The Adventures of
Noah Osgood, Boy Detective
Copyright © by Parker Sheaffer
The Haunted Library
Thunder rumbled and shook the house as a huge bolt of lightning struck nearby.
"It's a dark and stormy night," said Noah Osgood, peering through the rain streaked window. He turned to see if anyone appreciated his witticism. His brother, Artie, was so involved with his iPad that he had not heard, and his best friend, Adam, was reading a book. But Noah still saw him glance sideways and give a little smile.
The three of them were bored. It had been raining for days and they were getting cabin fever from being trapped in the house every evening. Sure they were in school all day, but the weather was preventing them from riding their bikes or doing other outdoor things. Besides the physical exercise, Noah also missed having any stimulating mental activity. There hadn't been a good mystery to come his way in weeks and he felt like Sherlock Holmes did when there was no game afoot. He could almost understand why the man had turned to cocaine to relieve the restless ennui of uneventful days.
The only thing he could look forward to was that Halloween was coming up in a few days and the weatherman had predicted clear skies for the weekend. Of course, the holiday was difficult now for Noah and Adam because, at thirteen, they were just past the age where they could go trick-or-treating, but they were not old enough to get invited to any Halloween parties. Both boys loved to dress up (Noah more so than Adam) but they didn't want their friends to laugh at them and think they weren't cool. Noah had always accompanied his younger brother around the neighborhood, both dressed in spooky costumes, feeling excited and slightly scared while they happily filled their sacks with extorted treats. This year Artie was going to hang out with his friends and they didn't want any older brothers hanging around. Artie was apologetic about it and, while Noah assured him that it was perfectly okay, he still felt a little sad that things were changing. They were all growing up a lot faster than Noah wanted.
It was bad enough that his body was starting to sprout hair in embarrassing places and his arms and legs were growing longer, making him feel clumsy and awkward. Now there were new social conventions to get accustomed to, new expectations of how he should behave. Noah's finger idly rubbed a spot on his chin where he had discovered a zit only two days before.
Over on Elm Street, in a very upscale section, where the houses were large and posh and almost one hundred years old, the storm was also hitting hard while two boys were doing their homework. Sam Haynes and his older brother, Pete, were alone in the house. Their parents were on vacation in Europe so Pete, a high school senior, was left in charge of his younger brother. There was a woman who came in daily to clean the house and cook their meals, but she went home in the evenings.
Sam, a nervous twelve year old who hated thunder and lightning, didn't like being almost alone in the house. He had always felt that there was something spooky about the old place and recently he had been hearing odd noises at night. Sometimes he would just pull the covers over his head and hide until he fell asleep. This night he was putting away his math homework when he heard a loud thump from downstairs. He walked quickly across the hall to his brother's room and, finding the door ajar, he entered. Pete was lying on his bed, reading a magazine.
"Pete," said Sam, fearfully, "Do you believe in ghosts?"
Pete looked up and smiled. "Sure I do. There are ghosts everywhere. We even have some here, you know."
"Oh, yeah, this is an old house and I'll bet a lot of people have died here. Dad told me that a kid got murdered in the library a long time ago. They say he comes back from time to time trying to get revenge."
"No way," Sam scoffed.
"That's what I heard. Why do you ask?"
"Have you heard any weird noises lately?"
"Like what," Pete asked.
"There was a loud bump a couple of minutes ago. Sounded like it came from downstairs."
"Probably just the wind or something. I wouldn't worry about it. Just stay away from the library, okay?" Pete said with a grin.
"Oh, you're just winding me up," said Sam. He returned to his room but he locked the door, just in case.
The next morning, Sam was getting ready for school and, as he walked by the library door, he remembered the loud bang he had heard the night before. His hand shook a bit as he opened the door and looked inside. Everything looked normal with the exception of one book which no longer sat on the shelf but was now lying in the middle of the floor. Its place on the shelf was marked by a gap between two other books. Sam was afraid to enter the room so he left the book alone and locked the door. It bothered him all morning at school and he tried to convince himself that there was no such thing as ghosts, but he still had some nagging doubts. There was no use telling Pete about the book because Pete would just make fun of him. When he got home he timidly peeked in the library and was relieved to find that the book was back on the shelf. Mrs. Wagner must have picked it up, he thought.
