Castle Roland

Noah Osgood - Boy Detective

by Parker Sheaffer

In Progress

Chapter 7

Posted: 3 Dec 15

The Adventures of

Noah Osgood, Boy Detective

Copyright © by Parker Sheaffer

The Case of the Rotten Rival

"Mom, can I have some money?" Noah Osgood asked.

"I suppose so, sweetie. How much do you need?" she replied.

"I guess ten dollars would be enough. Hank Dixon asked me to go to the movies with him this afternoon."

His mom looked serious and said, "Noah, is this a date?"

"I hadn't thought about it, Mom, but I guess it is."

"Let's have a talk, Sweetie, while Artie is out playing. Noah, I know things are different for you, that the usual rules about dating stuff don't necessarily apply. This is awkward because I don't know the right words, but Noah, about sex..."


"Now, if you were my daughter I would tell you that you couldn't date boys until you're sixteen or seventeen and I would tell you that having sex can lead to all sorts of problems, diseases and pregnancy, but you're a boy and, well, I'm still not comfortable with you going on dates yet."

"Don't worry, Mom. I don't even know if Hank and I like each other that way."

Noah was embarrassed to be having 'the talk' with his mother. He hoped she wouldn't ask anything too personal.

"Still," she said, "I would feel more comfortable for the time being if you only went on group dates. Why don't you call Adam and see if he and Sarah can go with you?"

Adam was Noah's best friend, who unfortunately was straight and interested in a girl named Sarah Lockhart. Noah and Sarah didn't like each other very much. Sarah knew that Noah still harbored deep feelings for Adam and that made her feel insecure, especially since Adam was Noah's best friend. Noah saw Sarah as an interloper, trespassing on his turf and stealing his friend from him. Adam was caught in the middle and tried to reassure them that he liked both of them, so Noah and Sarah had reached a point where they could be civil to each other and carry on a short, polite conversation without shouting or name calling (although Noah was often tempted).

Adam was happy to get Noah's call and it turned out that he and Sarah were planning to see the same matinee that afternoon anyway. It was an action adventure film with superheroes, scary bad guys and lots of noise, and while the three boys were mesmerized by the screen, Sarah found it much less interesting and was rather bored by it all. Noah gave her a disapproving look when he saw her slip her hand into Adam's and lay her head on his shoulder. She kept glancing at Noah with a little satisfied smile on her face that made Noah want to dump popcorn on her.

He had the urge to hold Hank's hand, but somehow it felt like it was too soon.

Adam's mom had driven Adam, Sarah and Noah to the theatre because Sarah didn't have a bike so after the show they had some time before she came to pick them up. The four of them went to the mall's food court for some pizza.

It was nice being with Hank, but Hank was a jock and Noah decidedly wasn't one so there were not a lot of interesting topics for them to talk about. Once they had exhausted their observations about the Scouts and school, their silences grew longer. Also, Noah was distracted by Adam and Sarah. He prayed that Adam wouldn't kiss her.

There were things that Noah wanted to say to Hank but he couldn't speak freely while the others were there so when they parted ways he told Hank that he would call him later. On the phone that night Noah told Hank what his mother had said about having only group dates and Hank understood.

Monday morning there was a new kid in class. The teacher introduced him as Kevin Mason. He and his family had just moved from New York City where his dad had been a police detective. Tired of the big city they moved to Noah's town and opened a security company.

Kevin was a skinny kid with pale skin and big eyes. He had sort of a smug, superior look on his face, or at least Noah thought so.

At recess Noah started to go outside and talk to Adam but saw that Sarah had beat him to it, so instead he wandered idly down the hallway. The new kid, Kevin, was talking loudly to a couple of girls and Noah could hear them clearly.

"Yeah, Dad faced a lot of dangerous criminals and we solved a lot of crimes back home," he bragged.

"You mean you helped him solve crimes?"

"Oh sure, all the time. Dad always asked my opinion about the big cases. I usually had some ideas that he hadn't thought of, or saw it from a fresh angle."

"Wow," one girl said, admiringly, "Like what?"

"Well, we're not allowed to talk about individual cases. Privacy laws and all that, you know."

Noah couldn't help snorting derisively as he overheard that last remark.

Kevin shot him a dirty look and whispered to the girls, "Who's that?"

"Oh, hi, Noah. That's Noah Osgood. He's a detective too. He figures out all kinds of problems. He's even had his picture in the paper."

Kevin scowled at Noah and turned away.

