The Adventures of
Noah Osgood, Boy Detective
Copyright © by Parker Sheaffer
A Friend In Need
Noah Osgood was acting strangely and everyone noticed it. He moped around the house like a sad puppy, staring at the television, barely touching his meals. His mom asked if he was sick, but he sighed and said, "No. I'm fine."
His best friend Adam tried to cheer him up with jokes and card tricks. Noah couldn't manage more than a weak smile for him.
His little brother Artie offered him his dessert, Noah's favorite Strawberry pie, and Noah just shook his head.
This moodiness had gone on for two days and his family and friends were growing concerned for him. His mom had decided to take him to see their doctor, but it became unnecessary when Noah said that he had an announcement to make.
"Come on," he said glumly, like a man who was going to the gallows. "Everybody sit down. I have something to say."
Once everyone was sitting around the table they looked at Noah expectantly.
"Well, Noah, what was so important?" his mother asked.
Noah looked down at the table top, unable to meet anyone's eyes. He swallowed hard and said, "I, I just wanted to say that I have to drop out of the Boy Scouts."
"Dude, why?" asked Adam, incredulously.
Noah sat silently and a tear ran down his cheek.
"Noah, sweetie, what is it?" his mother asked as she reached out and placed her hand on his.
"It's just hard to say it. I'm... gay."
The others sat silently for a minute as they stared at Noah in disbelief.
Artie broke the silence when he said, "Well duh!"
Adam broke out laughing, "Ha, ha, what? You really think we didn't know?"
His mom fought back a smile as she said, "Oh, honey, is this what's been bothering you for the past couple of weeks? Noah, I've known you were gay since you were little."
"You did? How?"
"It was the little things, I guess. You were fussy about your clothing, you played house with the girls next door, the way you stared at the lifeguard at the pool. When you met Adam your eyes lit up like it was Christmas and I knew you were in love with him."
Noah threw a startled look at his smiling friend and blushed from his head to his toes.
His mom continued, "A mother sees these things and do you know what? I didn't care. I just wanted you to be happy, whoever you turned out to be. Have I ever said or done anything to make you think that I disapprove of gay people? Haven't I always taught you that hate is a bad thing?"
Adam said, "Yeah, you've never heard me put down anybody for being gay. I knew you liked me a long time ago, but so what? I was flattered. You're a really cool guy and a great friend. Did you think I wasn't going to like you any more if you came out? That's dumb. I was just waiting for you to bring it up."
Artie said, "I figured it out a long time ago. It's no big deal. What does it have to do with you quitting the Scouts?"
"Well, the Boy Scout council voted again and said that they don't want any gay boys in the organization. I can't help being gay. I don't feel like it's a bad thing. I like it, so I'm not going to pretend that I'm not gay. I have to speak out and tell them that they're wrong about us and when I do they are going to kick me out."
His mother said, "Yes, I read that article in the paper and you're right that being gay is not something bad. Those people are wrong and misguided. You know that we will stand behind you, whatever you decide. Why don't you wait to see what the local council has to say about it first? It might be that they don't care. Some troops are defying the national council and allowing gay kids to stay in."
"Yeah, bro, Scouts won't be any fun if you're not there with me. If they throw you out then I'll quit too. Let's wait and see what they have to say. Okay?" Artie said as he got up and hugged his big brother.
Adam looked at him and said, "If they try to make a big deal out of it then we will really raise a stink. If you want to, we will even tell the papers about it."
Noah started to cry with relief. "Thanks, you guys. I was so scared that you wouldn't love me any more when I told you. It's been making me feel sick to my stomach for a while now, worrying about it. I feel a lot better now. I guess I should have trusted you."
"That's right," Adam said, punching him lightly on the shoulder, "You should have trusted us."
Noah felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he laughed and smiled a lot more for the rest of the week. As Saturday evening and the upcoming troop meeting grew nearer he began to feel a growing sense of dread, but he was determined to stick with his plan. It was the only honorable thing to do.
