One Wednesday afternoon, Jackson asked Arnold if he would help him move some tables on the weekend from the local used furniture store to the center that the county mental health kingpins had purchased but failed to take into account that somebody would have to move them. Arnold replied in his typical fuck patois, expecting Jackson to exclude him from this week’s excursion to Wendy’s like usual. This time, however, Jackson did something different.

He said to Arnold, “How would you like to drive the truck?”

Arnold replied, “But I can’t drive.”

Jackson said, “I’ll teach you.”

Arnold said, “I don’t even have a permit and I can’t get one because they won’t let me have my birth certificate and social security card because they are afraid I’ll lose them.”

Jackson replied, “I have them. We can go get your permit today. We can practice all week until you get your license, but you have to promise you will help move the furniture.”

Arnold was taken aback. He didn’t know what to say. What was happening? This guy was going to do something for him, but he hated him and he thought the feeling was mutual. Teach me to do something potentially dangerous that only “responsible people” were allowed to do?! It didn’t make sense, but all he said was “Yes.”

“Okay, here is the manual. Study this and we can leave in fifteen minutes.”

So Arnold studied the manual, then he got into the car and they drove to the local DMV, where they barely got in before closing time. Arnold was the last one to take the test and he passed. That afternoon, his driving lessons began. Arnold was able to drive the truck to move the furniture that Saturday. He practiced a little more with Jackson. Parallel parking was a bit tricky for him, but he eventually got the hang of it. It was almost time to go get his license.

On Monday evening after his time at the center, it was already too late for him to take his driving test, so they decided to get a little more practice. About a mile from the apartment, Arnold heard a loud noise, and the next thing he saw was Jackson slumped over with his head on the glove box, bleeding from his temple. Arnold pulled over. Half of Jackson’s face was gone; Jackson was gone. This had been the work of some would-be hunter who failed to aim properly. There was not a cop in sight; Arnold did not own a cell phone; he was unable to work Jackson’s, for he had never owned one and he was too anxious to figure it out. He felt like the helpless mental patient that he was. Until…

Arnold looked in the open glove box and saw an envelope. The envelope had cash and lots of it; it was more money than Arnold had ever seen. Jackson had been planning on buying a new car, but the dealer would only accept cash or a cashier’s check for such a large amount, so Jackson decided to save on the fee and just get cash. It was twenty thousand dollars. There was a second envelope, too; this one contained his birth certificate and social security card. There was still not a cop in sight.

Arnold hatched a plan. He would move what remained of Jackson to the driver’s seat and push the car into the ditch. He would take the money and his documents and run. The police would assume he was alone when he was accidentally shot by the hunter. The shooter would be the focus of their investigation, and not him. After about an hour, he managed to pull it off. He grabbed the envelopes, stealthily snuck back into the window of his apartment and took a shower. He put the dirty clothes in a plastic bag and tossed them in the dumpster. Bobby, a schizophrenic who also lived in the group home, asked him where Jackson was and Arnold replied, “How should I know?” Bobby asked if he was with him and Arnold replied, “No, not today. Today I was out at the park shooting hoops. It must have been some other day. I’m sure he’ll be back to give out the meds soon.” Even if police questioned Bobby, they wouldn’t take the word of a schizophrenic. The police arrived at the apartment the next day with the requisite meds they got from Forsyth County Mental Health, since Jackson was obviously wasn’t showing up for work. They were only there to deliver the meds. They said not a word about Jackson and certainly didn’t suspect Arnold of anything; he was just another helpless object of public charity. The cops were just filling in for another civil servant derelict in his duty.

Arnold did not get on the van to go to Maddox Center. He got on his bicycle and went south toward Atlanta with his money, documents, and all the belongings he wanted to take in his backpack. He would find a single room occupancy there. Later that afternoon, he had the scare of his lifetime when he saw blue lights behind him when he was biking down Moreland Avenue. The thought that this was about Jackson paralyzed him with fear. He pulled his bicycle into a Texaco. When the cop stepped out of the car and asked for his ID, he handed over his learner’s permit. The cop quipped that this was only a learner’s permit and not actual identification, but then told Arnold he was the one for whom he was looking due to being reported missing from Maddox Center. While still scared, Arnold was overcome with relief. He told the police officer:

“I got another job here in the city. I am moving. This is all a big mistake.”

He still feared he would be taken in for being a wayward mental patient, but the officer was quite satisfied with that answer, and after a couple of minutes on his walkie-talkie, he went away. Arnold was elated, yet had a new sense of urgency. He had to find a place. He did: it was a room in a sleazy long-term motel on Moreland Avenue filled mostly with druggies. Arnold was happy to be there; he wasn’t a druggie or criminal of any description, so the authorities would not have their eyes on him. Nothing was more important to Arnold than that: he was free at last!