The next day, after lunch, a peculiar thing happened. As Noah was heading back to his classroom people would pass him from behind in the hall and say, "Hi, Noah". It wasn't even his friends doing it, it was everyone. And to make things worse they laughed when they said it.

Noah started to feel paranoid about it. Why were they laughing at him?

Finally he sat down beside Adam and took out his textbook and notebook.

Adam asked, "What's that on your back?"

Noah reached behind and felt a piece of paper on his shirt. He tore it off and read, "Say Hi if you think I'm ugly."

So that's what it had been about.

"Who would stick something like this on me?" he asked Adam. Noah's feelings were hurt.

Noah called Hank that evening. "Hank," he said, "Mom and Artie and I are planning to go to the park this Saturday for the opening of the new fountain. I wondered if you would like to hang out with us. Mom's packing a picnic lunch."

"Sounds like fun, Noah. What time are you going?"

"The ceremonies start at eleven so I guess we will get there a little earlier to get a good spot. I want to be able to see the fountain when they turn it on. It's supposed to be really pretty. Why don't you meet us here at ten and Mom will drive us over?"

"That sound's great, Noah. I really liked going to the movie the other day. Did you?"

"Yeah, Hank, it was fun. I sort of wish we could have been alone but I promised Mom that I would only go out with a group."

"I know," Hank replied. "Mom said I was too young to have a boyfriend yet."

Noah's heart skipped at the word 'boyfriend'. "Yeah, me too," he said.

Hank said, "It's too bad because I think you're pretty hot and I would like to fool around some, you know?"

Noah gasped. He was hot? Fool around? Oh, part of him wanted to do that, but he could never disappoint his mom. He had made himself a promise that he would never do anything that he would be ashamed to tell his mother, no matter how much he wanted it.

"We, uh, we will see," he told Hank nervously.

Because of the year difference between their ages the two boys went to different schools. Noah was still in elementary school while Hank was a freshman in high school. That meant that they got to see each other mainly on the weekends, but they talked on the phone in the evenings. Emails were okay but Noah preferred the phone because he liked hearing Hank's voice.

On Saturday morning Noah and Artie had just finished breakfast.

"Is Mark coming over?" Noah asked.

"No, he's meeting us there," said Artie. "Why?"

"I just wondered how many of us were going to be in the car. Listen, you sit up front with Mom, okay?"

"Oh, you want to sit in the back with your boyfriend."

"Don't use the B word yet. It's still early."

"What about Adam?"

"He'll be there with what's-her-name. Maybe he will hang out with us a little if he can tear himself away."

It was hard not to sound bitter and jealous. Artie understood.

"It will all turn out okay, Noah," Artie said, reassuringly. "I'll bet Adam gets tired of her before long. She's kind of boring, you know. Adam will be back, I know he will."

"You're a great brother, Artie. Did I ever tell you that?"

Artie grinned and turned a bit pink. "Of course I am," he said happily.

Hank arrived a little after ten and they quickly packed the car and took off. It turned out to be a lovely day with clear skies and warm temperatures. A crowd began to arrive at the park so they were happy to have gotten there early and staked out a nice spot which was not too far from the fountain. They could hear the speeches and see the water quite clearly.

The basin of the fountain was a circle, twenty feet in diameter and filled with live plants. Out of that rose a ring of bronze sculpted trees that supported large floral basins in their branches. In the middle of it all stood a ten foot tall tree with a larger basin on top. After the speeches they turned it on and big jets of water began to spray up out of the central basin as well as from the other basins. The thick streams fell back down and filled their basins and then overflowed into the lower basins and the pond below. It became marvelous cascades of cool jets and refreshing drips and everyone applauded and cheered. They were dutifully impressed with the artistry of it all. The splashing water even sounded musical.

After it was over the five of them settled onto a big, soft blanket and tucked into some delicious cold fried chicken, homemade potato salad, fruit salad and soft drinks. It was a good thing that Mrs. Osgood made plenty because there was not much left over.

"That was awesome, Mom," groaned Noah as he rubbed his tummy. Artie and Hank and Mark agreed.

"Why, thank you boys. I'm glad you liked it. Why don't you go play and I'll clean up and read my book for a while."

Hank whispered to Noah, "Let's wander over toward the lake."

They ambled along toward the water and talked quietly. Noah could feel some tension between them and he wondered what it was. Instead of heading for the pier, Hank led Noah to the large stand of trees off to the left.

A moment later they found themselves in a semi-private copse, unseen by the other park visitors.

