If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 over here.
The next morning Ali went to the apartment complex office and asked to speak to the manger. She soon found herself seated across a desk from Aaron Spellmeyer, a smug looking thirty-something in a shirt and tie.
“What do you want to know about the racquetball court?” he said, flashing an overly whitened smile. “It's just one of our many wonderful amenities here at Pine Ridge Landings.”
Ali sighed and looked at her watch. She needed to get as much information as she could before it was time for class.
“Yes, I already live here so I know about the 'amenities,'” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I want to know why the court closed thirty years ago.”
Aaron shrugged and smiled again.
“I couldn't say, my management firm bought this property a year ago,” he said. “We just refinished the floor and repainted, one of the many improvements Home Sweet Home Property Management has made.”
Ali laughed scornfully. The only change she had seen when the new management took over was higher rent.
“There are no records?” she asked. “The old management didn't leave anything on file?”
Aaron shook his head but maintained his smile.
“The previous owners weren't much for record keeping, you could say,” he chuckled.
“What about the Building Division?” Ali asked. “Are there any old permits or reports on file? Have you checked with City Hall?”
Aaron appeared to be thinking to himself. He took a deep breath, widened his smile and folded his hands on the desktop.
“At Home Sweet Home Property Management we spend our time providing quality housing to our tenants,” he said. “We don't really have time to do all the research you're asking for. But let me assure that the racquetball court is safe and up to code.”
“Well, thank you for your time,” Ali said, and she got up to leave.
Brian angrily adjusted his headband and cursed himself. The game had started off friendly enough but had quickly disintegrated into a sweaty testosterone-fueled death match.
Matt had arrived at the racquetball court at the appointed time with a mending Kurt in tow. Kurt explained that the ophthalmologist had prescribed him some eye drops and he was now ready to play. Everyone had put their tubes of spare racquetballs in the corner of the court and started to warm up. Kurt sported a prescription eye patch and he shot Brian an evil look, his good eye full of hate. Brian suspected something was wrong when he made a snarky comment about pirates and Kurt was unperturbed. To Brian's horror, Kurt had simply removed his eye patch and put on a brand new pair of the thickest goggles Brian had ever seen.
And now they were killing him. Brian loathed himself for not seeing the evil duo for what they were: hustlers. But unlike other hustlers, racquetball hustlers didn't play for money. They were just ridiculously skilled in the art of racquetball and masochistically interested in making other players look very, very foolish, which was exactly what they were doing to Brian at that moment.
Kurt had extra reason to see Brian look stupid in light of yesterday's racquetball-to-the-eye incident. Kurt had won the first two games without much effort, with Matt in close second. Brian hadn't scored in the first game, gotten a meager two points in the second and game number three was looking to have a similar outcome. All notions of racquetball glory had fled from Brian. He was breathing heavily and trying to dodge the elbows Kurt was throwing.
“Who's the pirate now?” Kurt sneered. “You're playing like you have a wooden leg and a hook for a hand, heh heh heh.”
“And a parrot,” added Matt with an vicious smirk. “That's, like, on your shoulder and asking for a cracker and talking a lot and distracting you and making you suck.”
Brian shuddered at the sight of Kurt's injured eye: bloodshot and bulging with the pupil fully dilated.
“Shut up,” Brian murmured. “Who makes pirate jokes anyway? Pirates are so trendy and overdone, like zombies and ninjas.”
Kurt laughed loudly, looked over at Matt and then back to Brian.
“Now that you mention it,” Kurt guffawed, “You're playing more like a zombie than a pirate. Like you're thinking about eating brains instead of racquetball.”
Kurt and Matt laughed and gave each other high fives. Brian gritted his teeth and tried hard to think of a snappy comeback.
“I'll... eat your brains,” he mumbled, hating himself all the more. “Just shut up and serve.”
Kurt and Matt laughed loudly again and shook their heads. Kurt stepped up to the serving line, grinning hatefully. He bounced the ball several times and called, “Game point.” He threw the ball up in the air.
The lights went out. The racquetball Kurt had been about to serve fall back down and hit the floor. The sound seemed extra loud in the darkness.
“Not again!” Kurt's voice called out. “What's going on?”
Brian strained his eyes to see but the darkness was complete. He heard Kurt and Matt grumbling to each other and start stumbling toward the back of the court. And then Brian heard a racquetball start bouncing toward the back of the court.
“Is someone...” he started to say.
The sound of one bouncing racquetball slowly grew until it sounded like several balls were bouncing and then several more. The sound rapidly grew into a dull roar. It sounded to Brian as if all of their spare racquetballs were bouncing around the court at rapid speed, ricocheting off the walls, floor and ceiling. He heard several whiz past his head.
“What's happening?” Matt called in a choking voice over the din.
Brian was trying to feel his way toward the door in the darkness. He stumbled through the hailstorm of racquetballs. The air was full of them, and he could feel them zinging past. One smacked him in the back of the head. Another hit him in the hand, almost knocking the racquet out of it. Brian winced and heard Matt and Kurt yelling.
The racquetballs were flying all around like an swarm of angry bees. They began to pelt Brian all over his body and he broke into a run. He ran smack into the back wall and fell backward. He scrambled to his feet and felt for the door.
“Over here!” Brian called out, holding the door open.
Dim light spilled into the previously dark court. Matt and Kurt stumbled toward the door and together the three men ran screaming from the court.