John Stanley was one of the best juniors tennis players in the town, but he wasn’t looking forward to his upcoming match against Ike Quilp. Ike was the younger brother of Rowdy Quilp, who was a Tiger member. John suspected that the Tigers were going to pull some shenanigans to make sure their member’s brother won the tennis match. Even though John had a fresh can of tennis balls with his lucky number 8 printed on them – which he thought would guarantee a win – he still wanted to pay Encyclopedia to make sure there was no funny business going on.
John, Encyclopedia and Sally went to the tournament together. John’s parents apparently had no interest in their son’s performance, otherwise John would have probably gotten a ride with them. John went to check in, and the two detectives wandered around. In their travels, they saw Fremont Smith with Bugs Meany. Fremont lives on the same block as Sally, so she struck up a conversation with him. She asked him if he was a tennis fan. Fremont admitted that he knew nothing about the sport and that he was only around because Bugs wanted him to join the Tigers, which Bugs had claimed was a “service” club. He explained that the Tigers do a lot of good. That day, they were there to help the judges.
The judges wanted the Tigers there to help them? Didn’t they do any kind of background check before they depended on them to help with an event? Were the Hell’s Angels unavailable?
You’re going to find what happens next completely unbelievable, but at this point in the story, John announced that his racket and good luck tennis balls had been stolen. He had another racket, but it was heavier. He worried that he wouldn’t be able to beat Ike with the heavier racket.
Encyclopedia’s bright idea was that the racket and balls would be in the pro shop. I don’t know why he would assume that, but of course, that’s where they ended up. John, Fremont and the two detectives went to the pro shop, where they found a big basket filled with tennis balls. Encyclopedia decided that John’s tennis balls must have been in that basket, so he told Fremont to look for them.
Encyclopedia’s reasoning was that brand new balls by that had manufacturer’s name (Wilkins) with the number 8 printed on them would have been the ones stolen from John. Except, no. Wilkins didn’t make just that one can of number 8s. They make tons of those, and this country club probably had dozens of tennis balls with “Wilkins 8” printed on them. Just because John’s balls were stolen, that doesn’t mean anyone the right to just take balls from the country club to replace them.
While Fremont dug through the basket of balls, Encyclopedia found John’s racket hanging on the wall. Are we sure it was racket? No, we’re not. But we’ve learned that Encyclopedia had decided that anything vaguely similar to the items stolen from John was ripe for the pickings.
Fremont appeared with three “Wilkins 8” balls. John looked them over and noticed that one of the balls looked old. See? That only proves my point. Just because it was a Wilkins 8 ball, it doesn’t mean that it was John’s.
Fremont went back to look for another new ball for John. With him gone, Sally and Encyclopedia started talking. Sally floated the idea that Fremont was behind this. Encyclopedia knew for sure. How?
Because Fremont claimed that he knew nothing about tennis. No one told him how many balls to look for. If he knew nothing about tennis, then how did he know that tennis balls are sold in cans of three?
I don’t know, about this. It’s not like he was claiming that he knew absolutely nothing about anything having to do, even tangentially, with the sport. He may have never watched a single tennis match in his life. He may even be one of those annoying people who pronounce it “Wimbleton.” But I’m sure he may have unknowingly picked up tennis knowledge without realizing it. He knew nothing about tennis, but it’s somewhat reasonable to assume that he had, at some point in his life, stepped foot in a sporting goods store. Anyone even half-paying attention would note that tennis balls are sold in cans of three. I mean, I admit to know very little about fishing, but I would recognize a tackle box.
Where would Encyclopedia draw the line here? He thought it was weird that Fremont knew to look for three tennis balls. Using Encyclopedia’s reasoning, Fremont shouldn’t even know what a tennis racket looks like.