Hank stopped and looked at Noah. He slid his hand behind Noah's head and brought his lips closer. Noah held his breath and closed his eyes. Then Hank kissed him. Noah's knees felt weak and a soft moan escaped his throat.

He had always dreamed that his first kiss would be with Adam, but this was nice. It was really nice. Hank embraced him tightly and pressed his groin against Noah's. Both boys were excited, so excited that it was one of the most difficult things that Noah had ever done to break away from Hank.

"What's wrong?" Hank asked.

"Sorry," Noah said in a husky voice, "It's just too fast."

"It was just a kiss."

"It was about to be more. I like you Hank but let's not rush things. Okay?"

Instead of being annoyed Hank asked, "Well, then how about another kiss, like this?" He leaned in and placed his lips on Noah's, this time softer and more gently. Noah kissed him back and then pulled away.

"Yes," he said, "like that." His face was red and his heart was thumping so loudly he thought Hank would hear it. "Let's go sit on the pier for a while."

They sat and looked at the water and Noah slipped his hand into Hank's. Hank looked at him and smiled. Silently they watched the breezes ripple the surface of the lake for a few minutes and just enjoyed being young and feeling good on a warm autumn afternoon.

When they were walking back to the picnic they encountered Adam, who happened to be alone.

"Where's Sarah?" Noah asked.

"Oh, she's with some friends. I wasn't having much fun so I split. What are you guys doing?"

"Just heading back to see what Mom is up to. There might be some more of that fruit salad."

Adam said, "Fruit salad? Yum. Mind if I tag along?"

Still flushed from their brief make out session Noah felt a flash of mild annoyance with his friend, something that had never happened before. He immediately felt ashamed for feeling that way and banished the feeling by putting his arm around each boy's shoulder and hugging them both.

He said, "Our blanket is over this way. Then we can go look at the fountain up close."

All in all, it was a really nice weekend. Adam sat with him at church the next day and it was almost like old times.

Noah didn't usually read the Sunday paper, even though his mom subscribed to it, but this day he wanted to look at the sports page. He thought that if he studied up a little on the sporting news then he could have more things to talk with Hank about.

Before he got that far, however, he saw something that made his jaw drop open. There on the front of the local section was a picture of Kevin Mason. The short article said that he had been instrumental in catching a neighborhood thief who had been targeting people's vehicles. It seemed that Kevin had planted one of his dad's small video spy-cams inside their Lexus and filmed the newspaper delivery boy swiping some items that Kevin had left in plain view to tempt him. A search of the young man's house turned up those and other stolen items. The police were grateful for his help.

"Great," thought Noah, "Now he'll really brag at school. I could catch more crooks if I had cameras and stuff. Oh no, wait, tell me I'm not jealous of Kevin Mason." He sighed.

Adam rode his bike to Noah's house on Monday morning and they peddled to school together. They parked their bikes and pushed their way through the mass of kids as they tried to get to their lockers. Noah dialed the combination on his lock and removed it. When he opened the door something terrible happened. A couple of water balloons came falling out and broke open, splashing his pants with two quarts of water. Noah was soaked from the waist down. His shoes were filled with water and squished when he moved. Noah was shocked and furious. Adam was angry, both for Noah's sake and because he had also been splashed by some of the water. The other kids laughed and backed away from the puddle on the floor.

Mr. Latham, the science teacher, came out of his classroom to see what was going on. He sent one of the students to get the janitor and another to get the principal while he stood guard to keep anyone from slipping and getting hurt on the wet floor.

The principal sent Noah home to change pants but told him to come right back. Noah was relieved because he had not wanted to sit through the morning classes in wet pants. All the way home and back he tried to think of who was pulling these pranks on him and why they had chosen him as a target. He hadn't done anything that he could remember to earn such malicious attention. One thought came back to him again and again, and that was the way Kevin Mason, the new kid, had looked at him. But it seemed crazy; they didn't even know each other. They had never spoken. No, it had to be someone else.

That evening Adam joined them for dinner and, despite the morning's frustration at school, Noah felt better with his friend there. It was like old times. They talked about the new rash of pranks and why they seemed to be concentrated on Noah.

Noah mentioned his suspicion about Kevin and Adam said, "There's something about that kid that I just don't like. He's always going on about how he and his dad caught criminals in New York. Like anybody believes him. His dad has a security company here in town so maybe he used to be a cop, but I doubt that Kevin was much help for him. He's such a bragger."

"Yeah," said Noah, "his name is Kevin Mason, not Perry Mason."

"Who's Perry Mason," asked Artie.

Noah laughed and said, "Never mind, just an old TV show."