Mr. Jacobs, the scoutmaster, always ran the meetings informally. He liked to start things off by asking the boys if they had any good deeds they wanted to report or if they wanted to tell about an interesting activity they had participated in. Sometimes they just wanted to brag about an accomplishment and he encouraged them to do so. It was a nice boost for their self-esteem.
When he asked if anyone had anything to talk about this week Noah's hand went right up.
"Yes, Noah," Mr. Jacobs said as he flashed him a wide smile. Noah was one of his favorite scouts. "You have the floor."
Noah spoke softly and his voice trembled a bit when he began. "I have something to confess. I know that a lot of you might be mad about it, but I have to say it. Lately I've come to realize that I'm different from everyone else. I'm gay."
A collective gasp ran through the other boys seated around him.
As Noah continued his voice grew stronger. "I guess you saw that the national council has said that they don't want gay kids to be in the Scouts anymore so I guess you won't want me. I love being a scout, but being gay is just part of who I am and I can't change it, so if it means I can't be part of the troop anymore then I'm sorry. You'll have to throw me out."
Adam stood up and stared defiantly around at the other boys. He said firmly, "Before anyone says anything I want you to know that if he goes, I go."
Mr. Jacobs looked at the assistant leaders to see if they had any comments but they both shrugged and said nothing. The other members of the troop were muttering among themselves as the Scoutmaster said,
"Settle down boys. I think that this is something, Noah, that we will have to discuss with the rest of the local council and the other troop parents. It's not something that can be resolved tonight. I realize that it was difficult for you to bring it up and I respect the courage that you've shown. For tonight I think we should continue our meeting and we will let you know what develops."
He started to ask if anyone else had anything to discuss when Hank Dixon stood up and said, "I'm gay too. I never was brave enough to say it until Noah did."
It was Noah's turn to be surprised. He had no idea that anyone else was like him. Hank was a year older than Noah and was a very athletic and popular guy.
Before Hank could sit down Robert Coates stood and said, "Count me in. I guess I'm gay too."
Robert's friend Sam spoke up and said, "If you kick Rob out then I'm quitting."
Tim Cole said loudly, "That goes for me."
The room broke out in excited chatter. Noah and Adam couldn't believe the reaction that their announcement had produced. They laughed in wonder at their unexpected support. It was better than they had hoped for.
Mr. Jacobs shook his head. Of the group of twelve boys, he stood to lose half of them over the situation. Everyone seemed to be in shock at the revelations.
With a big sigh he said, "This is surprising for all of us. There are things we need to discuss tonight about the upcoming Jamboree, but all of that may have to be decided later. I suggest we go back home now and think about this carefully and with charity, remembering that we are all friends, no matter what. I will schedule some meetings and let you all know what happens."
As they filed out of the building Noah heard someone behind him mutter, "Faggot."
He gasped. No one had ever called him that before. He looked around and saw Ron Clark sneering at him.
Adam stopped and said to Ron, "You got something to say?" There was a gleam in his eye and menace in his voice.
Ron just snorted and pushed past him out the door.
"I guess not everyone is on our side in this," sighed Noah.
"They'll come around; you'll see," Adam reassured him.
But they didn't come around. The troop seemed to be evenly split between the boys who were either gay or supported a gay friend and those who didn't want to be around someone gay. The parents weighed in and several of them said that they wouldn't allow their kids to be around a bunch of perverts. Words were exchanged and tempers flared. Things got so hot at one point that Noah's mom almost decked Ron Clark's mom.
In the end it was decided that the gay boys would be removed from the rolls. Surprisingly, Mr. Jacobs stepped down as well, saying that he could no longer be a part of such unnecessary prejudice.
He made a suggestion to Noah and the others that they form their own troop, one not affiliated with the national organization. Noah loved the idea and suggested that they allow all ages of boys to be part of it. That way Artie could join with them if he wanted.