When their parents were not at home, the boys relaxed the usual rules and ate their dinner in front of the television instead at the dining room table. This night Sam was watching a show by himself because Pete was in the garage tinkering with his motorcycle. As he was about to take a bite of his casserole Sam jumped at the sudden crash of something breaking. It came from the library. Sam put down his fork and ran outside to get Pete.
"Pete," he said breathlessly, "I heard something."
Pete was wiping his hands on an oily rag. "What's that, little bro?"
"Something broke. It sounded like it came from the library. Come and look with me."
"What's the matter? You scared?"
"A little. Come on, Pete. See what it was."
"Okay, okay," Pete said with a laugh. "Let's check it out."
They were both surprised when they opened the door and saw that a vase had left its normal place on the mantle and was now lying in pieces on the marble hearth.
Pete looked at Sam and asked, "This is a prank, isn't it? You broke it and now you're going to pretend it fell by itself."
"No, Pete. Honest. I was watching TV. It fell by itself, or... something pushed it off."
"Like a ghost? Good one, Sam. What movie were you watching? A scary one, I'll bet."
"You don't believe me?" Sam asked sadly.
"Just clean it up and hope that Mom doesn't miss it when she gets back."
Sam lay on his bed that night trying to sleep, but he kept worrying about the library. 'Could it really be haunted?' He wondered. If so, what could he do about it? How could he prove it to Pete? Finally he thought of the right course of action. He would ask Noah Osgood to investigate. Everyone at school knew that he was a good detective.
The next day at school Sam waited until lunchtime to talk to Noah. The older boy sat with his friends in the cafeteria and Sam felt a little awkward approaching them.
"Uh, Noah, could I talk to you for a minute after lunch? I don't want to interrupt you," he said apologetically.
Noah looked at the boy who stood so shyly behind him. He was an attractive kid, thin with dark hair and blue eyes. He was well dressed and polite.
"Sure. Your name is Sam, isn't it?" Noah said with a friendly tone. He didn't know the boy well but he had seen him around for a long time. "What can I do for you?" Noah always tried to be nice and friendly to everyone, especially to those who were younger than him. He hoped that other people would treat his little brother, Artie, with the same consideration.
"Well, it's sort of private," Sam said nervously.
"Okay, give me five minutes and I'll see you out in the hallway."
"Thanks, Noah," Sam said gratefully.
A short time later Noah and Adam put up their trays and went to see what was bothering young Sam.
"I-I think our library at home has a ghost in it."
Suddenly very interested, Noah asked, "What makes you think so?"
"There have been noises, you know, bumps and bangs coming from there when no one is in there and a book fell off the shelf and hit the floor and last night a vase fell off the mantle and broke."
"Who was at home at the time?"
"Just my brother, Pete, and me."
"Could Pete be playing tricks on you?"
"No, he was out in the garage working on his bike. I went and got him and we opened the door together. He thought I broke it."
Noah said, "Hmmm, that's very interesting. How about if Adam and I come by after school today and take a look?"
"Would you? That would be just great," Sam said with relief.
Sam wrote down his address for the boys and went to his next class with a lighter step. Noah would figure it all out, he just knew it.
Adam said to Noah, "Do you think something weird is really going on there?"
"I sure hope so. I need a good mystery now and this might be a lot of fun. Besides, Sam seemed really sincere and worried. He needs us."
That evening, after checking in at home, Noah and Adam rode their bikes over to Elm Street. It was a neighborhood that Noah had always admired with its stately old homes and shady, tree lined sidewalks. He liked to imagine what it must be like to live in a place like this. These people were probably pretty rich. Sam's house was two stories tall and topped with a big attic. There were columns out front and neatly trimmed hedges on either side of the porch. Noah and Adam climbed the steps and as he raised his hand to ring the doorbell Noah was surprised when the door opened.
Sam had been waiting and watching for them.
"I'm so glad you're here. Come on in. Can I get you something to drink?" Sam asked politely.