"Well, I'll tell everyone and we'll keep an eye on him for you," Offered Noah's friend.

"Thanks, Adam," said Noah.

Artie said, "Noah, will you do me a favor?"

"Of course I will, Artie. What do you need?"

"Will you ask Hank if he will show me how to throw a football sometime? I really need to practice."

Adam looked a little surprised and said, "We will show you how if you want us to, Artie. No need to ask Hank."

Artie looked embarrassed and said, "Well, thanks, but you and Noah haven't ever really played football and Hank has played for a long time. He's on the team."

Noah laughed and said to Adam, "I think he's trying to tell us that we're not jocks. We're nerds. Yeah, Artie, I'll ask him. I'm sure he would be glad to give you some pointers."

Noah wondered why Adam didn't want him to ask Hank.

Later that week it was arranged for Hank to come to dinner and stick around to toss the ball with Artie. That afternoon, at school, another incident happened. Noah began to realize that he could smell poop and no matter where he went the aroma stayed with him. He checked his shoes to see if he had stepped in something but there was nothing brown on his sole. Other kids began to notice it too and someone asked Noah if he had had an accident in his pants. Students would back away whenever he came near them. Something was definitely going on.

Finally he went to his locker and, opening it carefully in case there was another surprise inside, he switched out his school shoes for his sneakers. When he got home he washed his school shoes with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush to get rid of the stink.

Artie asked what he was doing and Noah explained.

Artie asked, "Did it start to smell around ten o'clock?"

"Yes, why?"

"We were going out for recess and I looked down the hall and saw you at your locker. Another kid was walking behind you. He bent over real quick and it looked like he sprayed something on your foot."

"What did he look like?"

Artie said that he couldn't see him too clearly but he described Kevin Mason.

That settled it. Noah and Kevin were going to have a confrontation.

Hank arrived and Noah explained the things that had been happening and why he believed it was the new kid.

Hank said, "Want me to beat him up for you? I will. You just say the word and I'll pound him into the sidewalk."

Noah grinned at the idea and said, "As much as I would love to see that I guess I had better take care of it myself. If he doesn't stop though, then he's all yours."

It felt great to have someone strong looking out for him. Noah also got a warm glow when he watched Hank being nice to Artie, teaching him how to hold the ball and how to make it spin. Artie was having a blast with the older boy and Noah wondered why he never felt such a sense of fun by simply tossing a ball around.

The next day at school Noah confronted Kevin right away.

"Alright you jerk, I know it's you who's been pranking me and it had better stop now."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Yes you do. I have witnesses who saw you," Noah lied. He only had one witness and he was uncertain. "Now if any more practical jokes come my way you'll be sorry."

Kevin held up his hands and said with a laugh, "Okay, okay. Take a joke why don't you?"

"I can take a joke just fine when I see one. So far you haven't given me anything to laugh about. How did you get into my locker?"

"Oh, that's easy. You just need a coke can and a pair of scissors. I saw it on YouTube," Kevin bragged. "How did you like the stink spray? It's called Liquid Butt. I ordered it off the internet. Man, does that stuff stink."

"Why did you pick on me anyway? What did I ever do to you?"

"Oh please, ever since I got here all I hear is Noah Osgood, Noah Osgood. He's so smart. He's a detective. He's been in the paper. Isn't Noah wonderful? And you walk around looking all smug all the time. I thought I would take you down a notch or two. By the way, did you see my picture in the paper? Now who's the detective?"

Noah gave him a disbelieving stare and said, "You're pathetic," and walked off.

On Saturday morning the town got a big surprise.

Noah's mother was reading the morning paper when she cried out, "Oh, how terrible. Who would do such a mean thing? Somebody should be whipped."

Noah and Artie both looked alarmed and asked what was wrong.

"Someone has put a bunch of detergent in the new fountain and now it's a mountain of suds," she said, holding up the paper so they could see the picture.

Sure enough, there was a twenty foot high mound of white that completely obliterated the fountain itself. Noah and Artie both started to laugh but stopped when they saw the look on their mother's face.

Noah said, "Well, it is kind of funny, Mom."

"Noah, there were a dozen large, beautiful Koi in that pond and now they are all dead. It's going to cost the town a lot of money to clean up those suds and there may be damage to the fountain. Whoever did this may have thought it was a good joke, but all they have done is hurt the town."

"Sorry, Mom, we didn't know. Can Artie and I go look at it?"

Artie said, "Yeah, Mom, can we?"

"I suppose so. Don't get in the way though."