"If we're going to be open, then we should be open to everyone," he said. "I think we should allow girls to join if they want to."
His mom hugged him for that.
Something that Noah had not considered was the effect his emergence from the closet would have at school. He was in the eighth grade and this was his last year at Thomas Grant Elementary School so he was one of the older kids there. There were a few incidents of bullying. Someone wrote a bad word on his locker and someone hit him with a tomato in the cafeteria, but he didn't see who did it.
The principal clamped down at once. In a special assembly she demanded that there be no more harassment of any kind. Anyone found to be bullying anyone else at all would be suspended for a week. She and the other teachers kept an eagle eye on everyone for the next couple of weeks and the kids soon seemed to forget about it.
Not everyone had been mean to Noah. In fact, almost everyone in the school was nice to him and made a point to be friendly and supportive. After all, Noah had always been a popular guy and was well liked.
Artie was having a birthday and there was a surprise for him. His mom, his grandmother, Noah and Adam had all chipped in and bought him a nice digital camera. It was something that he had wanted for a long time, but a good one cost a lot of money. This one cost almost two hundred dollars, but his mom had bought it at a Pawn Shop and it was nearly new.
He opened it at the small party his mom had put together for him. Mark, Artie's best friend was there, as were Noah and Adam. Artie was thrilled with the gift and he thanked everyone although his excitement was all the thanks his family needed. He began to take pictures right away. Noah, Adam and Mark made goofy faces and opened their mouths wide to show their cake covered tongues. They posed and laughed and cut up for a while until Artie said, "Let's go take pictures outside."
They played in the front yard and acted silly while Artie clicked away.
Noah and Artie had ridden their bikes over to Adam's house and were watching a movie on his satellite television. Adam could get a lot more shows than they could at their house. Artie grew bored and decided to go outside and take some pictures instead.
Noah and Adam sat quietly alone for a few minutes.
Noah said quietly, "Thank you for being my friend, Adam."
"You don't have to thank me. You're my friend too. It evens out," he said with a smile.
"Yeah, well I appreciate your support lately. I'm really glad you didn't get mad about my, well, about my being gay."
"It's no big deal. Like I said, I've known it for a long time. But Noah, you know that I can never give you what you really want, don't you?"
Noah's eyes grew moist and a tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn't speak for a moment so he reluctantly nodded his head. The crush he had held secretly in his heart for so long was only a dream and would never be real. It was a sad blow to him.
"I know," he whispered.
Adam slipped his arm over Noah's shoulder and hugged him. "I'll always be your best buddy, though."
Noah smiled at him gratefully and whispered, "Me, too."
Noah was taking a bath on Saturday afternoon. He closed his eyes and sank into the warm water and deep, fragrant suds. For a few minutes he was able to forget about his troubles, his aching heart and his newly announced sexual orientation. It was funny that despite being disliked by many people Noah had no desire at all to change. He liked being gay. He couldn't put his finger on it but there was something wonderful and special about being the way he was. If only he could meet someone else who was special.
He heard the phone ring downstairs and his mother's voice saying, "Hi, Joyce. Adam? No, not at all. Not since yesterday. Hang on, I'll ask Noah."
Sensing that something was wrong Noah sat up and listened.
"Noah, can you hear me?"
"Yeah, Mom. What' s up?"
"When did you last see Adam? His mom wants to know."
Noah's heart began to race. He called out, "Yesterday, Mom. He usually comes to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, but yesterday he said he couldn't make it. He didn't say why. Is something wrong?"
"Joyce can't find him. Listen Joyce, Noah said he didn't come this morning. Why don't I send Noah out to look for him and you need to call the police. No, it doesn't have to be twenty-four hours if it's a child. They want to know right away. Yes, call them."
Noah was already out of the tub and quickly drying off when his mother came upstairs. She spoke to him through the bathroom door and asked him to look around the neighborhood and see if he could spot Adam anywhere.
