Disclaimer: Tolkien owns all, and Peter Jackson did the time-compressing I'm borrowing. I own Digger.

Note: This follows movie canon more closely than book canon because I needed the compressed time. For the record, I have read the books, and I'm even reading "The Silmarillion". The diversions from book canon are purely for convenience.

Note II: This is Fiction Noir set in Middle-earth. Think Bogie, think Spillane, think private eyes who drink too much, think black and white and cheesy sax music. Think old serials. This being the case, it'll be posted one chapter a day. Hang with me and enjoy the ride.

Where is Bilbo Baggins?

By

HonorH

It was a hot day in Eriador, the kind of day that makes you think Mordor might not be such a bad deal, if the orcs were a little friendlier. I've been to Mordor. Been just about everyplace else, too. I've gotten kicked out of taverns in Osgiliath, had my horse stolen out from under me on the plains of Rohan, been chased out of Mirkwood with an arrow in my ass, I've even dodged axes in Moria. On that hot day in the village of Bree, though, something happened that would make all of those things seem like pleasant memories.

The name's Digger, and I'm a private eye. I keep an office in the village of Bree by the Prancing Pony. There's not much work for an Gondorian ex- soldier who got kicked out of the service for messing around with his CO's wife (Finduilas pined away for the sea? Hah! In Denethor's dreams!), but I get by. I've been a bouncer at the Prancing Pony, played bodyguard for a fat half-elf with delusions of grandeur, and roughed up debtors on commission. Mostly, I get hired to spy on neighbors during property disputes or catch cheating spouses.

But all that came to a crashing halt the day she walked into my office.

I was sitting at my desk, nursing an ale and a pipe, when in walked trouble in a very small package. Two very small packages. You don't see hobbits much outside the Shire. Peculiar little folk--they stick to their own. I could see these two weren't comfortable inside the office of one of the Big Folk, and a voice inside my head started wondering just why they were knocking on my door.

He was a twitchy little guy with a scrunched-up face like he was used to having his head knocked on. She looked like she was used to doing the knocking. I figured out right away I shouldn't trust 'em as far as they could throw me. But hey, money is money, and I'd heard that hobbits could be counted on to pay their bills, so I figured, what's the worst that could happen?

Next time: The worst that could happen!