The Troll Murders of Gavin O’Finnegan
June 27, 2012 in Fiction
“I told you that it doesn’t always happen. You should dip that meatball in the lingonberry jam. It makes it more delicious.”
“Yeah, I’ll have to give that a shot sometime. I know it doesn’t always happen,” he lowers his voice to approximate mine, but fails in his attempt at mockery. “I just don’t understand why we have to keep coming back to IKEA and hanging out in the cafe.
“Maybe it’s because I like the meatballs,” I say dryly. “I know you aren’t buying the connection, but I’m telling you it exists. Swedes. Scandinavia. Demark. Danish Fisherman Thomas Dam, creator of the troll doll. We could hang out at Scandesign, but they don’t have a cafeteria.”
Rigby starts to get up. I’m thinking about letting him leave because I’m tired of having this conversation, but the truth of the matter is that I’m dealing from a position of weakness: I need an apprentice, and he knows it. He’s still yammering on when a man in a tweed coat and a narrow-brimmed Bergdorf Goodman felt fedora catches my attention as he saunters up to the counter a little too casually. He speaks a little too loudly to the teen behind the counter. His accent sounds French, but he’s too far away from me to really be sure. I don’t know why this guy is interesting to me, but he is—so much so that I tell Rigby shut his yap.
I’m not exactly staring at the foreigner; but if he were looking in my direction, he might notice my more than casual interest. The kid behind the lunch counter shovels some meatballs and a generous portion of lingonberry jam onto his plate. Nothing unusual about that—meatballs and lingonberry jam are delicious. It’s not the coat and hat, I realize, nor is it the accent. What’s interesting about Jean du Chapeau is on his feet. Wedged between the heel and the leather or his rather comfortable looking loafers is a fuchsia colored synthetic fiber.
“Do you see it?” I hiss to Rigby from between my teeth.
“Yeah, that guy’s an idiot. It’s a hundred degrees out,” Rigby replies
“I’m sure he doesn’t care about the heat.”
“Oh really, and why is that?”
“Because he’s packing troll, and right now, that’s the only thing on his mind.”
“Why didn’t we take him down right there? What if he ditches it?” Rigby asks. He’s back with me now. No more desertion nonsense.
“Too many civilians. Besides, he’s not going to throw it away. They don’t do that. It’s considered bad luck.”
Contrary to popular belief, trollists don’t hold that it’s good luck to own or collect troll dolls, but discarding them improperly is quite another matter. At least that’s how they think.
“When Jacques Fedora makes his way out of IKEA, we’ll make our move.” Each word is clipped and monotone so that Rigby knows that I’m not fucking about—this is an order. I pull out a pack of Luckys and light one up. Rigby doesn’t smoke, so instead he unwraps a stick of Fruit Stripe Gum and jams it in his mouth. It’s orange.
“You have any idea which car might be his?” the kid asks me.
“I’ve narrowed it down to the Peugeot and the Renault. Why don’t you sashay over and see if you can find any obvious signs of troll collecting: more hair fibers, catalogs, unsharpened pencils—”
“Goddamn it, Rigby, now is not the time to get cute! We’re getting close. Pull your shit together and put your mission face on.”
The kid moves well. He checks the Peugeot first. I’m not sure if that’s the way I would have played it, but I wanted to see what he’d do, so I didn’t give him any specific direction. When he gets to the Renault I see his eyes lock on something by the driver’s door. He starts to stoop, but then looks around his immediate area. From my vantage point, he appears to be dropping to a knee—maybe to tie his shoe or give the illusion of tying it. When he gets up, he makes a beeline for my position. It’s shit tradecraft. I take a final drag from my cigarette, cast it to the ground, and grind it with the heel of my boot.
“Finn, I—” He’s breathing heavily.
“Slow down and relax,” I warn, “Remember: we’re just a couple of gentlemen exchanging pleasantries in the IKEA parking garage.”
“Look!” he whispers and opens his fist. In his palm is an electric blue synthetic fiber.
“Jesus Christ. He has two of them,” I rasp.
“Are you sure? This could almost come from a Jem Doll.”
Without thinking, I lash out and smack the strand from his hand.
“I’M SORRY! I mean, nice work, Rigby. That hair is from a troll doll, and we are taking this fucker down.”
“Bon jour, monsieur. Comment allez v— NOW!” Rigby springs into action, liberating Camembert Jacque of a diminutive package marked “VITTSJÖ,” which I know from my training contains a small metal and glass shelving unit. VITTSJÖ is a favorite among trollists; they use it to display their dolls.
“What the fuck? What is the meaning of this?” the Frenchman asks with indignation and rage.
“My associate and I will ask the questions here,” I say.
“Is this a robbery? Take my wallet; there’s very little cash.”
“You can’t buy us off,” I sneer as I grab a handful of his jacket lapel and pull it open.
What I see is something that Rigby could not possibly be prepared for—because I’m not either. In his shirt’s monogrammed breast pocket are no less than a half-dozen pencils. Resting on top of each shaft is a troll pencil topper.
“Jesus Christ,” is all that Rigby can manage to say.
“What the fuck are you trying to do, mon ami?” I growl through clenched teeth. “There are enough trolls here to corrupt an elementary school.”
The Frenchman musters up a bit of courage and says, “I do not understand. My trolls? They are not illegal in my country. I hear that this it is the same here, no?”
“You just don’t get it, do you, Captain Éclair?” I spit out the words as I remove the pencils from his pocket protector. “We don’t give a shit about troll possession laws—or as the case may be, their lack of existence. We’re destroying these.” I punctuate my threat by snapping one of the pencils with my thumb—the troll topper falls to the cement. I hand the other five to my apprentice. Rigby does a fine job of splintering the pencils like so much kindling, and then let’s the halves drop to the parking garage floor.
With that there is really nothing else to say. I jerk my head to the side to let Rigby know that it’s time for us to leave, but he doesn’t move, but instead glares at the Frenchman with burning coal black eyes.
“Robinson, it’s time to go,” I state firmly. We rarely use names on a job, but when we do, they’re fictitious. Rigby doesn’t stop staring, but he backs away from the trollist and his little pile of friends.
The collectors are aware of us. They know that there are dangers, but for whatever reason, they still carry their dolls. Most of them know not to resist—few ever try—but there are always exceptions.
“You know I’m just going to take these with me and buy new pencils to put them on, right?”
Rigby and I stop in our tracks.
“You do realize that I can always buy more pencils, right?” the Frenchman taunts. “Actually, there are a bunch of small ones just inside those doors; I’ll use those.”
Rigby moves like a caracal. Edgar de Troll is pressed against his Sedan—Agent Rigby’s arm across his throat. I gather up the pencil toppers and go to work with my pocketknife. It’s an ugly scene. It’s a troll scene. Neither of us has a taste for this level of violence; both recognize the importance.
The Frenchman sobs something about the troll dolls belonging to his daughter. I hand Rigby the tiny scalps and he pockets them. When we leave the parking lot, the trollist is a quivering mass of emotion. It’s for his own good. Men shouldn’t carry trolls.
He’ll live, but will he ever be the same?
“There’s just one thing I don’t get,” Rigby says as he takes a lick from his ice cream cone.
“Why would a Frenchman being carrying that many trolls if they’re more of a Scandinavian phenomenon? I’ve been wondering the same thing,” I admit solemnly.
“It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Maybe he was only half French. Maybe the Nazis left a little more behind in France than bad memories. Who knows?”
“But if this thing has spread to France— “
“We’ll be in for a very long summer.”