can I do for you? Want a drink?" I took out the bottle and poured two glasses of dark beer. I shoved one towards him and then I took up my glass and swallowed it in one gulp.
He sniffed his glass and made a face. "No, no, sour, not for us, Precious," he hissed. "Businesses. We must talk business."
"I'm all ears," I said, and poured another glass of stout. "What's your problem?"
"They took it, the theiveses. Nassty theives. They took Smeagol's Precious, and he must have it back."
"Robbery, eh? That's a matter for the Sheriffs."
"No, no! They beat poor Smeagol. They bind his feets, most cruel, oh cruel!"
"Can't go to the cops, eh? What are running, some kind of scam? I can't help you with that." I started to stand up, but he laid a bony claw on my wrist and squeezed. He was surprisingly strong.
I glared down at him. "Let go of my hand," I said.
"Help, you must help poor Smeagol." He whimpered. I let him have one, right on the chin.
He blinked and stumbled back, letting go of my wrist. I came around from behind the desk, quick, but he had already backed into a corner. "Please, help poor Smeagol. They're all in on it. Sheriffs, wizards, nassty orcses. All in it with Bagginses."
I stopped short. Baggins--the big shot of Hobbiton himself. Lived all alone in his mansion of a hobbit hole, him and his adopted lieutenant Frodo. Nobody liked him, but nobody dared say anything about it to his face, either.
Years ago, old Bilbo had gone away with a gang of Dwarves and a wizard. He had returned with a mountain of gold and silver, which he absolutely refused to talk about. A lot of folks had noticed, however, that he came back without the Dwarves. Me, for instance.
Rumor had it that Baggins owned half of the Southfarthing and had made some deal with the Tooks that allowed him to get a piece of anything that came through the Shire. There were other stories about him, the kind that aren't nice to repeat to Eastfarthing ladies at a spring dance.
And this little guy was mixed up with Baggins, somehow. It was worth looking into.
"All right, sit down," I said. "Tell me what he took from you."
"Gollum," he swallowed. He leaned in close to me. "The ring," he whispered. His breath smelled of fish, and worse. "He took our Precious Ring."
"A ring? OK. I'll poke around. I have some connections in this town. If I find anything, I'll let you know. But this is really a matter for the Sheriffs. If I have to go to them, I will. I'll try to protect you as long as I can, so long as you're my client.
"My fee's ten silver pieces a day, plus expenses. Can you pay it?"
"Pay, yes my Precious. When we gets the Precious back, we pays everyone, don't we?" He capered around the room, and then out into the hallway.
I drank another glass of stout, and played out a chess problem with the set I kept in one corner. The shadows grew long over the water, and the lights began to go on in Hobbiton. I thought about going down to Bywater to look up a girl I knew there, then thought against it. It seemed like too much work. I finished the chess problem and then got my hat and went out into the hall. I locked the door behind me, and then headed for the front door.
Taking on the Baggins wasn't going to be easy. Anybody with that much money--and ruthless enough to get it in the first place--wouldn't be fun to have as an enemy. I decided to drop in on Tom Holman in the morning. Tom was a Sheriff, but other than that he was nearly a good guy.
I left the hole I rented an office in and headed over towards the Hill. At the base of it, I thought I saw a tall, dark shadow--taller than a hobbit, as tall as one of the Big People. It came towards me slowly, and I felt for the dagger I kept in my coat.
"Are you Baggins?" it said as it got closer, in a chill, hissing voice that sent a shudder up my spine. It talked like a cop--that same bored, insinuating tone of voice that managed to convey to you that the speaker saw you as a fly whose wings he wouldn't mind pulling off.
"Sorry, you've got the wrong guy." I tried to go forward, but it blocked my path. I dropped back and looked up at him. "Don't make trouble for yourself, pal," I said.
He only hissed and lunged at me. I drew my dagger and dodged past him, trying to get a shot in at his back, but he went by me too quick. I began to circle towards him, when I noticed something rising out of the bushes behind me. Too late I spun around as some one clubbed me in the back of the head and all the stars went out at once.
--Raymond Tolkien, Farewell, My Nazgul