"Most likely he's just goofing off, but it's not like him. His mother is worried. She's going to get the police to look for him too, just in case."
"I'm on it, Mom," said Noah, rushing to put on some shorts and a tee shirt.
He wasn't too worried about his friend. After all, what could happen in their boring neighborhood? As he rode slowly past the playground, and the park, he saw no sign of Adam. He rode downtown and looked in the shop windows, but no Adam. He checked the grocery store, the Hobby store, the comic book place and the library, all without luck.
Adam didn't have any other friends that he hung around with so Noah was running out of ideas. He started to really worry so he went back home to see if maybe Adam had called. He hadn't.
"Where could he be, Mom?" Noah asked anxiously.
"Wherever he is, I'm sure we will hear from him soon. Try not to worry," she said.
But Noah did worry.
By the time evening came there was still no sign of him. The police came to question Noah shortly after dinner. They asked about where the two of them usually hung out and Noah told them, but said that he had already checked every place he could think of. They showed Noah a photo that they had gotten from Adam's mother but it wasn't a very good shot.
Artie said, "Wait, I've got better ones of him. Noah, will you hook my camera to your computer so we can see the pictures?"
The police waited while the photos came up on the laptop screen. The very first one was of three boys with mouths full of cake. One officer chuckled, but Artie blushed.
He chose a good picture of Adam standing outside his house with his mother. Noah printed off a few hardcopies and copied the file onto a CD.
"Is Adam the sort of boy who would run away? Was he having trouble at home or at school? Does he have any enemies?" one officer asked.
"No, not at all," Noah assured them. "Everybody loves Adam. He's a great guy and he loves his mom. What could have happened to him, Officer? Did someone kidnap him? What if they hurt him?"
"It's too soon to jump to conclusions, but abduction is one of the possibilities we're investigating."
The officers thanked the two of them and went off to search some more.
"Oh Mom," sobbed Noah. "What if they hurt Adam?"
Noah wiped his eyes and Artie patted him on the shoulder to comfort him.
"He'll be alright, Noah. I know he will."
"Thanks, Artie. Say, these are some pretty good pictures. Are you having fun with your camera?"
"I really am. Look at these shots from my birthday party. Look how Mom closed her eyes. Here we are outside, here's you and Adam climbing the tree. Here we are in the park last Wednesday."
"Those are great, Artie," Noah said.
He chose a good picture of Adam and printed out a hardcopy. He wanted to take it to bed with him.
Noah couldn't sleep that night. He lay awake until after midnight, looking at Adam's picture and praying that his friend was okay. He put his lips to the picture and whispered, "Please come back, please come back, please come back."
He stared at Adam's beautiful face for a while and then his eyes started to register the rest of the picture. Artie had a real talent for photography. Noah could see the drops of water from the sprinkler sparkling on the rose bush. The roses were a sunny yellow, the grass was a brilliant green and the sky was a perfect blue. The van on the street was as black as could be. The van... Noah began to get one of his feelings.
What was it about that van?
He had copied Arties files to the computer so he turned it on and called them up. There, in front of their house, parked half a block down the street was the same van.
There it was at the park, sitting back a couple of hundred feet. There it was again in this picture and that picture, always in the background somewhere.
Noah zoomed in on it to see if he could make out the license plate, but there wasn't one, at least not on the front. He flipped through the pictures looking for a back view, but all of the shots seemed to be of the front of the van.
Noah woke his mom and told her what he had found.
"Is it too late at night to tell the police?" he asked.
"No, there will be someone up at the station. We need to let them know as quickly as possible. There's no time to waste in cases like this. I'll see if they will send someone back over."
Officer Jackson arrived ten minutes later. He always took Noah seriously and as soon as Noah began to show him the pictures of the van he asked for them to be copied to a disc so he could show the other police officers.
"So, you think this is a good clue?" asked Noah.
"I'm almost sure of it. Good job, son, good job."
Noah slept better for a few hours. The next morning there was a front page article about the missing boy. One of Artie's pictures accompanied the story.