He led them through the open foyer to the large family room and to the kitchen where Mrs. Wagner fixed them all a glass of soda before she left for the day. Once they were alone Sam took them to the room in question, which sat at the end of a short hallway off the dining room. It was the first time Noah had been in a house with its own library. He looked around at the tall bookshelves that rose from floor to ceiling. The walls in this entire house were twelve feet tall so the shelves loomed over them. The air smelled slightly musty with the odor of old books. There were two tall windows to the left of the room, each hung with thick velvet curtains, but the room still felt rather dark and gloomy. It may have been his imagination but Noah felt a sense of unease.
Directly across from them was a large fireplace with an ornate marble surround and a wide mantle. A single vase sat on the right side of the mantle along with a few other knickknacks and an oil painting of a mountain scene hung above it. In the center of the room were a gleaming, dark wood desk and chair. In front of each window sat a side table, each with a plaster bust on it. The floor was made of wide wooden boards, darkly stained, and a very handsome oriental rug covered most of it. Aside from the books, the only other objects in the room were some unlit lamps and a tall ladder on wheels.
Noah didn't know what he should look for, but he gave the room a thorough going over so that he, at least, looked like he knew what he was doing. Adam and Sam stood in the doorway and watched. Noah had Sam tell him once again about the book and the vase and the noises. Sam assured him again that there had been no one home except for he and his brother and neither one had been in the room.
By the time he was finished examining the windows, shelves and fireplace, and tapping the walls for secret passageways and hidden compartments, Noah felt a lot less sure of himself so he told Sam that he would go home and try to think of a proper course of action.
"I'll let you know something tomorrow at school. Meet me after lunch again."
Sam agreed and turned to lock the library door behind them. The trio had only made it to the next room when they heard a loud thump come from the locked room. Excitedly, they ran back to the library and Sam unlocked it. When they opened the door they could see nothing amiss. Everything was still in its place and there was no sign of whatever had made the noise.
Sam felt a huge sense of relief. Someone else had heard the noise besides him so at least he wasn't crazy. They all agreed that the sound had definitely come from inside the obviously empty and locked room. Noah felt even more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
On their way home Adam asked Noah, "Do you believe in ghosts?"
Noah answered honestly, "I don't really believe in them, but sometimes I'm still scared of them."
Adam smiled and said, "I know just what you mean. It's harder to not believe at night-time or when it's dark. What if Sam's house really is haunted? What can you do about it?"
"You mean, 'Who you gonna call?'" Noah laughed. "I don't know yet. We need to do like those guys on TV and set up a camera in there so we can see if anything weird happens. Maybe I'll borrow one from Kevin Mason. He told me once that he had some spy equipment. Maybe he'll let us use one for a night or two."
"I thought you two didn't get along."
"It's not so bad now. I guess he's got some good qualities. Besides, he doesn't brag like he used to. That got on my nerves. We've chatted a few times at school."
That evening Noah called Kevin. "Hey Kevin, how's it going? Listen, I need a small favor," Noah said.
Kevin replied, "Oh really? The brilliant Noah Osgood needs the help of poor Kevin Mason?"
"Cut it out, Kevin," Noah laughed. "I thought we were past all of that. Seriously, I need to borrow one of your cameras for a day or two."
"What's going on? Do you have a big new case of some sort? What is it?"
"I'm going to be doing some ghost busting and some electronics would be a big help. How about it?"
Kevin sounded very interested as he said, "Ghosts? You think it's really ghosts? Okay, but I want in on this one."
Noah groaned and said, "You know it's probably going to turn out to be nothing at all. You shouldn't get too excited."
"Hey, I'm bored and it's almost Halloween. This is perfect. Besides, I have the perfect camera and I can record the footage on my laptop. Can I help?"
"Okay, fine. I'll see you at school tomorrow. I'll explain it then and we can head over there when we get out."
The next afternoon the four boys stood in Sam's library. Kevin was obviously impressed with the entire house, but he tried not to show it. He unpacked the small camera from its case and turned it on. Then he opened his computer and typed in a few commands. Suddenly a very clear picture of the interior of the library popped up on the screen.
"Now, we just have to put it somewhere that it will get a good view of the room. How about up on this shelf? I can see both windows, the fireplace and the desk," Kevin said.
