This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Parker Sheaffer, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
© 2012 Parker Sheaffer
Noah Osgood in
Noah Osgood had a letter and that was odd because he never got mail. There was no return address so he had no idea who could be writing to him. He tore open the envelope to find a valentine card inside, a card with hearts and flowers on it. Inside the card was a nice poem and an inscription,
"Be my valentine", and it was signed... Adam.
Noah gasped as he stared disbelievingly at the card. His best friend, a boy who he had a serious crush on, liked him, too.
When he looked up he saw Adam standing before him and Adam said, "Well, will you be my Valentine?"
Noah whispered, "Yes, yes. Of course I will."
They looked into each other's eyes and as their lips drew closer together Noah could feel Adam's breath on his lips. Just as they were an inch apart, almost kissing, the alarm clock went off and Noah's eyes shot open!
He was in a bit of shock and had to lie there for a couple of minutes glaring indignantly at the hated alarm. It had all seemed so real and a great sense of disappointment washed over him. The stiffy in his pajamas would have to wait because Noah had to pee.
A few minutes later he staggered downstairs, still feeling put out and frustrated that the dream had not been real. His little brother, Artie, was already having pancakes and bacon. Most of the guys Noah knew talked about their little brothers as if they were pests to be avoided at all times, but Noah felt lucky to have a brother who was smart, funny and easy going. Plus, he knew that Artie looked up to him and that gave Noah a sense of responsibility and made him want to live up to Artie's image of him.
Noah said, "I hope you left a few of those pancakes for me, little brother."
Artie opened his mouth wide to show Noah the breakfast that he was chewing.
"Gross," laughed Noah.
"Happy Birthday, there's more in the oven," Artie told him, grinning.
Noah had forgotten that it was his birthday. That, plus Artie's cheery humor, helped push the clouds away from Noah's sour mood and as he sat down to eat he began to feel a little better.
A sharp sound, like metal clanging, caused him to look up and ask, "What was that sound?"
Artie said, "It sounded like the mailbox. It's too early for the mailman, though."
"Why don't you go see?"
A minute later Artie came back with an envelope in his hand.
"It's a letter for you," he said. "It doesn't look like a card though."
"I hope it's my letter from Hogwarts," Noah laughed. His heart began to beat faster because it was sort of like the dream. What if it was a valentine from Adam? With an excited sense of deja vu he looked at the letter.
The outside was addressed in pencil to 'Noah Osgood, boy detective'. It was his friend Adam who first called him by that moniker after he successfully figured out why the neighborhood dogs were disappearing. Later, a reporter used it to describe him in a brief mention in the local paper when he assisted in discovering who was stealing from an area archeological dig.
Noah excitedly tore open the flap and unfolded the single sheet of paper inside.
He read aloud,
"Mr. Osgood. You think you're pretty smart, don't you? Well, I have a challenge for you. I have left clues to a mystery all over town and I want you to try and follow them. If you are able to decipher them all and solve my puzzle I will allow that you are indeed a clever boy. If you fail, however, you will be very sorry. You have until one o'clock today to complete this mission, or else.
The first clue is simply this: Eggs mark the spot.
Artie had stopped eating with his fork halfway to his mouth. "Is this for real? Who is Professor Morty?" he asked.
Noah replied, "Moriarty, he was Sherlock Holmes' enemy. It sounds nutty to me. What does he mean 'or else'?"
"Are you going to do it?"
"Do what?" asked Adam as he walked into the room.
Noah looked up, mildly surprised at his friend's early arrival. Adam was a handsome boy with dark hair and long eyelashes. He could have been friends with anyone in their class but somehow he had been drawn to Noah. They had been best friends for several years.
Noah asked, "Did you see anyone near our front porch when you came in?"
"There was a guy in a black Toyota driving away, that's all. Why?"
Artie said, "Noah got a weird letter. Show him Noah."
Adam took the letter from his hand and looked it over. He said, "So someone just put it in your mailbox? It sounds nuts. Are you going to do it?"
"Beats me," said Noah. "Who would call me 'boy detective'? And what does he have in mind if I don't do what he wants?"
"It'll at least be something interesting to do this morning. Are you finished eating? He doesn't give us much time," Adam told him.