"Noah, one of my pictures is on the front page of the paper. My picture, wow!" Artie gushed.
"Yeah, and if it helps find Adam it may be the most important picture you'll ever take. Thanks, Artie."
The phone began to ring with person after person calling to ask about Adam. Some were reporters and some were Nosy Parkers just looking for some gossip. Noah and the family started checking the caller ID before they picked up the phone.
There was a call-in show on the radio and people were talking about Adam. Noah recognized Ron Clark's dad's voice.
He was vowing that, "It was one of them peddy-files. They tried to get some of them into the scouts, but we put a stop to it. Them homa-sexuels is dangerous. They grab any kid they can right off the street. No boy is safe. Now there's a bunch of them homa-sexuels right here in..."
Noah turned off the radio in disgust.
Mr. Jacobs called so Noah answered the phone.
"Noah," he said. "I just wanted to let you know that I've got all of the Scouts out looking for Adam. Not just the new troop, but the old one as well. Everyone wanted to help. I sent them in groups of three, just in case. They're checking every place they can think of, looking for Adam or a black van."
Noah longed to be with the other scouts, but he couldn't tear himself away from the phone in case there was news.
The phone rang in the middle of the night and Noah ran downstairs to look at the caller ID. It was the police station. It scared him to think what they might tell him.
With a shaky voice Noah said, "Hello?"
"Noah, it's Adam. It's me pal."
"Adam!" Noah screamed. "Where are you? Are you okay? Where were you? I was so scared..."
"Noah, I'm fine. At least I am now. I'm at the police station with my mom. They're checking me out, but I'll be home soon."
"What happened to you?"
"You'll never believe it, but it was my dad. He kidnapped me."
"I thought your dad was gone."
"He was. I haven't seen him since I was a baby. I didn't know who he was. I was walking down Rogers Road and he grabbed me and threw me in this van."
"A black van."
"Yeah, they told me how you figured that out. I owe you one, big time."
"Hey, what are friends for? I love you, Adam."
"I love you too, Noah. Right now I'm exhausted and need to get home to bed. I'll come over tomorrow and tell you what happened."
"Okay, pal. See ya then."
Noah's mother and brother had woken up at his excited voice and now stood beside him asking for details. Noah shared the little that he knew so they could all sleep better that night.
Noah was on the phone with Adam early the next morning. Adam's house was surrounded by reporters so he said his mom was going to drop him off at Noah's.
Joyce bustled in through the door and scooped Noah up in her arms and hugged him tightly.
"Thank you, thank you, you darling boy. You gave me back my son. I'll never forget it."
"I just showed the police some of Artie's pictures of a van. They did all the work, not me," Noah protested.
"That van was the clue they needed to find him. If it hadn't been for the two of you who knows what would have happened," she assured him.
Noah's mom said, "I've got some coffee and juice. Let's sit down at the table and you can tell us all about it."
Adam related his adventure.
"Well, I thought something was fishy when I went out to get on my bike and found that both tires had been slashed. That's why I was walking down Rogers Road instead of riding. When the van pulled up my dad had a knife and made me get in the front with him. I didn't know who he was so I was plenty scared. He drove us to a motel where he had been staying and made me go inside. Then he told me to sit on the bed. I figured he was going to molest me and I started crying. He got mad and said, 'Don't you know who I am? I'm your daddy.'
"He started telling me about what fun we were going to have now that we were back together. It didn't take long for me to figure out that he was crazy. He had all of these little kids' toys that he made me play with. You know, trucks and stuff. I played along because the least little thing seemed to set him off. He never hit me, but I was still scared. Do you know he had been following me around for two weeks? I never even noticed."
Noah said, "Yeah, Artie took lots of pictures of him. Too bad we didn't know who it was."
Artie blushed as Adam and his mother both praised him.