Noah said, "It's about the best spot unless something happens on the other side of the room. All we can do is hook it up and see. Does it run all night?"
"No," said Kevin, "It has a motion sensor and will only start recording if something moves. Sam can check it in the morning to see if we caught anything."
The boys talked for a few minutes before exiting and locking the room. As they started to walk away they heard two loud bangs coming from the locked room. Sam fumbled with the key as he unlocked the door but he didn't turn the knob.
"Somebody else look. I don't want to," he said.
Noah looked at Kevin and saw that the boy was shaken so he looked in the room first. There was nothing amiss, no books on the floor, nothing broken, nothing was out of place. The four of them looked at each other with wide eyes and beating hearts.
"Check the computer," Noah said.
The looked but the camera had recorded nothing. Disappointed, they relocked the door and left.
The next morning the young ghost busters met in front of the school. They had only a few minutes before they had to go in. Sam, looking pale and nervous, carried the laptop under his arm.
Noah asked, "Sam, did we get something? What was it?"
Sam said nothing. He only nodded and handed the computer to Kevin. They all gathered around the screen while Kevin hit a couple of keys. The picture of the empty room sprang up and everything looked normal until suddenly the desk chair moved. The movement was slight at first but then it made a quick lurch and rolled several inches to the left.
The boys were speechless at first. Finally Kevin said, "Holy Moly! "
Adam said, "We may have the first real evidence of a ghost ever caught on camera. This is amazing."
Noah was stunned but still not quite convinced. The bell rang and they all ran off to their classrooms. At lunch time they gathered around the laptop and watched again and again as the chair slid away from the desk.
Noah asked, "Kevin, can we leave the camera hooked up tonight? If your dad isn't in a hurry to get it back I would like to see if we can get some more evidence."
Adam said, "Wouldn't it be great to actually see a ghost?"
Sam and Kevin both said, "No," at the same time.
Kevin blushed and said that they could use the camera for as long as they needed.
"Should we show this to your brother, Pete?" Noah asked Sam.
"Not yet. Let's see what else happens first. Listen, tomorrow is Friday so I wondered if you all would consider having a sleepover at my place. That way we can stay up late and watch for activity."
"Great idea, Sam," said Noah. "I'm in."
"Me, too," said Adam.
"I-I guess so," said Kevin, with much less enthusiasm.
Sam set up the camera after school that day the way they had shown him. He felt almost happy. 'What's up with me today?' he wondered. 'It's not like having a ghost is good news or anything. Why do I feel good?' Then he realized that it was a combination of two things. One, he had been right about the ghost and now other people believed him, and the other thing was he now felt like he had some friends. He really liked the other three boys and they seemed to like him as well. Sam had never had friends before and he liked it.
When the boys showed up a little later, Sam was proud to show them how he had set up the family room with quilts and blankets and pillows for them all to sleep.
He said, "I thought it would be cool if we all slept down here so we can keep an eye on the computer and see if anything happens. I told my brother about what we are doing and he's cool with it. He doesn't believe me about the ghost, but he says that you're welcome to hang out. Pete is going to order pizza for us later on, and meanwhile, I have some snacks for us."
"Good idea," said Noah. "We'll be near the library that way, too."
"Let's watch some television while we wait," suggested Kevin, as he kicked back in a comfy recliner and clicked the remote.
Noah and Adam thought the noise of the big television was annoying and Adam said, "Why don't you show us around, Sam? I've never been in a house this big before. I've always wondered what one looks like."
"I'd love to," said Sam and took them on a tour.
Noah was impressed with everything. The dining room was as large as three of his and, besides the family room and library, there was a large sitting room for company and a huge kitchen. The downstairs had a large bedroom and bath for Sam's parents and the upstairs had four more bedrooms.
Sam knocked on Pete's door and introduced him to Noah and Adam.
Pete said, "So, you're the ghost busters, eh? Well, I hope you boys don't get too scared tonight. If you do, just scream. I'll be up here. Sam, tell me when the pizza gets here."
"Okay, Pete. Thanks," said Sam.
The boys went back downstairs to hang out and, when they got to the family room, they saw that Kevin was no longer there.
"Where do you think Kevin wandered off to?" said Adam.
