(The following is a recap of the first two parts of “The Ghost of the Handball Courts,” printed in the October 12 and 19 editions of McVeighing In, with the final part on page 5 this week.)
“Alright boys, pack it up,” the foreman barked. “That’s it for us!”
“Those damn handball courts,” he mumbled to himself as he walked off the site.
It had become official earlier that morning. The suits had finally finished the paperwork uptown, and word had just arrived at the site — all construction was to stop immediately. Several years of work would be now left to rot. Well, until someone else tried to use the land. The carcasses of the buildings they had erected stood tall and empty over the nearby bungalows. Tall and out of place, like they didn’t belong. They didn’t belong. And it was not until it was too late that was realized.
The plan was to use the once vacant beach front land to build condos. What could possibly go wrong? Time after time there were signs. Signs to stop the building. Not just from the people of the nearby communities who had been outspoken about their ill feelings for the project. There were other signs. Unnatural signs.
That time of year is when you start to notice how early the dark of night falls. Only a few weeks ago it felt like the sun remained high in the sky right up to 9 p.m. Now it seemed that after noon the sun already began its westward exit. October had arrived and had brought its unmistakably cool air with it. The crowds of the warmer days had past and all that remained were those who never left — not townies like in most places — locals, ‘round here they’re called locals.
The news of the work finally stopping had spread through town like wildfire. As all the good stories do (and the bad ones, too), Michael heard on the bus ride home. He came flying through the door like a wrecking ball.
“Ma! Dad! Did you hear? They’re all leaving. The workers, the trucks, everything!” he said.
“I did hear, Michael,” Mr. Kohler said. Of course, he had. By that time, the whole town had. “It’s about damn time they left.”
The locals had all heard the stories. They had all read the reports in the papers. Those poor workers that had gone missing. Three men over the course of six months had disappeared. Clocked in at 7 a.m. and never clocked out. No one could explain it. There were no signs of foul play. The police were dumbfounded. They just up and vanished. The only connection the three men had was where they were working. They had all been part of the crew working on the western-most building’s exterior courtyard. Right next to the old handball courts.
The handball courts had always been there. They were certainly there before the buildings. Before the idea of the buildings, even. The courts had once belonged to the Long Shore Surf Club — a seaside paradise back in the early days of the Point. The remnants of the Club were just west of the buildings. You see, the Club had been destroyed in Hurricane Donna. Now, the handball courts were in disarray. Cracks covered the grounds of the courts like spiderwebs, and weeds sprouted up all over the place. The walls of the courts stood like two tall headstones. Not etched with epitaphs but rather with years of hooligans’ graffiti. The courts were always there but never used. Yet there they stood.
“So it’s decided then, we’ll go tomorrow night,” Michael said.
“I don’t know, Mike,” Andrew said in a cracked voice. “I heard my dad talking last night and… and it sounds like it could be dangerous.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? They just ran out of money. That’s why they’re leaving. We’re just going to go check out those buildings and see if they left anything cool lying around,” said Michael.
“Stop being such a wimp!” Jimmy chimed in. “What are you scared of anyway?” It was a rhetorical question, but it made all three of them think. Should they be scared?
The three boys had decided that Tuesday would be the perfect night. It was October 31st — Halloween. Their plan was to tell their parents they were going trick or treating (which they would still need to do for a short time. What’s Halloween without some candy?) and then slip away to the buildings to do some exploring.
The buildings had been left lifeless for a few weeks now. The first few days after the news was filled with crews moving out equipment and then police putting some finishing touches on an ice-cold investigation that was leading to nothing. Finally, the area sat still. It was quiet as a graveyard and the boys were free to take a look around for themselves.
“Tuesday would be perfect,” Michael thought to himself on the way home from school that day.
“Let’s go! We don’t have all night, guys,” Michael barked at his two companions.
The three boys, dressed in their Halloween costumes, had finished a couple of walks worth of trick or treating and decided it was time to for the real adventure to begin. The boys went by Michael’s house and stashed their bags of candy under his front porch. They then headed swiftly down the Promenade and, when they reached the end, cut sharply up to the Main Road which they were able to take straight down to site of the buildings.
As they approached the buildings they began to feel a chill in the air. Not from the cool October air, though. No, this was from something else.
“Are we sure about this?” Jimmy said.
“What happened to ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ from back at school?” Andrew said mockingly.
As they turned off the Main Road and grew closer to the buildings, they saw the handball courts.
“That’s funny,” Andrew quipped. “I wonder why they left those old ratty things. Seems like they got rid of all the other junk ‘round here.”