The Black Knight Squash Fiction League Match



by Mick Joint

I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

Somewhere I Belong – Linkin Park


Unnerved, Sadie weighed her options. Wait or run? She couldn’t hide all night in this murky, uncomfortable recess of the club, however making a break for the door would expose her. As Sadie listened to the rhythmic, beat and echo of the squash ball, her panic morphed into curiosity --

The intruder could play. Skillfully.

Momentarily calmed, Sadie thought maybe it was only a student, sneaking in an after-hours session. However, that was highly unlikely, as every kid knew the rules. She couldn’t imagine anyone who’d dare risk breaking in, for fear of being banished from the program. Discipline & Respect: Those were the key words of Julian’s mantra. You ate, slept, and breathed them, to earn the privilege of training here. Sadie couldn’t remember the last time a kid stepped out of line.

Silently, Sadie inched behind Court #6’s back glass to spy on who was pounding out the straight drives with ease.

In the dim light, she could see young boy in the back right corner, who appeared to be maybe 14 or 15 years old. He was churning out solid forehands, most only a few inches off the wall -- Forehands, Sadie sure wouldn’t be ashamed to hit herself. He wore baggy jeans, unlaced red and black NIKES, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap tilted to the side.

Beside the court’s door, was a slightly unzipped backpack; Sadie spotted the butt of a handgun poking out from under some clothing. Her heartbeat raced, as the trepidation instantly returned.

Suddenly, the phantom player crashed the ball into the tin. It flew over the back wall. Sadie couldn’t see the ball, but there was no time to get out of its path anyway as it smacked her squarely atop her head. In an uncontrollable reflex, she squealed.

As startled and terrified as she was, the boy was frightened even more realizing he had been discovered. Panicked, he jumped off the court, grabbed his backpack and sprinted for the front door. Sadie, right on his heels, screamed frantically for him to stop.

He stopped, but not because of Sadie’s ear-splitting request. Stepping on the same ball that had ricocheted off Sadie’s head moments earlier, the kid went flying. If it wasn’t for the dangerous circumstances, the fall was a hilarious, classic Hollywood “clown-slips-on-banana-peel” slap-stick act. Just shy of completing a full somersault in the air, his legs and head swapping position, the boy crashed down loudly, flying into the lobby’s giant glass trophy cabinet, demolishing it. Shards and splinters of glass flew in every direction. Julian’s trophies, from juniors to pros, were in pieces.

Sadie sped over. The kid lay motionless on the floor, probably in shock, rather than sustaining any major injuries. Sadie couldn’t view any blood. He must have more lives than, Cheeto, the cat, because he miraculously managed to avoid a single scratch. Sadie’s eyes raked across the floor -- His backpack was, thankfully, out of reach.

STAY DOWN”, she shouted forcefully. “You are in a whole load of trouble.” She leaned in close, the boy’s face mere inches from hers, then grabbed him roughly by the front of his shirt with both hands. She jumped on top of him, her knees digging into his chest.

Sadie’s thoughts were racing. She had to get to a phone, call the police, call Julian, and keep the boy trapped as well.

No! Wait! No cops! Please,” the boy pleaded, close to tears. His thoughts raced. Crap! If she only knew the real deal, how much trouble he was in. Nobody would believe him, especially the cops, not what went down this morning. Maybe they would even charge him with the murder when they pulled that body out of the water. He never should’ve taken that guy’s damn gun.

Sadie’s nerves rattled, and she blurted,” How’d you get so good?”

The query took the boy by surprise. “You mean at squash?” She could see him smirk a little.

Practice,” he quipped, like it was the most obvious answer in the world.

Sadie wasn’t in the mood for sarcasm, as he’d just scared ten years off her life. “Listen smart-ass,” she snapped right back. “Either you talk to me or the cops. Your choice. Understand? Where do you play?”

“No cops! Please! Here! I just play here”, the boy spat out, gasping for air.

What do mean, here? You aren’t part of the teen program. Who the Hell are you, anyway?”

I, uh, I’m Nick.” Sadie raised a suspicious eyebrow. “No, really! Name’s Nick, and, you, you’re Sadie.” Her jaw dropped.

I’ve been practicing at night,” Nick continued. I come in after you leave. For a few months.” Sadie relaxed her hold slightly, and the boy chilled some.

As he continued, his voice was calmer, “Look, I saw you play, at that portable court thing, at the mall, and it was pretty chill, so I found out where you trained. I knew there ain’t no way I’d ever get into your fancy club, train with you so I watched all your matches on YouTube. Then, I come here after hours and copy everything you do. You never come back inside once you’ve taken the trash out. . .least not till tonight.”

You’ve been watching me!” Sadie spluttered. She felt violated, but, she also experienced a scrap of sympathy. It wasn’t all that long ago when Julian had saved her from a whole lot of trouble. Sadie relaxed a notch, but then she noticed his tattoo.

Being all too familiar with the darker side of street life, Sadie instantly recognized the ink, the infamous marking reported to make even the police’s blood run cold. Her hand went to her throat and she tensed in position, like a mountain lion ready to strike.

Shit! You’re a Squad!”

Squads are a notorious gang, with a vile reputation. This boy was a gang-banger, which meant he had some extremely hazardous friends. The official name of the group was Squad 1-2-3. Each number representing a level of initiation for each new recruit, Stage 1 is usually something relatively harmless, such as ‘tagging’ or minor vandalism. Stage2 moves up the violence scale exponentially, and includes random beatings or armed robberies. As each test is passed, the recruit receives the ink of the corresponding number added to the tattoo. This boy was only missing the number 3. Anyone local knew what it took to complete the artwork: murder. No wonder he didn’t want her to call the authorities, Sadie thought.

He was small, but dangerous. Sadie figured she had one chance. In a flash of movement, she simultaneously released him and dived for his backpack. She knew how to use a gun, and she quickly grabbed his weapon, released the safety and pointed it directly towards the boy, with both arms stretched out in front of her.

No way I’m gonna be your Number 3,” she cried. Sadie was now petrified. Her hands shook so violently, that even if she truly wanted to shoot the kid, it would be an extremely slim chance for any accuracy. Traumatized and trembling, Sadie accidentally pulled the trigger anyway.

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