Noah said, "He surely didn't get scared and go home. I'll check and see if his bike is outside. You check the kitchen in case he's raiding the refrigerator."
A couple of minutes later they all came back. Noah said, "His bike's still there so he didn't leave."
"Yeah, and he's not in the kitchen or dining room or bathroom. You don't think he would go in the library by himself, do you?" asked Sam.
"Let's find out," said Adam.
The three of them nervously went to the library and slowly opened the door. It was empty.
"Well, he couldn't have gone upstairs without us seeing him," said Noah, feeling exasperated and annoyed. He shouted loudly, "KEVIN! WHERE ARE YOU?"
All three of them wandered about calling for Kevin but there was no answer at all, except for Pete who called downstairs and told them to pipe down. Finally they gave up and sat down to decide what to do. They didn't know whether to be worried or not.
"What if something has happened to him?" Sam said.
"What could happen?" said Noah. He was reluctant to admit it but he was beginning to feel a bit nervous. He closed his eyes to think for a moment when he felt something against his shoulder. Noah was sitting in a chair by a tall window and he suddenly jumped up and yelped when a hand grabbed him by the neck.
Noah whirled around and grabbed at the hand and gave it a strong pull. Kevin came stumbling out from behind the curtain, laughing.
Noah said, "Kevin, you jerk. What were you doing back there?"
Still laughing, Kevin said, "I was practicing my private eye skills, hiding in plain sight. You guys walked past me a couple of times and didn't see me at all."
Adam gave him a sour look and said, "That wasn't funny at all."
"Sure it was. You guys were actually scared."
Just then the pizza arrived and Pete came down to pay for it. After Sam got sodas for everyone the five of them sat at the table to enjoy the food.
Pete asked, "So, how's the ghost hunting going? Found any spooks yet?"
"I take it you're not a believer," said Kevin. "Didn't Sam show you the video of the chair moving?"
"He showed it to me, but it could have been caused by a draft or something," the older boy told him. "I need more proof than that."
As if on cue a loud thump came from the direction of the library. Pete jumped a bit and went to the library door and opened it.
"I don't see anything," he reported to the others.
"Hmmm, must have been the wind again," said Noah wryly.
Pete had just closed the door and started to walk back to the table when two thumps, louder than the first, came from the closed room. Throwing the door open once more Pete revealed two books lying on the floor, their covers open and their pages bent. All of the boys stood in the doorway staring.
"Holy...," whispered Noah.
"Wow," said Adam.
Kevin stared, wide eyed and silent.
Sam took his brother's hand for comfort and said, "Pete, what's going on?"
Noah said, "Let's look at the video."
The laptop was in the family room. They watched as the two books seemed to eject themselves from the shelf and crash to the floor. They had been side by side and had moved together.
"Go see which books they were," said Noah, reluctant to enter the library himself.
Adam and Kevin and Sam just looked at each other. Finally Pete fetched them.
"You won't believe this," he said. "They are both Stephen King books." He laid the volumes on the table.
"I can't believe this," said Noah. "I don't want to believe it."
Even Pete looked shaken. "This house really is haunted," he said solemnly.
"Don't close that door, okay?" pleaded Sam.
"Good idea," said Adam. "Let's leave it open so we can see if anything else happens. I think we should sit here and watch for a while."
It was agreed. Sitting at the table, they could see through the open door and watch most of the library. They could see the desk, the fireplace behind it and some of the shelves. No one said anything for several minutes. Pete and Kevin began attacking the pizza once again while Adam studied the laptop monitor and Noah sat thinking. Sam stayed close to his brother and looked worried.
About ten tense minutes passed and, just as they all began to relax, once again the desk chair went rolling across the floor, its wheels rumbling loudly on the polished hardwood boards. Everyone jumped up and ran into the room to look. The chair sat over by the windows, its flight stopped by the side table. Pete cautiously pushed it and it rolled easily. He put it back in its place at the desk and stood looking around the room. Noah, too, examined the chair and the shelf where the books had been.
'There must be some clue,' he thought.
But there was nothing to indicate trickery of any sort. Still, he was skeptical. He stood in the center of the room and let his eyes roam over every inch of it. Slowly looking high and low, tuning out the excited chatter of the others, he finally saw what he had been seeking. Smiling he went back to the table and helped himself to another slice of pizza.
