Cornelius the troll glared up at the shadowy figure behind the machine gun. He raised his hands, but his gnarled face twisted in a scowl. "Who the hell do you think you are, threatening me?"
"I'm the guy with a machine gun aimed at your nuts," Bryce shouted back. "That's all you got to know."
"You aren't getting away with this."
"If I shoot you, I will."
"You can't shoot all of us."
"Maybe not. But I'll start with you."
Eddie watched all of this from behind the troll. The sting from the troll's touch had almost abated. As Eddie watched the others, the boy reached for his blindfold. Eddie was half curious, half terrified of what might happen when it came off. "Bryce, the blindfold," Eddie cried.
The gun reported three times--three puffs of dust bloomed in front of the boy's feet. The boy jumped back, dropping his hands, the blindfold still secure in place.
"I don't know what kind of weird shit happens when that blindfold comes off," Bryce shouted. "But I bet it doesn't work if you're dead."
"We're gonna gut you," Ganny hissed.
"Not if I gut you first," Bryce replied.
"What do you want, lad?" Cornelius demanded.
"I want to shoot you."
"Then do it!" Spittle flew from the troll's mouth as he shouted.
"Do you see that hole in the fence over there? I want you to walk through it."
"And then what?"
"If you take my jeep, there isn't a place on Earth you can hide from me. I'll invent new forms of torture just for you." The troll stood rigid.
"I don't want your jeep," Bryce said. "This thing smells like a corpse farted. I want you to leave us alone."
"Can't do that. You've taken what's mine."
"You'll get over it. Why don't you go find your bog instead. I bet it's out there somewhere."
"There's nothing out there, lad. This is the end of the world."
"If it's the end of the world, you'll want to be alive to see what happens next. Start walking."
Cornelius walked backwards, his course taking him straight towards Eddie.
"Not that way," Bryce demanded. "Other way around the car, all of you. Or I aim this thing at the hood of your jeep."
The troll's posture stiffened. "I'll tear you apart."
"You do what I say. Leave my friend alone. Walk away, and I'll leave you and your jeep in one piece."
"Why would you do that?"
"I'm nice that way."
The troll stood a moment more, considering. Then he turned his back on Bryce and walked around the convertible, leaving Eddie alone. "Come on," he ordered.
"But boss," the girl protested. "We can't let him leave us out here."
"Do as I say, lass."
The troll stooped through the hole in the fence, his young minions following. The dog Gristle strained at his chains to get closer to Eddie, but the girl tugged him away.
When they'd all gone through, Eddie ran to the back of the jeep. Bryce stood up behind the machine gun, gripping its handles as he watched the retreating troll and his gang.
"What do we do now?" Eddie asked.
"Can you drive this thing?"
"You want to steal the jeep?"
"If we don't, they'll chase us again."
Eddie climbed into the jeep. The seat was massive. He sat down, leaned forward to the steering wheel and found his feet couldn't reach the pedals. He tried standing, extending his foot forward. The gas pedal didn't move. He strained, barely pushing it a centimeter. "This isn't going to work."
"Are there keys?" Bryce asked.
Eddie turned the key to pull it out. All the Jeep's lights went out. He panicked and shoved the key back in. The lights came back on.
"Okay, that's a problem," Bryce said.
"What do we do?"
"Get in the convertible. Get ready to drive."
Ten minutes passed. The troll's group retreated further into the flat land beyond the fence until they were out of reach from the floodlights. Eddie watched anxiously from the driver's seat of the convertible. They had waited too long. Someone might have slipped into the shadows and doubled back.
The jeep's lights went out. A second later, Bryce jumped into the convertible, jangling keys hanging from his finger. "Drive!"