Flaming for Trolls

By someone who knows better than to write such tripe

Obligatory disclaimer: no money exchanged hands. Hopefully, guffaws do.

The body lay face down.

Professor Charles Eppes—genius, mathematician, and all round extremely good-looking hunk—did what any other drop dead gorgeous dude would do: he backed away.


His brother Don, equally as gorgeous but in a dark and brooding sort of way—and who, when prompted, could break into a killer smile that would cause many Charlie-droolers to send simpering moans in his direction—tossed a disdainful glance in his direction. "Wimp," he muttered.

"Am not," Charlie sniffed.

"Are too," Don replied. "You pass out at the sight of blood."

"You pass out at the sight of a Diophantine equation in three variables."

"I would if I knew what it was," Don muttered under his breath. Growing up, Charlie would always get away with everything just by looking cute, and that hadn't changed yet. Don wasn't going to put up with it. "Go sit in the Suburban and play solitaire on your laptop."

"I don't wanna."

"I don't care what you want. I'm the older brother, which means that sibling rivalry is still in effect, which means that—holy crap!"

"What?" Charlie leaned over Don's shoulder. "Holy crap!"

"Get your own lines, buddy. That one was mine. Can't you read the script? Right there: it says, Don says holy crap! Not Charlie."

"What is it?" Charlie breathed, ignoring Don's complaint. "It…it doesn't look human!"

"That's because it isn't, Chuck." Finally, something that Don knew and Charlie didn't. "It's a troll."

"A troll?" Charlie swallowed hard. "I didn't think they existed outside of Sunnydale."

"Oh, they do, Chuck. Here's your proof."

Charlie breathed deeply through his mouth, to avoid the stench rising from the body like a miasma of plague. "I had no idea that they were so… ugly."

"Just a reflection of their personality, Chuck." Don surveyed the body, keeping his cool because it made him look so much more devastatingly masculine than his geeky little brother, and in this story he was going to need every edge he could get. The troll—male, Don thought, although he was far from certain—was short and stout, and the hair that emanated from both the head and shoulders was thick and greasy, indicating that the troll cleansed himself a minimum of once yearly, whether he needed to or not. "Don't look in the mouth if you don't want—"

Too late. Charlie had leaned over to peer at the dentition and now he was dashing for a nearby trash can, losing his lunch. He tottered back, face white.

"Told you, Chuck," Don chuckled. Nothing better for turning off the groupies than tossing your cookies! Hah! "What comes out of that mouth, you wouldn't want to hear—or smell, or read. If you're smart, you'll never let 'em near a computer. They'll write anything and everything, just to try to make someone feel bad. Their special target is aspiring writers. There's a whole tribe of 'em, nasty little buggers, keep writing these vicious reviews of perfectly good stories just so that they can puff themselves up and make themselves think that they're something special. It's a sadistic little technique called 'flaming'."

"That's awful!" Charlie exclaimed. "That's worse than a serial killer! That's…that's not nice!"

"Trolls are not nice," Don told him, "but it's my job to figure out who killed this one. It's murder, even though it's a troll, you know, and it's the main plot of this story which means that I'm obligated to investigate. Let's see if there are any clues that you can plug into an equation, Charlie."

"Of course." Charlie whipped out his laptop from his back pocket, taking advantage of the miracle of editing to do something anatomically impossible. "What clues do you have? After all, we're looking at the same crime scene, but I'm not seeing half the things that you do, oh wondrous older brother. Are you going to have Megan and David and Colby assist you in searching for clues? After all, I need a lot of data to put into my equations. More data equals more accuracy, and we all know that I'm a stickler for accuracy except when I can't be bothered."

"Not Megan," Don said. "She's out looking for another job. She's tired of playing second banana on this show. Not David, because he dresses better than I do. You think I like the competition?"

"Well, how about Colby?"

"Are you kidding? The man's groupies are getting even more vocal than yours and mine. I don't want him anywhere near this story."

"More adoring than—" Charlie swallowed hard—"my drooling fans who adore me to the ends of the Earth?"

"Better watch out, Chuck," Don advised him, "and better start shaving again. The scruffy look went out with the eighties, when they cancelled Miami Vice. If you're not careful, your groupies are going to head over to Colby and start hanging all over him and his clean-shaven masculine jaw. Entirely too good-looking a dude," Don warned.

"How about if we make him into a quintuple agent with another complex plot spanning two seasons? Only this time, we let him die so that we can indulge in lots of displays of manly grief."

"Not a bad idea," Don allowed, "but have you considered that CBS will come up with another series starring him? We don't want to lose the viewership. It's a numb3rs game out there, Charlie."

"Don't I know it," Charlie sighed. "All right, he can live. But you're right: we keep him away from this story. Just in case." He peered back at the troll's dead body. "What do you see?"

"I see a troll. How stupid can you get, Chuck?"

