by Derrick Smith of Iron City Paranormal
This is my suicide note.
I need you to know that I love you and would never do anything to hurt you. Instead, this is for your protection.
They’re coming for me and you too and I cannot let that happen.
For the past 15 years, I have researched, memorized, and studied this book, this damn book. It was supposed to make us rich, millionaires...hell, billionaires. It would have too. We were well on our way whether you realize it or not.
Before I confuse you too much, let me backtrack. This all started long ago before we met…
I was right out of college working two jobs. My day job was being stuck in an office and my evening job was a simple bartender. It was a slap in the face when I realized I was making more with my bartending tips than I was with my college degree.
Not only was the money depressing but my day job felt like it locked me into a tight office with no windows, and nowhere to go. We should not live like that. We’re stuck in this endless money-making void where we become zombies of society. I did it; I just worked and worked, but my mind numbed every single day.
My luck changed one night at the bar. We were slow, so slow that even our locals didn’t stop in. There was one guy in our corner booth who ordered a coffee – that’s it! Who orders a coffee at a bar anyway?
A bad hurricane was blowing in and most of my coworkers were getting anxious to leave. I volunteered to stay and cover the coffee drinker and lock up. I would have just gone home to my tiny apartment and listen to the storm and contemplated my life anyway; why not make a few bucks doing the same thing?
The night drew on and on and the coffee man had his head buried in a book. I tried to make some small talk with him but he was just too distracted by this oh-so-interesting book. I did get a little curious but instead of getting involved, I just sat back and watched the Buccos’ game. Luckily they were away so there was no rain out.
When I was ready to announce the last call and lock up I received the strangest phone call. A muffled voice, almost like the voice had a hand covering his mouth.
“Is he there?” is all the voice asked.
My natural reply was to question but instead, I asked sarcastically, “You mean the coffee guy?”
It felt like a minute or so of silence with a woman sobbing in the background. I grew concerned. I was tempted to hang up but I was too intrigued. I couldn’t put down the receiver.
“Do you think this is a joke?” the voice again questioned. “Do not let him leave.” Then the phone went into its stagnant buzz as the voice hung up.
I still had no idea what to make of this but the voice was stern and convincing, and I’ll admit I was taken aback. I did not want to cross whoever was on the other end of that random phone call. I did what I was asked, with no questions.
I tried to act natural. I approached the coffee man and took a seat on the opposite side of the booth. That’s when I first saw it. That book. It drew me in. I’ll never know why. It was a grungy brown-grey color. The cover was definitely old leather, worn at the corners. It had an old natural binding that began to tear on each end. There was one word on each side. The front cover was stamped “money” in all script lowercase lettering. The back cover was labeled in a nice cursive, almost calligraphic font and all uppercase “LIFE.”
The coffee man finally looked up from the book. He laid the book down and my eyes followed it. I slowly raised my gaze. His face was worn. He couldn’t have been older than 30 from his build but his face showed 70’s or 80’s. His skin seemed to be falling right off the bone and the bags under his eyes were so heavy they reminded me of a baseball or football player’s eye black. The coffee man just stared. He finally dropped his head as a tear trickled down his cheek.
“That was them wasn’t it?” his voice raspy and his thick Pittsburghese revealed itself. To the ear, it sounded more like: “At was ‘em wa’nt et?”
My eyes grew wide and my flesh crawled. I didn’t speak, not a word. I just nodded. Who was “them”? More importantly, how did he know? My eyes immediately shot back to the book.
“I’ll stay here. They’ll take me,” the coffee man said almost peacefully as if he accepted this fate in a matter of seconds. “But this book,” he laid his hand over the aged book as if it were sacred; “they cannot take it.”
I was drawn in right then and there. I felt like in an instant my life had meaning. Protect the book. Do not let “them” take it.
The coffee man closed it and slid it toward me. Pages were hanging out of the ends. Notes; as many note pages as there were manuscript pages. He could have made another book completely. “Do not read this.” His warning was stern, and his stare locked into mine. He was going to die, and he knew it. “Burn it. Shred it. Get rid of it.”