The fountain looked even more impressive than it had in the photograph. The white foam gleamed in the bright sun and looked almost like snow. No one had started to remove any of the suds when they got there.

Noah had called Adam and told him to meet them at the park so he arrived shortly after they did. Adam thought it was cool until they explained about the damage underneath. The seriousness of the situation was made clear by the yellow tape that cordoned off the area. It was marked with the words: Crime Scene, Do Not Cross.

The three boys watched for a while along with a few dozen other curious citizens. Noah saw Kevin in the crowd talking to another kid. He couldn't hear Kevin but by the way he was waving his arms and making broad gestures he seemed to be bragging and offering his opinion about who had done it. Noah didn't even want to hear.

The newspaper article from the next day's paper said that it was a highly concentrated industrial detergent that had been used. The police were looking at anyone who might have bought that sort of thing lately.

It was the middle of the week when more news aroused everyone's interest. A break had been made in the vandalism case and a young boy had been arrested. His name was being withheld because he was a minor, but everyone at school was saying that it was Kevin.

Noah found that hard to believe. Sure Kevin was a practical joker, but this seemed to be too much of a step up for him. In all the things Kevin had done he had never hurt anyone.

"At least as far as we know," Adam said.

"Yeah, you're right. I wonder what evidence they have on him.?"

"All the paper said was that they found detergent bottles and fingerprints. Sounds pretty cut and dried to me. I don't feel a bit sorry for him either."

"Yeah, he really has been a jerk, but something doesn't seem right about this whole thing. I think I'll talk to Officer Jackson and see if he will tell me anything.

Officer Jackson said, "Sorry, Son, not this time. Because it involves a minor child I can't tell you much of anything. I'll just say that the suspect claims that he was in the park when he left his bicycle and jacket unattended for a half hour or so. He returned to find two detergent bottles in the bicycle basket and covered with his jacket, but his are the only fingerprints on the bottles and they came from the school that he attends. This one is pretty well wrapped up, Noah. Not much for you to do."

"Alright, thanks, Officer Jackson." He knew that Officer Jackson was a friend who would tell him all that he could.

If the bottles of detergent came from the school, Noah thought, they must have come from the janitor's closet where the cleaning supplies were all kept. Kevin could have picked the lock; after all, he had gotten into Noah's locked locker. But it really could have been almost anyone. It would have taken someone particularly mean, however, to kill those fish and Noah just didn't think that Kevin had it in him.

The only ones he knew who were that mean and stupid were Seth and Rubin, two boys who were frequently in trouble. In fact, Noah had exposed their cheating scam the previous year when they had the help of their cousin, who had been janitor at the time. Noah wondered if either of them still had a key to the janitor's closet. Maybe he could find out.

Noah enlisted the help of his friend David. It was time for recess to end and the two of them were hiding around the corner in the hallway. Noah had dragged an empty mop bucket over to the door to the janitor's closet and now they waited for Seth or Rubin to come walking by. They had to pass right by it and finally they did. David saw them coming and stepped up to meet them.

"The Coach asked if you could put that bucket back up for him," he said casually as he walked by.

Noah watched closely as Seth reached into his pocket and pulled out his key ring. Rubin nudged him and he quickly shoved the keys back into his pocket.

"You put it up," Seth said. "I ain't got the keys to that door."

But Noah knew that he did have them. Seth had given himself away by unconsciously reaching for them.

He needed to talk to Officer Jackson to see if his other idea had any merit.

A few days later Officer Jackson called him up and said, "Okay, Noah, I don't know how you do it but you are right once again. I shouldn't complain because you're making me look good to the Captain. They have arrested Seth and Rubin and dropped the charges against your friend Kevin."

"Hey, don't call him my friend. I don't like the guy, but I couldn't sit by and watch him go down for something he didn't do."

"Well, you did the right thing."

That evening there were two unexpected visitors. Adam was having dinner with Noah and the family and Noah was just beginning to tell them about cracking the fountain mystery when a car pulled up and the doorbell rang.

It was Kevin and his dad. Mr. Mason apologized for interrupting and said that he had to come and thank Noah personally for his help.

"I was afraid that Kevin would have a hard time making friends here in a new town, a new school. I'm glad he's met you. You really came through for him. He's always been sort of an outsider at his other schools, never quite fitting in and when he got into this trouble this time I was sure we would have to move again. There was even the chance that he would have wound up in Juvie. How did you know he wasn't guilty?"

