My troll partner Grik and I sat in a small storage room. Grik is huge, even for a Rock Troll. He took up most of the space except for a corner under a shelf where I sat with my knees pulled up to my chin. Grik sat much the same way and was no happier than I was.
"This sucks." I twisted my head and hit it on the shelf above me. Again. "If something doesn't happen soon, I swear I'm going to go out rob the place myself."
"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet."
I snorted in amusement. "Still on Rousseau, I see."
"He has a certain connection with life that trolls appreciate." Though Grik spoke softly, the shelves rattled. "One quote comes to mind after this morning: Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong."
"We should have that printed up and handed out at every office meeting," I replied.
"They wouldn't appreciate the gesture."
"And they'd have to look up who Rousseau is and have someone read it to them," I added. "Oh, damn. Insult. Does that put me on the wrong side of the quote?"
"Only if you said so to them. With me, it is a joke."
"Okay then --"
A light flashed above the door.
"Finally!" I dropped to my hands and knees. Grik stood, hitting his head on the ceiling and a piece fell down and hit me across the back. "Argh!"
"Sorry, sorry." He brushed the plaster off of me. "Okay?"
"Okay. Let's go."
We headed into the hall where I finally stood. My legs cramped but I kept the curse to myself as I hobbled behind my partner. I thought Grik limped as well. Three days waiting for this moment -- we had better not mess it up.
Grik paused at the edge of the hall and adjusted the collar around his neck. It sparkled with LEDs. Real Troll collars were made to control trolls and were illegal as hell. This one was all show and we were ready to get on with the act.
Grik looked my way and grunted. I nodded.
Grik went round the corner of the hall and out into the room. I stayed low, knowing I'd be hidden behind the counter. Nervous Ned, the owner of what I suspected was the world's worst pawnshop, was shifting from one foot to the other and I kept my distance so he didn't stomp on my fingers.
"So, you got yourself one, too, eh?" A weaselly voice said from the other side of the counter. Grik had gone past Nervous Ned and into the larger area. He towered over the place. "Big un, too. Looks stupid. I got me these two here and more out in the van. He tries to take me an' I turn 'em loose on you, don't I?"
I couldn't see Weasel, even though he had to be pretty close to the counter. Small guy, then.
"Well, you see, it's not like it seems," Nervous Ned said. He was pretty nearly tap dancing now. And he was about to give us away.
Grik grunted and stomped forward, the walls shaking.
"You call your dog back, Ned, or else your place ain't going to survive --"
"He's not my -- Ow!"
I jabbed him in the leg. He looked down and saw I had a gun in my hand. So he turned white and fainted.
This was not going according to plan.
"Huh," Weasel said with a bit of a laugh. "I guess that means I can just take what I want, eh my dogs? And you, big guy, you stay right there. I don't know where his control board is for you, and I'm not going to go hunt it down, but as long as he can't give you no orders, I figure you're useless eh?"
"Not entirely useless," Grik said.
"Aaaiiiee!" Weasel shouted and jumped up on the counter, as though that would save him. When Grik moved his way, he fell backwards -- on me.
Somehow I didn't shoot him or myself.
By the time I'd pulled the cuffed and cursing Weasel out from behind the counter, Grik had already pulled the collars off the two trolls. They swayed and looked around, snarling.
"They going to be all right?" I asked.
"Yes," Grik said. He grunted.
The one on the right grunted in reply. Then the left.
Grunt GRUNT GRUNT.
Oh yeah, that last one was a curse, especially since they'd turned to Weasel and both took a step forward.
He collapsed on the floor. I nudged him with my foot. "Damn. We'll have to carry him out."
Actually, the two trolls carried him. They tossed him back and forth like a beach ball, waiting each time for him to regain consciousness. I could tell they weren't hurting the guy and I figured they deserved a little revenge. They finally tossed him in the back of the unmarked police van and grunted a few more times to Grik before they headed for the van they'd come in.
"They'll take care of the others and report to me tomorrow with the whole story," Grik said.
Actually, Weasel told us everything we needed to know after Grik pointed out how his case would be tried in a Troll Court. By the end, he was grateful we had locked him up, nice and safe in the police station. So we were done and for once the others were pretty happy as well. But as we stepped out, Grik looked back at the building and shook his head.
"There is a man who was working hard to keep his family in money, but once he found an easier way, he took it, no matter what the cost to others. Rousseau was right: Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves."
I grunted agreement. I think I even got the nuance right.