"I can think and eat at the same time. Okay, eggs mark the spot. What the heck does that mean?"
"Eggs, eggs. There's that big Humpty Dumpty over at the miniature golf course," Adam offered.
"Maybe, but it says eggs, not egg. What kind of eggs? Hens eggs? Bird eggs? Ostrich eggs? Fish eggs?"
"Hen's eggs are the most common I guess."
"The only place I know where there are eggs is at the grocery store. Maybe we should start there."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" asked Adam.
"I want to go, but I told Mark I would go to his house," said Artie.
"Have fun, little bro. We'll see you later."
The grocery store was a mile away, but with their bikes it only took a few minutes to get there. Walking quickly down the aisle they headed for the egg section at the back of the store. There were eggs from three different producers on the refrigerated shelf and each one was divided into different sizes of medium, large, extra large and jumbo. There were brown eggs and white eggs as well. The boys looked the display over carefully, trying to find any arrangement that might mean something to them but everything looked perfectly normal.
Noah said, "I guess I was wrong about this one. Rats, we'll have to rethink it."
Adam pointed to the front left corner of the display and said, "What's that red thing at the bottom of that stack?"
Noah saw a corner of something there so he carefully lifted the three cartons sitting on it and picked up a red card. Turning it over he read,
"Ah so, no good. Wno og ot het nired dan yub a eppra."
The boys exchanged confused looks.
"Is it some sort of code?" asked Adam.
"Let's go outside and sit down and look at it for a while. Maybe it will become clear."
They stared at the message for a long time.
Adam wondered, "Does 'no good' mean we didn't find the right clue? And 'ah so', why does it sound like Japanese?"
"Wait, Ah so no good', that's an anagram of my name. See? Rearrange the letters. Maybe the rest of it's an anagram too."
"Hey, you're right. What's it say?"
"Won go to the nired and buy a something? No, now go to the diner and buy a paper."
"Hey, that's it. Which diner?"
"I'll bet it's Connie's Kitchen. That's the closest to the house."
"Let's go then", said Adam.
As soon as they pulled up in front of Connie's Kitchen they saw two newspaper boxes outside. One was for a free paper full of ads and coupons for shoppers and the other was for the small local newspaper. It cost fifty cents and Noah had to borrow a quarter from Adam to open the box.
Planning to look through each of them they took out all of the papers and propped the door open with a rock.
A further search was unnecessary however because there, under all of the papers, was another red card. They replaced the papers and eagerly turned the card over.
"Right in the middle of town
there is a man in brown.
Look for a clue
beneath a shoe,
two feet up and two feet down."
Adam said, "That's dumb. How can something be two feet up and two feet down? Up and down what?"
Noah said, "I don't know, but whatever it is it's in the middle of town. Let's go see if we can find the man."
They rode the few blocks over to the downtown area. Everything was pretty quiet since most of the shops didn't open for another half hour. They looked at every man they saw, hoping to find one wearing something brown. The first thing they noticed was a male mannequin in a brown suit in the window of Clark's clothing store. Standing on the sidewalk outside they looked it over carefully.
"Two feet up him and two feet down. It doesn't make sense. I don't see anything," Noah said.
"Maybe it's behind him, or under his shoe. Do we wait for the store to open or keep looking?" Adam asked.
"Let's keep looking and if we can't find anything else we can come back."
A UPS truck drove past them and they saw that the driver was wearing the usual brown uniform.
"Do you think it's him?" pondered Noah.
"I don't see how. He keeps moving and how could the riddler know that he would be in the middle of town?"
"You're right. Well, what else is there?"
Noah sighed and said, "It's taking longer than I thought. We're wasting time just wandering around."
"Let's check the park," Adam suggested.
The park was a small area the size of two city blocks. There were some benches, a few trees, a fountain and a statue. The statue was of a famous Civil War general sitting on his horse with his sword in his hand, as if he was leading a charge.
The statue was bronze and the horse was rearing up on its hind legs.
Noah and Adam looked at each other and grinned.
"It's a man in brown," Adam said.
"And the horse has two feet up in the air and two down on the ground," Noah agreed.
