BotFu, the discovery, and the donation.
Sometimes it pays to look down.
The sun had been out for hours now and the snow was finally starting to melt.
You could hear the streams of water as they ran down the sides of the roads and into the drains. And you could smell the crisp, clean, air that always seems to come with the thaw of the ice as Spring finally starts to break through the months of winter dankness.
The snow was a mix of white, brown, and grey that turned into slopes of clear ice as it met with the sidewalk edges.
The walking was wet, slushy, and slick. So you had to walk with your head down and heed every step or risk looking like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football at any moment.
And that's really the only reason I found it at all.
Right there, in a half-melted snowbank, was a little old black notebook.
It looked like it had been through hell, soaked and covered in mud. Probably dropped on the street by some poor schlub and then buried here thanks to one of the many snowplows constantly clearing the street these past few months.
I didn't have high hopes it would even stay in one piece when I picked it up, but figured I should at least take it to a proper trash can.
So I grabbed it, shook the water off, and brushed the top layer of mud off a bit. It was one of those Moleskine notebooks with the hard covers, which I guess is why, to my surprise the pages inside were still in pretty good shape.
As I started to leaf through the book, looking for something that might tell me who it belonged to, here's what I found:
Page 1: Very clean bubble letter writing perfectly centered on the page. It reads, "BotFu".
Page 2: Looks like some screens for a mobile app - I wonder if this thing ever got built?
Page 3: Meeting notes. Steve was presenting something about TPS reports. Kate agreed to follow up. There's a small doodle in the top right corner and what looks like some snippet of computer code in the bottom left corner with the note "memory leak fix".
Pages 4 thru 6: Looks like more code, much of it is scribbled or crossed out.
This must have been a coder's note book at some point. And it looks like they were struggling to figure out that memory leak for awhile.
Page 7: An unfinished sketch. Kind of looks like Hobbes from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, but the paws are all wrong, and eyes are too big.
Pages 8 thru 11: More doodles and sketches...mostly of that Hobbes-like character. They were getting better.
Page 12: Back to some more tech mumbo jumbo. This time it looks like it's about crypto stuff, maybe Bitcoin. At least I'm guessing it is Bitcoin because the doodles on this page are all the Bitcoin symbol. And there is a URL, and what might be a username and password.
I thought that might be something to check out.
Pages 13 thru the end of the notebook: blank.
OK. No names. No contact information. Nothing to really trace this back to an owner except maybe that URL.
So I pulled out my phone, opened up my web browser and put in the URL.
I was right about the crypto stuff, the URL was for a crypto wallet. But the page didn't provide much information beyond asking for the username and password.
I had gone this far, so I figured I might as well try what was in the notebook.
On my first attempt, I entered the top line as the username and the second line as the password. But that didn't work.
I figured it was a long shot, but might as well try flipping them. So I entered the second line as the username, and the first line as the password.
Bingo. I was in!
At the very top of the page when you log in it read, "Balance: $20,000.00 USD".
I thought, "No way".
It wasn't Bitcoin. It was cash. $20,000 in cash. Just sitting in an account that I had just hacked into thanks to some scribbled notes in a dirty old notebook I found on the side of the road!
My heart was racing now.
In that instant, the world had suddenly gotten a whole lot more dangerous. It felt like there were hidden cameras every where! All pointed directly at me. They were watching everything I was doing.
I thought this has to be some kind of test. Some kind of trick or set up. I had almost completely forgotten that I was standing in the middle of a snowbank, my shoes slowly soaking in the ice cold water as the snow continued to melt around my feet.
Snapping back into reality for a moment, I quickly closed my web browser, stuffed my phone back into my pocket and jammed the little black notebook into my backpack.
My eyes darting around to see who was watching and if anyone had spotted me as I had made my discovery.
The street was still empty. No one knew what I had found.
Honestly I don't remember much about the rest of the walk home, but it was probably more of a light jog or maybe a sprint as my mind filled with questions about who the account might belong to.
Could I take the money out? What if I couldn't find who the account belonged to? Would the money be mine? How would I spend it? If I spend it, will they hunt me down? Will I have to pay it back? Will they break my legs?
Turns out my heart wasn't the only thing racing. In fact, my imagination was doing laps around my heart rate.
But I finally made it home and went straight to my room. Locked the door, and pulled out the notebook one more time.
This time, I went through every page in detail. Examining everything I could about each mark. Every picture. There had to be something I was missing.
So now it was time to try the account again. Surely this time I wouldn't be able to log in. Or maybe the account would be empty this time?
Nope. I got in again with no troubles, and the balance still read 20k!
This time I clicked on every option I could find looking for any type of bank account or personal information I could find.
Who puts 20k into an account, has no information at all attached to it, and then puts the credentials to the account in a random notebook?!
I was nervous to find out. I was more nervous not to find out!
After a few days of constantly checking the account, I finally decided I would attach my own personal information and a new bank account to it.
I figured the real account owner would see this, and then reach out to me. I could then return the notebook, explain the discovery, and finally get an answer to this crazy mystery.
Two weeks went by.
I had been checking the account so much that I now knew the username and password by heart. Still no action. No movement. No contact.
Every day I debated doing the withdrawal, but every day I chickened out.
By the third week I had finally decided that was it. If nothing changed by Friday, I was going to do the withdrawal.
Friday came, and still nothing had happened.
My personal deadline had passed. It was time to try the withdrawal. Surely that would force some action. Some contact.
I logged in one more time. I navigated over to the transfer page. I began to enter the numbers.
Two. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. Dot. Zero. Zero.
I was dripping with sweat.
After what felt like a lifetime of hovering over it, I finally clicked the transfer now button. The screen immediately read, "Transfer complete."
The account balance read: "Balance: $0.00".
I logged out, closed my laptop, and began pacing in my room as I nervously watched the door. Sure the police, or the mob, would be kicking it in at any moment.
As I paced the room, my eyes darted from the door to my phone that lay silently on my desk. Surely I would get a call at any minute.
But nothing happened.
After about thirty minutes of aimlessly pacing around my room, I began to think maybe I hadn't actually transferred the money. So I logged into the bank account I had set up for the transfer.
Sure enough - it read: "Balance: $20,000.00".
The money was there. No one was coming for it? No one was coming for me? Was this for real? I still couldn't believe it.
And that was three months ago now.
I'm happy to report the police have not come looking for me. Nor has the mob.
In fact, no one has.
And I have finally worked up the courage to spend the first of this money on a large donation of Moleskine notebooks to your classroom.
Because it's all thanks to my walk home from your class that spring day, Mrs. Nordberg...and, of course, why the all real thanks should go to BotFu.