I tried to grab the book as my interest peaked. His hand ,which still grasped the book, would not budge. His physical strength did not match his decrepit and worn face. I pulled again and he finally released. I almost fell back, but I caught myself with my free hand, the other clutching the book for dear life.
Before I had a chance to ask about his warning the entry bell rang as four men walked in, all covered with black trench coats and 19th century bowler hats.
The rain blew in behind them through the door. Without a word, they brushed past me not noticing my existence. I slid the book behind my back as I used the coffee man to my benefit. I stepped back through the open door fighting the rain. I spun around nearly running into a rusted-out green caravan with old wooden panels. The windows were tinted, but I heard muffled screams as the van began to shake. I sprinted to the nearest alley as I did not want to be around when those shadow men came back. My curiosity made me stop, however, as I peered my head out ever so much.
Two of the shadow men crashed through the bar door and slammed open the van doors. The crying and screaming echoed out of the van down the street. A body, seemingly a woman, flew out of the van. Her long black hair wrapped around her head as she thrashed back and forth on the concrete sidewalk. The shadow men grabbed her and threw her back into the van as if she was weightless.
The remaining two shadow men carried the battered and beaten coffee man out of the bar and tossed his lifeless body into the van. The woman’s gag was let loose and the only thing I could actually make out was her screaming “Please let my son go!” before the shadow men smashed the van doors closed.
Screeching tires echoed through the street and their headlights glanced down the alley where I took shelter, obviously not from the rain as I was drenched from head to toe. But the book was safely hidden under my heavy apron.
I managed to make my way back to the bar ,slowly. All the while I kept a diligent eye over my shoulder to ensure my solitude.
They never came back.
I locked up the bar but left my keys and apron never to return.
The next day, I called my day job, my 40-hour-a-week-for-minimal-pay boss, and told him I quit.
That’s when my life began, but also when my life began to end.
Looking back on it, I wasted so much time. Time I could have spent with you and our children. Time I could have spent with my parents, and my friends. Time where I could have been happy. Instead, I was obsessed. I was obsessed with answers, obsessed with money, obsessed with LIFE.
I studied that book for countless hours. It taught me so much; it gave me a fortune and a future. It gave me a life and a purpose. For 15 years I dedicated myself to this cause but where did it get me? To the end.
From the first day that I had that book, I dove head first into its mysteries. The notes that the coffee man took I easily quadrupled. I owned my own business, I held (still hold) millions in stocks, owned high-end cars, owned a dozen properties, and made so many contacts along the way. But it still has me sitting in this truck only a mile down the road from our house, our home.
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything, but I couldn’t. I knew it would only hurt you. Just look at the coffee man’s family. I can only imagine that the shadow men didn’t just hunt him, they took his entire family.
I can’t let that happen, I’m ending it before this all leads to that.
I opened a business only a month after I quit my futile life. It was a corner store, just normal with a few groceries, magazines, and small items - nothing special. I hired an old war veteran to run the place and a young 16-year-old high school dropout to stock shelves and act as a cashier.
Anything that I could do to solve the riddles in that damn book I would do. I’d hide in my office in the basement or in my small 10 x 10 apartment. I taught myself some of the mathematical equations and any time I ran out of paper or room in the book I would just write on a wall or a floor. I couldn’t stop and break my focus.
I was making headway. Once the codes were unlocked I understood when to make deposits, and withdrawals, which banks to trust, and which stocks to buy…it was a total puzzle but I was figuring it out.
After about a year of seclusion, and my first business ownership, I sold the corner store and purchased two small convenience stores. The book explained things. Things such as the only way to make more and expand was to lose the inconveniences of small endeavors and cut ties with the past.
That wasn’t the last time I’d throw away old businesses and employees, however, I couldn’t just let those two employees walk away. I did still have a conscience (at that point). So I hired them for my next business venture. They were just happy to take the jobs (at that point) and didn’t question my motives. I wasn’t very personable anymore, even after those years as a bartender. That book and my research consumed me. But, then you came along. That book meant less and less, and I allowed you to consume me instead.