"Looks like something red up under one of the hooves. Who's gonna climb up and get it?"
"I will," said Noah. "Give me a boost."
He easily retrieved the red card and the two friends took it to a bench where they could sit and examine it.
This card listed four sets of numbers. They were:
6 9 14 4
25 15 21 18
5 1 19 20 5 18
6 18 9 5 14 4.
"Oh no," Adam said, "I suck at math."
"I know," Noah chuckled, "but I think this might be a code of some sort. Let's see. I always try the simplest first so let's see if it's just a letter substitution code. Six would be F, nine would be I, fourteen would be N and four would be D. F-I-N-D. That's it. I don't suppose you happen to have something to write with."
"Then you take the last word and try to do it in your head. I'll work on the others."
Several minutes later after both boys got tired of counting on their fingers Noah said, "It says 'find your Easter... what?' What was your word?"
Adam said, "Friend. Find your Easter friend. Who's your Easter friend?"
"I guess it would be either Jesus, my mom or the Easter bunny. I know where my mom is so it either means go to church or find a bunny. Where the heck would we find a bunny though?"
"How about right over there," Adam said, pointing to the window of a pet store across the street. In the window was a big sign announcing "We have rabbits for sale".
Noah said, "Well, let's go take a look then."
Opening the door of the shop caused a bell over the door to ring and instantly a jungle of sound enveloped them. Puppies started to bark, cats began to cry, parrots screeched and called out funny words at them and dozens of birds began chirping and singing. A middle-aged woman with very curly blond hair stepped out from behind a fish tank where she had apparently been feeding the fish.
"Sorry about the noise. The bell always sets them off but they will quiet down in a couple of minutes. What can I help you boys with?"
"Could we take a look at your rabbits?" Noah asked.
"You wouldn't happen to be Noah Osgood, would you?" she asked.
"Why, yes I am."
"Got something for you," she said, stepping behind the counter. She handed him a red card and said, "I was told to give this to Noah Osgood and that he would be a boy asking about rabbits."
"Who gave it to you?" Noah asked excitedly.
"He didn't give me a name. Just some guy in a trench coat and sunglasses. He looked sort of suspicious, but he gave me five dollars so I told him I would watch for you."
Noah thanked her and he and Adam left the store and the noise where they could look at the card in peace. This time the instructions were clearer. It just said,
"Go left five blocks."
They got on their bikes and rode up the street. As they passed the big clock outside the bank they noticed that it was already half past twelve.
Noah looked worried and said, "We only have a half hour. Do you think we'll make it by one o'clock?"
"I hope so. Let's pedal faster," Adam suggested.
At the end of the fifth block they saw a red card taped to the street light. It just had an arrow pointing to the left so they made a quick turn and followed it. A few blocks later they spotted another card pointing them north. They found three more in quick succession and Noah started to wonder about it.
He said, "We're getting close to my house."
Sure enough, they spotted a red card taped to the streetlight outside their yard with an arrow pointing down his walkway. Noah feared that something might have happened to his family so they parked their bikes on the front porch and rushed inside.
"Mom," called out Noah.
A dozen voices shouted, "Surprise!"
Noah gaped with astonishment as he saw a bunch of his buddies from school standing in his living room. There were bunches of colorful balloons in the corners and a big banner proclaiming "Happy Birthday" hanging over the fireplace. His mom and brother were there too, both grinning widely.
Adam whispered, "Well, are you surprised?"
"Yeah, I'm real surprised. I don't understand though, what about the clues, the mystery?"
"That was me. I thought it would be a fun way to get you out of the house while your mom and brother got things set up."
"What? You made up all those clues? What about the mysterious man?"
"Aw, I made him up to throw you off the track. My mom helped me with the clues and she drove me around this morning to put them in place."
"But the clerk at the pet store...", Noah began.
"That was my cousin, Peggy. I told her to play along."
"You stinker. You really had me going."
"Was it fun?"
"Yeah, it was. It was a lot of fun. Thanks, Adam, I love you."
Noah gasped at what he had blurted out. How would Adam take it?
Adam grinned and said, "I know," and put his arm around Noah's shoulders. "Let's go get some ice cream and cake and say hi to your guests."