"I didn't really. It just didn't seem like something he would do. Besides, why would only his prints be on the bottles? Other people must have handled them, the packers at the factory, the janitor. Someone must have wiped the bottles clean and then put them where he would pick them up. That meant a frame up. Right away I thought of Seth and Ruben, two of our unsavory classmates.

"I figured that Seth still had a key to the janitor's supplies and all I needed was a motive. It was Officer Jackson who discovered that you had caught Seth's uncle breaking into a warehouse and caused him to be put in jail. Seth and Rubin had a real grudge against you. When Officer Jackson confronted Seth with the truth he tried to run."

Adam, Artie and Noah's mom were surprised to hear about Noah's successful investigation. Kevin's dad made Kevin shake Noah's hand and thank him. It nearly killed Kevin but he managed to do it.

After they left Adam said, "I feel like I missed out completely on this one. You never mentioned that you were even looking at solving this case."

"Well, you were sort of busy with your girlfriend. I don't see you as much as I used to, and besides, you know I don't like to brag."

Artie rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner and they all giggled.

"Yeah, I know I haven't been around as much as I should," said Adam. "I'm sorry. I like Sarah, but I miss you more. She's not as much fun as I thought at first. Maybe we're getting tired of each other."

"Really? Wow. I know what you mean, though. Hank and I don't have a lot of things to talk about. He's always wanting to talk about the highlights of the big game and I never know what big game he means. Once I tried to sit through a football game on TV with him but I could never tell what was going on. By the time I figured out who had the ball the play would be over and there were whistles blowing and flags flying all over the place. I would rather watch our quiz show or Project Runway."

"Maybe you should get Artie to explain football to you," Adam chuckled.

A heat wave had come to town. It was unseasonably hot and everyone felt like they were dying so the town agreed to reopen the municipal swimming pool for another week. The kids were thrilled and dozens showed up on Saturday morning, waiting for the gate to open.

"Listen up, people," the lifeguard shouted, trying to be heard above the din of screaming and laughing kids. He blew a long blast on his whistle to get their attention. "Listen up, I have an announcement," he continued. "After you get changed and before you get in the pool I want everybody to rinse off their feet under one of the showers. Don't track dirt and grass into the water. Also, no rough-housing, wrestling or dunking each other.

"Oh, and one other thing," he said with a chuckle, "we have added a new chemical to the water. It's called Wee Care and it detects the presence of urine in the water by turning red. That's right, all you pool pee-ers, you had better go to the bathroom to pee because if you do it in the water everyone will know. That's all, play nice, have fun."

That last warning caused a lot of whispering and laughter among the thirty-some kids who were lining up to rinse off. They chatted excitedly as they happily jumped into the cool, clear water.

Artie said to Noah, "Is there really something in the water? That would be so cool if there was. I always worry about little kids peeing in here. It's gross."

Adam laughed and said, "It's not just little kids you have to worry about. It's grown-ups too."

Noah said, "Why don't I try it out? Tell me if the water feels any warmer to you."

"Oooh, don't Noah."

"Don't worry, little brother, I don't pee in the pool."

The boys had climbed out of the water and were lining up for the diving board when someone shouted,

"He's peeing! He's peeing!" followed by loud squeals and a lot of laughter.

Chaos erupted as several children tried to back away and get out of the water all at once. Everyone else was craning their necks to see what was happening.

Kevin Mason stood alone with a bewildered look on his face.

He shouted, "I did not. I'm not peeing! This is some sort of joke. Doggone you, Noah Osgood, you're behind this; I know you are. I Am Not Peeing! So shut up!"

His face was as red as the cloud of red dye that encircled his bathing suit. Suddenly he laughed and said, "Okay, Noah. This is payback, isn't it? How did you do it?"

Adam said, "It wasn't Noah. It was me. I owed you one for pranking my best friend all those times. The lifeguard was happy to play along with me when I asked him. He said he wished that there really was such a chemical."

Kevin fanned the water around his shorts, trying to dispel the dye and asked, "But how did you do it?"

"You're not the only one with access to the internet. You never even felt me drop the capsules into the pockets of your board shorts. I knew it wouldn't take long for them to dissolve."

Everyone was laughing at the cleverness of the prank and most were relieved that it hadn't been real.

"You got me good, Adam. But watch your back," Kevin warned with a smile that promised more fun to come for all of them.

A few minutes later Artie and Noah were congratulating Adam on a gag well-played.

"I can't believe you would go to that much trouble just for me," Noah said.

"I told you before, you're my best friend, Dude. Oh, and by the way, I broke up with Sarah."

Noah didn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.

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