Shana drove out of town to see the comet NeoWise. After days of failed attempts to see it because of cloudy skies or light pollution, she found a two-track, dirt road that went up the hill to a church. The view from the road was perfect to see the comet. Shana parked the car and located the comet on her phone’s star locater app, but the comet wasn’t as clear as she thought it would be. She set her phone down on the roof of the car, and reached for the binoculars on the passenger seat. She was now able to see NeoWise more clearly, until it was no longer visible. Shana climbed into her car with the binoculars. She drove back down the road to the stop sign. Shana darted away from the stop sign, then heard a thud on the car. It didn’t feel like she had hit or run over anything. So, she chose to check out the car the next morning.
Once at home, Shana decided to text her friend to tell her that she finally got to see the comet. However, her phone wasn’t in her purse or car. Suddenly she realized, that thud was the phone falling off the roof of the car and onto the trunk as she drove away from the stop sign. She now needed to go back to where she had been, and look along the side of the road for her cell phone.
Shana woke up early, ate breakfast and rushed out the door. She parked the car and started combing the side of the road in search of her phone. She only found pieces of it scattered all over in the overgrown grass. When she found the front part of the phone, the screen was shattered, and the slots for the battery and SIM card were empty. The SIM card was all she cared about, because it had her contacts and photos on it, which weren’t backed up. So, she decided to creep further into the dewy grass. As she dissected the blades of grass apart, she noticed a small black book and picked it up. It was wet, but neither the soft cover, or the page edges had mold on them. She opened the book, and was puzzled by what looked like code written on the pages. She wondered what things like Bc9035768!, Ap5291959!, and similar codes meant. The cover had the initials EBW and the name of a company embossed on it. Shana put the book in her pocket and continued her search for her SIM card. She hunted for over 3 hours, and finally gave up.
Shana bought a new cell phone and two days later went for a walk around the local lake, with her friend Kayla.
“When I was looking for my SIM card in the grass, I found this small black book with these, what I think are codes in it.”
“Really, that’s weird!” Kayla exclaimed.
“I know! The cover of the book has the initials of someone, and the name of the company on the front of it. I was going to turn the book over to the company, but I felt that the information in the pages was somehow personal to that person.”
“What are you going to do?” Kayla asked.
“I called the company and their voice mail service allows you to search for employees by last name. The initials on the book are EBW. So, I typed in W and the only person that came up was Gene Williams. I tried other last name initials to see if another name came up that matched what was on the book, but nothing came up.” Shana explained.
“I don’t know what to say. I would just hand the book over to the company and not worry about it anymore.”
The two young women continued their walk, but didn’t mention the book again.
A few days went by and Shana got a call from Kayla. “You know, I was thinking about our talk the other day about that book you found. Did you turn it over to the company yet?”
“No, not yet." Shana sheepishly admitted.
“Somehow, I knew you wouldn’t.” Kayla teased her friend. “The initials were EBW, right?”
“Yes, why?” Shana asked.
“Well, I think the name Gene that you found on the company voice mail list is the person that the book belongs to.” Kayla said.
“Why do you think that? The initials are EBW, not GBW.” Shana questioned sternly.
"Did you know that the full name for Gene can be Eugene?” Kayla replied.
There was silence on the other end of the phone for several seconds. Kayla knew that her friend was searching the name Eugene on the internet, to confirm what she had just been told.
“OMG! Kayla you’re right! Thank you! Thank you! Now, I can call the man personally and tell him I found his small black book!”
“You’re welcome! You can repay me by treating me, the next time we do lunch.”
"Absolutely!” Shana exclaimed as she hurriedly hung up the phone.
“Gene, why are you always so busy any more when I want to get together with you?” Stephanie asked.
“Steph, I’ve told you that I’m working on this important project at work, and I have to put in a lot of overtime right now.” Gene replied in an annoyed tone.
“I know you said that weeks ago. Are you dating someone else, and that is why you don’t want to be with me anymore?” Stephanie asked accusingly.
“Are you kidding? I don’t have time to spend with you right now, how could I date someone else too? Now, let’s drop this conversation and get ready for church.” Gene said curtly.
During church services that morning, Gene saw someone in the congregation that he needed to talk to. After church was over, he starting walking toward Ken instead of their car.
“Gene, where are you going?” Stephanie asked.
“I need to talk to Ken about something for work.” Gene replied.
“It’s always, work, work, work with you anymore!” Stephanie said as she stomped off toward their car. “I’ll just wait for you in the car! Give me the keys!”