Joyce said, "His father was always unbalanced. I realized it too late. I divorced him soon after Adam was born. We haven't seen or heard from him since and it never dawned on me that he might be back."
"I tried to get away a couple of times," Adam said, "but he started tying my hands and feet with duct tape at night or whenever he needed to go get more beer. Finally someone saw his van parked outside the room and called the police. Then they came busting in on us and handcuffed him. I was so glad to see Officer Jackson, you wouldn't believe. You'll never guess who spotted the van, it was three of our old troop members, Doug, Frank and Jimmy."
It was days before the reporters went away and the phone stopped ringing. Adam's dad was hospitalized and was expected to be away for another long time. Noah and Adam sat together on Adam's sofa watching television.
"Are you okay?" Noah asked, "About your dad and everything. That must have been pretty weird seeing him like that."
"Yeah, it was. You know, it's funny how when I was little I used to wish that he would come back and be my dad again. I always imagined him to be big and strong and loving. I thought we would do stuff together and that he would love me. Then I sort of forgot about him I guess. It was pretty sad seeing him all crazy like this. I'm sort of glad he didn't come back when I was little because I would have hated him. Now I just feel sorry for him."
"I have one question," said Noah.
"What were you doing on Rogers Road, anyway?"
"Uh, I was going to see someone."
"Really? Who?" asked Noah.
"Sarah Lockhart," Adam replied, quietly.
"Sarah Lockhart? Why were you going to her house?"
"Now, Noah, don't get upset, but we've sort of been seeing each other," Adam said.
"You mean like dating?" asked Noah incredulously.
"Well, we haven't been on a date yet. But we like each other."
"Oh," said Noah.
A wave of jealousy swept through him, so strong that he wanted to scream. Inside he was shouting, "No, no, no." Outside he forced himself to remain calm and still. His jaw clinched tightly for a minute as he fought down the urge to cry.
A minute later Adam asked quietly, "Are you okay?"
Noah didn't trust his voice so he just nodded. "I should go," Noah said quickly as he got up and left.
Adam looked after him with a sad smile.
Rushing into his house Noah wailed, "Oh, Mom. Adam's got a girlfriend," and let go with his tears.
His mom hugged him and tried to comfort him.
"Oh, Noah, it was bound to happen sooner or later. You are both growing up so fast. Adam likes girls and let's face it. He's handsome so girls are going to like him, too. Don't worry, sweetie. There's room in his heart for you too. Besides, you want him to be happy, don't you?"
"I know. But it hurts."
Because the Scouts had pulled together so well in the search for Adam everyone realized that they would rather be one troop instead of two. A new vote was taken and it was decided, almost unanimously, to defy the national council and allow gay kids to stay in their troop.
Only the Clarks refused to go along so they quit the Scouts and no one was sorry to see them go.
Noah began to get used to seeing Adam and Sarah walking together at school. It still hurt, but not as much. Adam was trying to get the three of them to do things together, but both Noah and Sarah resisted that.
A week later, Noah was looking for something to read at the public library when he heard someone say, "Hey Noah, how's it going?"
It was Hank Dixon.
"Hi, Hank. Looking for something to read?"
"Yeah. Listen, I've been meaning to tell you how much I admire you for standing up at the troop meeting and coming out like that."
"Well, you did it too."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't have had the nerve if you hadn't gone first. I've always known I was gay, but I never dared tell anybody. I figured if a guy who is thirteen can do it then I should be able to."
"Well, you're a jock. You can beat up anybody who gives you a hard time," Noah laughed.
Hank flexed a bicep and grinned. "Yep," he said, "I'll teach them a thing or two."
"You've got a great body, Hank. You must work out really hard."
"I do, but I think you're really cute, too, Noah."
Noah's heart fluttered and he blushed.
Hank whispered, "Do you maybe want to go to the movie with me Saturday afternoon?"
Footnote 1: On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay kids to stay in. The fight to allow gay leaders continues.
Footnote 2: On July 27, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its ban on adult gay leaders.