Adam followed him and said, "You seem awfully calm. You know something, don't you?"
Noah just smiled mysteriously.
Sam and Kevin sat down.
Sam said, "I'm scared, Noah. It really is a ghost, isn't it? Can ghosts hurt us?"
"Not this ghost, Sam. Just hold tight. It'll all be over soon," Noah said reassuringly.
Almost immediately there was another crash from the library. This was very loud and sounded like something had broken. Everyone but Noah went back to look.
Adam said, "Noah, one of the plaster busts has shattered on the floor. Something knocked it off the table."
Sam whined, "Pete, let's get out of here. I don't want to be here anymore. Please, can we go to Aunt Lily's house? I'll call her and ask."
Noah said, "Pete, you're scaring your brother. Don't you think the joke has gone far enough? Why don't you tell your friend to come up and have some pizza before it's all gone?"
Pete gave him an innocent look and said, "Joke? I don't know what you mean. What joke?"
"I mean the fishing lines that ran out the window to your friend outside, the ones that were looped around the base of the bust to pull it off the table, the one that looped around the arm of the chair to pull it across the floor. I imagine there was one or two threaded through the books as well. They were very close to the window so the line wouldn't be too obvious. Once each line was used it could be easily removed by pulling it out the window. How did you make the thumping sounds? It was probably someone in the basement pounding on the ceiling under the library floor."
"Well, I guess you know it all, don't you?" said Pete with a laugh.
Sam looked astonished and a bit angry. He said, "Pete! That was you? Pete, you scared me. I really thought we were living in a haunted house. That wasn't very nice."
Adam gave Noah a fist bump and said, "Way to go, buddy."
Kevin was surprised at first, then a little resentful at being fooled. Finally he said, "Oh, I figured it was just something like that. Ghosts aren't real after all. Everybody knows that."
Adam rolled his eyes.
"Why did you do it Pete?" asked Sam.
"Because it's almost Halloween, little brother, and I wanted you to have some fun. At first it was just a joke, but then you got these guys involved and I was happy that you had finally made some friends so I decided to make it a real mystery. Noah, you're observant and pretty smart. Thanks to all three of you for helping Sam out. He doesn't seem to make friends very easily and now it looks like he's found three good ones.
"Listen, if you aren't doing anything tomorrow night why don't you come here for a Halloween party? I'm having some of my friends over so if you don't mind hanging out with some upper classmen we would like to have you. It'll be a costume party so dress up, okay?"
Noah, Adam and Kevin all were excited by the invitation.
Noah said, "That's really great of you, Pete. We were stuck for something to do on Halloween. I thought we would have to stay at home and hand out candy."
The backdoor opened and a lanky teenager came in wearing a skull mask.
He took it off and Pete said, "Let me introduce my friend and conspirator, Luke. He was the one outside pulling the strings, so to speak. You were right about the fishing lines, although I don't know how you spotted them. I used the finest ones I could find. Luke used the outside cellar door to get under the library and bang on the ceiling with a broom."
"Yeah, and I'm still picking spider webs off my clothes. I could hear you guys talking through the heating vents in the floor. I think we got you pretty good, didn't we?"
"Yes, you did," agreed Adam, "Especially Kevin here."
"Oh, I wasn't scared. Well, not that much," protested Kevin with a laugh.
Adam's mother drove them to Pete's party the next evening. Both their mothers had talked to Pete who had assured them that there would be no drinking at his party and that he would watch out for their boys. Pete told them that they would be with Sam and that everyone would have a great time. Artie was a little jealous that he didn't get to come but he knew that he and his friends were going to have a blast anyway.
Noah came dressed as a mad doctor in a lab coat splashed with fake blood. He carried a large knife (plastic, of course) and a fake rubber hand hung from a cord around his neck. He looked quite gruesome.
Adam came as a Viking, complete with a horned helmet and a fur cape. Noah thought he looked very sexy. Kevin arrived dressed as a policeman in a uniform that was much too large for him.
They all laughed when they were greeted by Sam, dressed as a ghost with a book in his hand.