My business plans and timing of stock purchases and sales continued to flourish, I acted like I knew what I was doing, and I felt confident, you helped that tremendously. But, I still felt that I needed that damn book. It was still there in that cubby under the nightstand. It still called to me.
After we had our son, I needed the book again. You were enthralled with him, and rightfully so. Now we needed more money to support him and a bigger house and pay for his college; oh had that book seemed to call to me once more.
The stocks rose and I sold and purchased more small businesses until finally I could get into the car business. Then, I broke into independent banking. All of this happened within 5 years, thanks to that book. The codes showed me the way. They told me when to buy, when to sell, when to cut losses, and when to go all in.
You were living it up with our son and your family whereas I was sneaking off in the middle of the night to study and decipher and decode. I couldn’t stop. I know I never disclosed how much I made or where all the money was coming from, but I can tell you that we had enough for two lifetimes. I could have walked away easily, but I didn’t. No, I couldn’t. As times changed and online businesses and correspondences grew, I got my hands on some IT businesses and trades. I bought low, hired professionals, and sold high.
Oh, and before I forget, my old 16-year-old dropout and retired vet both got promoted time and time again. They became some big-time players in my enterprises – until they dug too deep and tried to break away.
One night when I was in my office with that book sprawled out on my desk, these two approached me, more like they burst into my office but I could be over-exaggerating, as you know I hate unexpected visitors.
They jumped me with questions: Where did I get my knowledge? Why did I have no training? How did I have no schooling? How could I hire and fire people with no remorse? How could I just randomly close businesses on a whim? What was I capable of?
They weren’t wrong. I became more and more cold-hearted and calculated but I gave them so much. They were nobodies, nothing; they would have wound up in ditches on the side of the road. I should have cut ties with them when the book told me to.
I followed through with their fate, once more intertwining it with my own. I knew what was necessary, that book told me what needed to be done, so I just followed through. I’m not proud of it but I did it.
As the two of them crowded over me, analyzing my strategies using an old manuscript, I had to react. I gave in…or so they thought. I convinced them to come with me so that I could show and explain everything. I used my riches and power to persuade them.
We piled into my old Chevy Nova (you remember that bad boy, I know you do. We had some good times in that back seat, so don’t let this tarnish those memories). We drove for what seemed like hours in silence. I pulled into the empty parking lot down at Carrie Furnace. If you remember, this was just a deserted old plant or warehouse or whatever you want to call it. It was probably around midnight and it was easy enough to dump a body in the Monongahela River.
I beckoned them to follow me. They did a little reluctantly, and about 20-25 feet behind me but followed, nonetheless. Luckily for me, without any moonlight, it was pretty easy to conceal my hunting knife. No, don’t worry I never actually hunted animals, I never hid that from you. But I did put it to good use on the two of them. It’s true what they say, curiosity killed the cat.
I’ll spare you the details but I put them out quickly. I never thought I could do it but that book gave me confidence and helped clear my conscience.
I slit both of their throats without much of a struggle. I dumped the kid in the river and tossed that old veteran in my trunk. I drove him over the bridge into the parking lot across from Kennywood. Do you remember that old bar? Well, it was a rough bar and I used that to my advantage. His body was found the next morning in the dumpster. I’m still not 100% sure if they ever even found the kid.
Yes, I do have some remorse now, but then it was just what the book told me to do. I gave them some of the best years of their lives and if I had to take it all away from them for the sake of the book and my success, well, so be it.
That was the first time I had to commit that kind of crime. But it wasn’t the last. Any time anyone got too close to my secret, to that book, I would decipher a message that would tell me to get rid of them. Every time I closed up a business and someone wanted to stick around, I had to pull the trigger. That’s figurative of course, I never shot anyone. It was just too messy. I liked my hunting knife and that same spot. I think I ended up killing about 20-25 people down there. Most of the time, they didn’t even see it coming.