Gene tossed her the keys and went to talk to Ken.
Stephanie got bored waiting and opened the glove compartment. She snooped through the contents and came across a small black book. Oh, this must be where he keeps women’s phone numbers, she thought to herself. She opened the book and saw several lists of code consisting of two letters, seven numbers with an exclamation point. This must be the women’s initials and their phone number, she thought. I guess the exclamation point must be for how good they were. With this thought, she felt her blood begin to boil. She started to get out of the car to go confront Gene in front of his friend. NO, she thought, I have a better idea. I’ll just toss this book out the window when we drive away. That way he’ll never find it or know what happened to it, she thought with a smile on her face.
When she looked in the passenger side mirror, she saw Gene headed towards their car. She quickly rolled down the window, and timed it so that her arm hung out the window right when he was getting inside. Gene got inside the car, started it and drove away without paying attention to Stephanie. When the car got far enough down the road, a quick flick of Stephanie’s wrist, and the book was in the weeds.
When Gene realized she had the window open and the air conditioner was on, he asked, “Why do you have the window open? It’s 90 degrees outside, you’re wasting the air conditioning.”
“Oh, I had painted my nails on that hand while I was waiting, and I was leaving my hand outside so my nails could dry faster.” Stephanie lied.
“Well, can you roll the window up now? It’s getting hot in here!” Gene asked impolitely.
With a smirk on her face, Stephanie replied, “Sure, no problem.”
“Hi, my name is Shana and I believe I found something that belongs to you. It’s a small black book. Please return my call when you get this message.” Shana hung up the phone, disappointed that she had not talked to Gene directly.
A few hours later, Shana’s phone rings. She anxiously accepts the call. “Hello, this is Shana.”
“Hi Shana, this is Gene. You said that you found my little black book?”
“Yes, I did! I’m so glad I finally get to tell you!”
“Where did you find it?” Gene asked with great curiosity.
“In the grass, along the side of the tire track road that goes up to the church on the hilltop.” Shana replied.
“Yeah, that’s where my ex-girlfriend said she threw it” Gene said. “It’s a long story. I looked for it several times, but couldn’t find it.”
“Wow! Would you like me to return it to you?” Shana asked.
“Yes, definitely! Where can we meet?”
“Before we meet, can you describe what is inside on the pages, so that I can confirm that it truly does belong to you.”
“Of course. The pages contain codes with two letters, seven numbers and an exclamation point.” Gene said.
“Good, this is yours. We can meet at the ice cream shop at the corner of Main and Willow. Is that good for you?” Shana asked.
“That is good for me. How about tomorrow at 7 PM? I should be done work by then.” Gene said.
“I’ll see you then.” Shana said gleefully. “I’ll be the woman in the green car that has no hubcaps, and a white driver’s side door.”
“See you then.” Gene quickly said and hung up.
Shana arrived early and waited patiently for Gene. Around 7:45 PM a man approached her car. “Are you Shana?” he asked.
“Gene?” she questioned him.
“Yes, hi I’m Gene. This is awkward for me. Do you have the book?”
“OK, short on the chit chat I see! Yes, I have your book.” Shana reached over and retrieved the book from her purse. “Can I see your I.D.? I want to make sure you’re the right person.”
“I will show you my I.D. if you show me yours too.” Gene said tartly.
As Shana reached for her driver’s license, she thought that this guy sure was being rude, considering what she had gone through to get his book back to him. “Here’s my I.D.”
“Thanks. Here’s my I.D. Now, may I have my book? I’m sorry to be impatient, but I have to get back to work. How can I repay you?”
“No need, I’m just glad to be able to find its owner and give it back.”
Gene snapped the book from Shana’s hand, said thanks again and left.
Seven months went by and Shana still wondered what the codes were in the book, why Gene hadn't asked how she found it, and why his girlfriend had thrown it out. Then one day she received an unexpected package. Inside she found a note:
I could not tell you what the codes were at the time until I was able to change them. You see, they were multi-layered passwords to confidential data, and a website for buying cryptocurrencies.
Since the last time we saw each other, my one cryptocurrency has gone up enough for me to become a millionaire. Therefore, I am able to reward you for finding my small black book, going through the efforts of finding me, and giving it back to me. Please look in the manila envelope in this box. Sometime, we’ll have to meet again and you can tell me how you ended up finding it.
Shana looked inside the manila envelope. She fell onto her chair when she saw a money order made out to her for $20,000.00.