"No, I mean what remarkable details can you remark upon that I can put into an incomprehensible analysis that I have just created on the spot? After all, every real mathematical theorem doesn't acknowledge the reality of trolls, so there is no actual proof that I can use on this case."

"Aha!" Don pounced on a clue, in the figurative and not the literal sense, because the clue was blood and Don didn't want to get his shoes dirty. "Look at this!"

"I don't want to. I faint at the sight of blood, remember?"

"Charlie, there are letters here! This troll was trying to tell us who his murderer is!"

"Okay, what are the letters? I don't want to look."

Don frowned. "Haven't a clue."

"Yes, you do. The blood is the clue."

"No, I mean I can't figure out what the letters are, Charlie. The blood is smeared by the drool coming out of the troll's mouth, and has distorted the letters. This won't help."

"But it will." Charlie sat down on a convenient rock placed conveniently there by an ever-so-helpful stage hand for just that purpose and put his laptop on his lap where it belonged. He poured over the keyboard, pounding in the data, taking no time at all because even in a short story reading about someone using a keyboard is boring, so for the purposes of keeping the plot moving we will skip over this part which would normally take weeks to months but here will take a bare six seconds and a run-on sentence. "Look! I've identified some suspects! I googled the troll's name, and came up with some writers that he's recently flamed. One of them must be the murderer."

"Charlie, we don't know the troll's name."

"Details, details," Charlie grumbled. "I made one up, something involving fire. Trolls appear to like names with pyromaniacal connotations. Seemed to work pretty well."

"Okay, we gotta check 'em out," Don decided. "Wait here."

"With a dead troll? No way, Don. I'm coming with you. Make Colby stay with the stinking dead body. All those groupies he's trying to take from us? He deserves it."

"You're right." Don made the call, summoning Colby from his admirers just in case the troll rose from the dead with a new pseudonym to begin inflicting further damage on undeserving writers.

They leaped into Don's Suburban, because the monster truck was too high for any other method of entering, and roared away to the first suspect.

Don rapped on the door. "FBI! Open up!"

"Hang on," yelled a feminine voice from inside. "I've got to throw some clothes on."

"In that case, open up even faster," Don called back. "I'm a healthy male in the prime of my life, and I like seeing beautiful naked women."

"How do you know I'm beautiful?"

"Are you kidding?" Charlie put in. "This is fiction. Everyone is beautiful, with just a stroke of the pen."

The door opened, and SerialGal looked out at them. "But I use a computer, not a pen."

Both jaws dropped at the vision of loveliness that stood in front of them. Feel free to insert the description of choice here, because any of the words that should be used in this space will get #&#'ed out by the censors who are looking out for the decency of three year old toddlers who aren't able to read this story or even understand what is going on but need protection anyhow because Heaven knows that their parental units are too incompetent to perform that action. Why else would all of those watchdog groups have been formed to tell other people what they should and shouldn't watch?

Don was the first to recover. "Wow."

"Wow," Charlie echoed.

Don punched him in the shoulder. "What did I tell you about stealing my lines, Chuck?" He turned back to SerialGal. "I understand that you write fan fiction, and that you specialize in whumping."

"That's right," SerialGal admitted. "I'm well known for my equal opportunity whumpage, and the creative ways that I crunch the characters that I love."

Don pulled out his handcuffs. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm here to arrest you for the murder of the troll in the woods. He got whumped. I mean, he got whacked. He's dead, Jim."

Serialgal held out her wrists. "Even though my name isn't Jim, this could end up with some really intriguing whumpage. Handcuffs! How wonderful! Don't tell me where the key is. I'll spin this out into twenty chapters before one of us finds the key. Shall I whump you first, or Charlie?"

"Why did you kill him?" Charlie wanted to know.


"The troll."

"He got in the way of my taser," SerialGal admitted. "I was doing some research on tasers—the C2 is the latest model, you know—and he got in the way. Nasty, smelly little things."

"Tasers are smelly?"

"The troll."

"Uh oh." Don paused in applying the handcuffs. "You used a taser on him? The troll, I mean?"

"That's right." SerialGal pushed forward her wrists. "You could handcuff me to Charlie. I won't mind."

"You couldn't have killed the troll," Don realized. "You used a taser. Tasers don't kill people."

"They do if the person has a heart condition," SerialGal pointed out. "I did my research."

"But this was a troll. He didn't have a heart," Don explained.

SerialGal's face fell. "Rats," she said. "You discovered my plot hole." She looked up hopefully. "You could still cuff me to Charlie," she offered. "I'll promise to whump him first."

Next suspect: DreamBrother.

Don pulled up in front of the flat, and noted that there was a car outside with a flat tyre.

"Don," Charlie said, "it's an apartment house, not a flat. The car has a flat tire."

"Charlie," Don replied, "this suspect is British, and you know that they talk and spell in a strange sort of way."

"Yeah, but it sounds way cool. I'm like every other crass American: I go ga-ga over that accent."

"Charlie, we're actors. We can do that accent whenever we want."

