Too Many Tooks by Kathryn Ramage

Pippin came out into the garden and approached his friends; Sam looked sullen, but Merry and Ferdi were laughing. "What did I miss?"

"Only Melly putting the fear into Evvy!" Ferdi exclaimed. "She's told him what's what, and the wedding's on again." He went off to spread the news to anyone the girls hadn't already told.

"And the investigation's begun again," Frodo said, and tried to think of the best way to tell Pippin why without worrying him on his uncle's behalf. If they carried on without him, Pippin would notice and want an explanation. "I've found something new that looks as if a Took is involved in this after all..."

Pippin asked anxiously, "It's Uncle Addy's knives, isn't it?"

"How do you know about it?" Merry wondered in amazement.

"I knew Frodo was going to talk to Uncle Addy this morning, and he'd see the knives," Pippin explained. "I saw one in Uncle Addy's study when I was there talking with him the other day. He'd been carving with it. Is that what you found?" he asked Frodo.

Since Pippin knew this much, he might as well know all. "One of them was used to kill Toby," Frodo told him. "It was left beside his body that night."

"Is that what you were afraid to tell us?" asked Merry.

Pippin nodded; he looked more anxious than before. "I've been worried it might be him since you two started talking about why he'd want to be rid of Toby, and who might have a pocket-knife like the one that killed him. Uncle Addy's had that set of four sharp, little knives he keeps for woodwork for as long as I can remember."

"Five," Frodo corrected him.

"No," said Pippin, "there's only four."

"There are five knives. I saw them myself not an hour ago."

"Come on, Pip," Merry said. "You can count that high!

"Yes, I can, and there are only four," Pippin insisted. "I've seen them too, hundreds of times. I used to go hide in Uncle Addy's study whenever Father was angry with me--and that was a lot of the time! I'd watch him work. Uncle Addy taught me to whittle with those knives." Then he conceded, "The set's meant to have five, but one's been missing for ages."

Frodo stared at him. Things began to fall into place.

"You all right, Frodo?" Sam asked, concern for Frodo's well-being driving him out of his sulkiness.

"He has that 'lightning-struck' look again," Merry murmured. "It's important, isn't it, Frodo?"

"Yes... Very important," Frodo said slowly, and stepped away from them. "I have to talk to Uncle Adelard."

"It's not Uncle Addy, is it?" Pippin pleaded.

"No!" Frodo called back to him, and went into Adelard's house.

Informed by one of the housemaids that the master of the house had been taken ill and was lying down in his room, Frodo decided not to disturb Adelard again right away. He went to find Reginard instead.

Reginard was in the nursery with his wife and child; he looked angry and frightened at the sight of Frodo returned so soon after their last scene, but Pearl smiled.

"Flora's told us that Melly and Ev have sorted things out between them," she informed him. "I'm so glad! I knew it would turn out right in the end if only Evvy could be made to behave reasonably."

"I was the one who made him go and speak to her," said Reginard.

"Yes, dear, and a good thing you did! But I'm sure Melly's taking a firm hand with him--and threatening to marry another boy--must've done the trick." She patted Frodo's cheek. "You mustn't fret over it, poor Frodo. We'll find another girl for you."

As Pearl turned to the baby's cradle to put Peveril down for his nap, Frodo placed a hand on Reg's arm and whispered, "I'd like a word with you, please."

"Oh, for mercy's sake-!" Reg huffed in exasperation, but left the nursery with Frodo. "Aren't you done with us yet?" he hissed once they were alone.

"I'm nearly done," Frodo assured him. "I have only one last question, about that knife you found in the grove."

"I told you, I didn't take it from Father's study. I don't know how it got there!"

"No, it isn't that. When you put it back in your father's study, you took the packet out of his desk."

"Yes, that's right," Reg said impatiently. "That where he always keeps it, in the top drawer."

"Did you happen to notice if your father had one knife out for his work?"

"No, I didn't. The study was dark, and I didn't want to light a candle to draw attention to myself. I went straight to the desk--it's under the window, and there was enough light for me to see what I was doing. And, anyway, I soon saw Father had already put the one he was using back into its place."

Frodo knew Adelard hadn't done so, not until this morning. He tried to keep the rising excitement from his voice as he asked, "Then you did see how many of the pockets were empty?"

"Yes, I noticed that," Reginard answered. "There were two empty. But that's perfectly right. One's missing."

"Pippin's told me the same. It's been gone from the set for as long as he can remember. How long ago was it lost, do you know?"

"As a matter of fact, I don't," Reg snapped. "It's always been gone. Father's had that set of knives since he was a lad. For all I know, he lost it long before I was even born. What's all this about, Frodo?"

"I'll explain it later," said Frodo, "when I understand it. Thank you, Reg. I'm sorry I've put you to so much trouble."

Reginard was confused and somewhat distrustful at this apology. "So you don't suspect any of us any longer?"

"No," said Frodo. "You needn't worry." He left Adelard's house, his head whirling. The clues seemed to point toward one person, one who made the least sense. It was impossible to believe. And yet...

He went up the hillside and sat down on the slope outside his bedroom window. He wasn't ready to discuss the matter with Paladin or Esmeralda, or even Sam, Pippin, or Merry; he had to think the problem over thoroughly before he spoke to anyone.

After awhile, Sam stuck his head out the window to ask, "Aren't you coming in, Frodo? It's almost time for lunch."

"I'm not very hungry, Sam," Frodo replied. "I want to think. Can you hand me my pipe, please? I left it on the mantelpiece."

Sam, who knew better than to bother Frodo when he was in one of his 'thinking' moods, got the pipe for him, handed it out the window, and left Frodo alone.

Nearly an hour later, Frodo came inside the Hall and sought out Paladin. He caught the Thain just as the party was leaving the dining-hall. Everyone was talking about Melilot's and Everard's reconciliation; not all were as pleased about the marriage as they'd been a few days earlier, but they hoped that that Melly would be happy.

Paladin smiled when he saw Frodo. "There you are, lad! We missed you at luncheon. Your friend Sam said that you had something to think about." As they walked away from the rest of the lunch party, Paladin lowered his voice and added, "I gather that your investigation is continuing after all?"

"Yes, Uncle. Have you seen the Chief Sherriff yet?"

"Not yet. I sent a message to Tookbank this morning, and received one in reply. They had some trouble with Tibbard Clover last night--the boy was found wandering drunk in the small hours, shouting in the streets at the top of his voice. Chief Thornbreak had to take him in. I thought I'd ride over to Tookbank this afternoon to speak with him."

"May I go with you?" Frodo requested. "Uncle Paladin, I want to call a few people together. We may as well meet at the Shirriff's office as anywhere else. Can you arrange it? Togold Clover should be there. And we must tell Uncle Adelard. He mayn't be up to coming with us, but he has some information that will help to clear things up."

"I don't know if we can manage Mr. Clover, but otherwise, yes, I'll see to it." Paladin looked extremely interested. "So, it seems that Toby's murder is connected with what happened to his father after all,"

"Yes, I'm afraid it is," Frodo answered.

"And do you know who killed the boy?"

Frodo nodded. "Yes, I do."
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