On Hizzoner’s Secret Service (Part the Second)
“Now, according to the Rules,” Bodo Bunce said, “we shall do this in proper protocol and all proprieties shall be observed. Shirriff, please state your full name and title for record, and in what capacity you might provide your testimony.”
“For the record, then, I am Lancogard North-took, and my title is Deputy-Shirriff for the Northfarthing Watch; I also serve in the capacity as Investigator-At-Large for the Shirriffs of the Four Farthings. And in that capacity, I have first-hand knowledge regarding the charges this petition states.”
“Alright, then,” Bunce said as he scanned the list the Citizens’ Action Committee handed him, “let’s look at these charges one by one. Firstly, the matters of Trespassing and Disturbing the Peace. It states that on multiple occasions, the cavalcade of Big Folk out of the Elf-country has crossed the Shire, setting up camp without leave and wherever they please, for reasons unknown and without regard for the interests of hobbits. Now do you answer, Master Lancogard?”
“My answer, Your Honor, can be confined to one word: Balderdash!” Lance replied. “Let’s examine the facts, shall we? The “cavalcade” the complaint mentions comprised no more than seven or eight at any one time – and all of them are members of a single company, that of House Bar-en-Acharn out of Falathlorn in the Elf-lands. That company is comprised of many members of many folk, Big and Little alike. You won’t find a more congenial atmosphere among them west of Bree, and that I state for record.
“Now as to their trespassing I can state, again for the record, that no such complaint is warranted. Their stops are confined to established waystops, such as the crossings at Waymeet; many travelers are wont to make overnight camps while on the Road for business. They also give their custom to the established inns along the Road that offer accommodations for Big Folk – these include the Ivy Bush in Hobbiton, and the Golden Perch in Stock – for which the company pays handsomely for lodging and board.”
“If I might interrupt, Master Lancogard,” Goldenod Fallohide said, “the petition also mentions a camp in the woods above Woodhall in the Eastfarthing, that this company uses. Is that not Shire land, owned and maintained by the village elders of Woodhall?”
“No, it is not, Master Fallohide,” Lance replied courteously. “The land in question is the heights above the Woody End, and it is widely known that the Elves use that location as a waystop on business of their own; they have never once inconvenienced hobbits at any time. And I can state that with personal knowledge, for I held council with this Company at that very spot, on official Shire business –“
“There be that set o’ words agin,” Hugo Broadbelt interrupted, “an’ just what does that mean, anyways?”
“Exactly that, Hugo,” Lance said, “and with apologies to Shirriff Bunce, I shall explain in part what business that was. On that occasion, the Company as well as Shire authorities were involved in a joint investigation involving a threat to the well-being of hobbits throughout the Shire: ruffians outside the Bounds were scheming to poison all the water sources along the Brandywine from Barandalf to Sarn Ford, and the Company was searching for a missing member who was also investigating on behalf of the folk of Bree-land and points north.” This revelation brought gasps of disbelief and shock from the hobbits listening to the proceedings, and sputtering exclamations from both Goldenod and Hugo.
Lance continued, “I can now state, the investigation being concluded, that the plot was foiled by Big Folk, with the aid of the Bounders – and the rescue mission by the Company was also successful. The Shire is safe once more.”
Bodo cleared his throat after a long pause and said, “Well now, that answers that! Now, on to the next set of charges, namely Disruption of Produce and Destruction of Property. I ask now, Masters Broadbelt and Fallohide, what specifically has been damaged or destroyed? Well,” he repeated after an uncomfortable pause, “Goldy, Hugo, speak up!”
The two hobbits had a whispered conversation, then turning to Bodo, Goldy stammered, “Well, there is the matter of those big horses stamping all over the Shire, frightening livestock – and there are reports of an eagle in their company, swooping about and stealing hens –“
“Again, Balderdash!” Lance almost shouted. “First off, the Company keeps to the Road and the beaten paths, respectfully avoiding any property – especially when I am present, myself and my good assistant Bounder, Mistress Bolingbroke, to guide and advise them! As for the eagle, I can categorically state that said eagle – named Windwalker in our speech - is relied upon for messenger service, in most admirable fashion and conduct, being trained by the Elves in that capacity! And the Shire-authorities, including the Office of the Watch, have availed themselves of the usefulness of such a majestic bird for urgent messages and reports!”
Bodo once more cleared his throat, “And that answers that! Now, on to the next charge…”