Arnold got his license the next morning and bought a cell phone right afterward. He began to look for used cars, and two days later, he found a decent, late model Nissan. The next thing he did was become a food delivery driver for several companies. He just downloaded the apps, went to the respective orientations, and was ready to go. He made more than enough to pay his rent every week. He ate what he wanted, came in and out when he wanted, worked when he wanted without any “responsibility” to anyone.

And so his days went.

A couple of weeks later, he purchased his own computer. He was able to watch live webcam girls now since he had some money. He was surprised at how little money and time he was spending on porn watching now: it was as though that now he could have it, he ceased to want it.

He continued to study mathematics via Khan Academy. He was enjoying greater success. He also wanted to stretch out a bit. He was studying cryptography, but knew he would not get anywhere with it unless he also knew the nuts and bolts of how to code, so he started to learn the basics of coding as well.

One thing that began to dog him was the problem of factoring prime numbers. He had heard if there could be a way to factor prime numbers in polynomial time, strong encryption would be rendered useless. This fascinated him. Of course, he knew nothing about how such a scheme would work in practice. He didn’t know how to guess a password or intercept a message, even if he could factor every prime number in his head.

However, he decided to do something about it. He studied computer hacking in some online courses and learned all about the metasploit framework that he could use to penetration test all kinds of systems. He was soon hacking into his neighbors’ WiFi and getting all kinds of access to their data. He thought it was funny when he found out his Jehovah’s Witness neighbor was accessing porn.

He finally learned how to crack passwords using dictionary attacks. He was able to hack into a few strangers’ Amazon accounts that way. He did use one to watch a few movies, but would never use it to send anything since he would get caught if he tried that, since you can’t hide an IRL address behind a VPN. At any rate, he had failed to crack any of the complex username/password combinations used by banks.

And so his days went.

Arnold was thinking about prime numbers one day and he was factoring them more quickly than he thought he could. What was he doing? He retraced his mental steps and discovered a pattern. The pattern worked for 7 x 11, 91 x 97, 103 x 31, 727 x 937 and few others, but not, disturbingly, 2 x 3. He wrote a program in Python using the pattern. He was able to correctly factor prime numbers more quickly using his algorithm than using the brute force method. All of a sudden, he became very excited.

He tried to prove how the algorithm could work. He tried using direct proofs, induction, proof by contradiction, and many ways by many methods, but to no avail. He was stuck. He couldn’t show his work. He just found something that he knew worked. He decided to put it to use.

Arnold still did not have a program to hack prime numbers, since there no such exploit as yet existed. After a while, he wrote one, though. He filed it within his own metasploit module and with some experimenting, he was able to call it up and actually run attacks using it. He knew this was too valuable to upload to the hacker sites on the dark web, and besides, it was still unproven, so he kept it to himself.

He was able to hack into bank accounts with ease. He didn’t try to transfer money, because he knew that they would be able to discover him quite easily. He thought about how he could steal without leaving a trace. At first, he thought about getting an account in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland, but he had no idea how to go about doing that and still wouldn’t be sure if it would be untraceable. It seemed the safest bet would be to get debit cards sent to him, but he couldn’t get them sent to his address: he would be picked off right away. His neighbors in the hotel wouldn’t do, because the mailboxes all had locks, so what would Arnold do?

He knew that on the side streets near his hotel there were residential areas with typical mailboxes. He could find out the addresses and have the debit cards sent to them. He could then sneak into their mail boxes and take them. The fact that he was a delivery driver could be used as a cover if he was suspected of anything. He could tell police or other snoopers he was merely checking street numbers, and so he hatched his plan.

He hacked into several back accounts and changed their addresses to those of people who lived near his hotel. He knew the mailman’s route, so he followed him for about a week checking behind him at his deliveries. He found a few credit cards addressed to the names of the people he hacked; he took them. After five successes, he noticed someone on a porch looking at him. He decided it was time to go home.

Arnold was able to use the ATMs to empty the accounts after he had secured pin numbers. He deposited the money into his bank account soon after and threw away the ill-gotten debit cards.

This soon became his new source of income and limited his delivery driving to a couple of days a week. He had money for whatever he wanted. He started to go out; he went to places like the local symphony and some strip clubs. He even lost his virginity to a high-class escort. He was finally living like a man who had never been labeled as mentally ill; it was great. He was finally being treated as a full human being.


For all installments of “Show Your Work,”click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Pattern I: The Ordinary World