"Yeah, but it sounds so much better in real life. Hurry up and knock on the door. I want to meet her. And listen to her talk."

Don pounded on the door.

"Go away! I'm studying for my mock exams! Have some consideration!"

Don pounded again. "FBI! Open up! I'm carrying a gun, which is something you genteel British types have no concept of. After all, it's only us self-absorbed Americans who need something large and cylindrical and hard to remind us that we're men."

The door whipped open, and DreamBrother shook her finger at him. "Genteel? Genteel? Have you never attended a football game?"

Charlie stared at her. She was well worth staring at, and he stared for all he was worth. "But you British don't play football. You play soccer."

"No, we play football. You call it soccer. And we Brits have some of the rowdiest sports fans on either side of the pond. Go away before I try to teach you the rules of cricket."

"Isn't that an insect—?"

Don interrupted, before the plot got any longer or more pointless. "We're here to arrest you for the murder of a troll. Come along quietly."

"I can't," DreamBrother objected. "I've got two tests in English lit, one in Sociology, and I have to learn this Bosnian song before there's another geo-political shift in the borders of several Eastern European countries. I have responsibilities—"

"Resistance is futile—" Don started to say when Charlie interrupted.

"Don," he said, "she's not guilty."

"I suppose your numb3rs told you that?"

"Of course. I did a multi-variate analysis of all possible end points, included as parameters such unusual spellings such as 'favourite' and 'colour', factored in the fact that when packing for a long trip they use a 'boot' instead of a 'trunk', and then—"

"Chuck," Don broke in, "why isn't she guilty?"

"Simple," Charlie said, "she's studying for exams. Do you think she had time to murder a troll?" He pushed his laptop around to show to both Don and DreamBrother the colorful graphics that he used to illustrate his point. "I mean, look at this graph. She's studying for exams, she's posting fan fiction, and she's drooling over me. There just isn't time for her to do anything else! The Charlie-drooling time alone takes up sixty-four point three percent of her waking hours. Besides, anyone who's that driven to succeed can't be bothered to deal with trolls. Trolls just aren't worth the effort."

"Oh." Don looked distraught. Then he looked at DreamBrother. "Can't you squeak out a little time to drool over me, too?"

DreamBrother took Don's hand, and gazed softly into his eyes. "Anything for Charlie's big brother. How about one point eight percent of my remaining discretionary waking hours? I'll fit you in between Starbucks runs and my next Supernatural fan fic."

Don pulled the Suburban to a screeching halt, because a quiet stop was boring and the story needed a pick-me-up at the moment.

"Hey!" Charlie objected.

"I told you to wear your seatbelt, stupid."

"How was I to know that you were going to stop right here? MapQuest says the house is down the block."

"MapQuest, as usual, is wrong. Look at the house numbers, Charlie."

"Ah-ha. You're right. Numb3rs never lie."

The brothers leaped out of the Suburban—"ow," cried Charlie. "I think I sprained my ankle, leaping from such a height."—and dashed to the front door.

"Why are we running?"

"I don't know. I was following you."

"Never mind." Don clenched his jaw, for two reasons. One: this had to be the home of the murderer. There was no one else available to take on the role and budget couldn't afford anyone else. Two: clenching made him look more manly. He pulled out his gun. "Stand back, Charlie." He pounded on the door. "FBI! Open up!"

An alluringly feminine voice floated out. "How do I know you're really from the FBI?"

"Uh…" Don thought fast. "I have a big gun?"

"So do half the criminals in America, and the other half favor sawed-off shotguns. Try again."

"Uh…I have a genius math consultant for a brother?"

"Good enough for me!" SmartAlienQT flung open the door. "How can I help myself to you gentlemen?"

Don stayed somber. "I'm sorry, QT, but we're here to arrest you for the murder of a troll. Did you do it?"

Her expression fell. "I cannot lie in the face of such harsh interrogation. Yes, I killed him. He was tormenting others, and I, being a kind-hearted and upstanding sort of person, wouldn't stand for his disgraceful behavior. I killed him." She covered her face with her hands and began to sob fetchingly, because in fiction no one ever looks ugly when they sob and if they do, a good editor can fix that with a few strokes of the keyboard. "Take me away."

"It's okay," Charlie comforted her. "We're only going to take you away to where you can receive accolades and praise for standing up to the bully."

SmartAlienQT brightened. "Really? You're not mad? I'm not going to spend the rest of my life in prison, scratching my fan fics into the cement on the prison walls with the barbs from the barb wire fences?"

Don grinned. "Are you kidding? The world needs great writers, and trolls are dedicated to preventing those writers from blossoming. We owe you a debt of gratitude, QT. The writer's strike may be over, but we'll always need new writers. The old ones tend to retire and live off of residuals."

"Just one thing," Charlie asked. "I really have to know. How did you kill the troll?"

SmartAlienQT smiled gently, remembering. "I made him eat his own words. He choked on them."

The End.