I never actually got a liking for murder, but I knew it had to happen. I started hiring some “handymen” to do these biddings. Not because I couldn’t, but rather I was afraid of losing control. I was afraid I wouldn’t come home to you, to our boy. This fear really culminated after I truly did lose control. The man, I believe he was one of my cooks (I barely remember half of these employees) thought I was going to hurt his fiancé or something so he pummeled me with a rock.
I’m sure you remember that night in the ER when I told you I fell down the stairwell and hit a few steps on the way down? Well, that was a lie.
That guy slammed the side of my head with a huge rock. I’m actually surprised he could lift it at his size. Well, I ended up seeking some vengeance here. It’s the only time I took this personally, which is just another reason I started hiring these deeds out. I made the man watch his fiancé’s life slip out of her as I slit her throat slowly. He cried like a little baby. I guess I don’t blame him. Looking back on it, if I was forced to watch you die I would have cried myself.
Anyway, after all this, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was done with the killing. That book knew what I was doing somehow, someway. I would hire a hitman for a few hits. After three or four murders, I would decide on an immediate action to put an end to him. I felt like I was in an endless cycle of death. I would hire another hitman to replace the last one and this rotation just continued.
Finally, I broke down. All the money and killing weren’t worth it. I hid the book again. I tried to clean myself up, my business, my exploits, everything.
It didn’t work. The book called to me, it urged me. I couldn’t resist its temptation.
Do you remember all of those “business trips” I went on? Well, I never really went anywhere. I hid in the office’s basement or up on the rooftop for days at a time. I just couldn’t get enough.
Then the internet happened.
I started researching others like me. I wanted to know more. What other books like this existed? I wanted more power. I had the money but I got greedy. I wanted everything. I wanted the world.
Someone found me. I knew they traced me through my internet usage and chat rooms. All my searches caught up to me. I shouldn’t have done that, but I couldn’t help it.
The more I think about it the less I want to do this. I want to come back to you, I want to run away together; me, you, Max. We could learn to live somewhere else, together. It could be just us against the world.
But that’s my problem. I don’t know who in the world is coming after me. I can’t allow what happened to the coffee man’s family to happen to us, to you, to Max. I think it’s better this way. I dug too far, dug my own grave.
All I ever wanted was a family to call my own. I couldn’t ask for better. You deserve so much more. You and Max deserve to be happy, to live a good life, a safe life.
I’ll be leaving you with everything I have ever made: the bank accounts, the stocks, the businesses, everything. You need to be sure to get rid of it all. Take the cash and run. Take your parents, take my parents, I don’t care. I just don’t want the shadow men to catch you, otherwise, this is all for nothing.
I need you to live your life to the fullest and tell Max every day that I love him. I just wish I was there more for both of you, for myself.
My first contact was an email.
At right around 3:30 AM I had an email pop up, full screen on my laptop, and just buzz endlessly. I’d never seen an email like that before and I didn’t want it to wake anyone. Instead of even scanning it, I popped it open.
It was from a user simply named “WeKnow.”
It was a threat. They said something along the lines of “We know where your millions have come from. We know you have been using the LIFE book for nearly 15 years. We know who you are. We know where you live. We know who sleeps next to you. We know where your son is, right now.”
I slammed the laptop down and unplugged it. I was scared. Not for me, or you, or Max. I was scared for my livelihood, my secrets, my money, and my power. I don’t want to sound conceited or cold-hearted but that was my first thought.
I unplugged the laptop and let it die overnight. I was awoken by another buzzing noise at right around 5:30 AM, a mere two hours later.
This time, my laptop was dead but that internal noise just kept ringing, ringing, ringing. My eyes were about to pop out of my head, and I wanted to scratch my ears right off the sides of my head.
I did the only thing I could to make it stop – I opened the dead laptop.
I sunk back into bed as I saw the same email user managed to email me through a dead computer. This time, the message was much more threatening. “We know you ignored our last message. Heed this as your last warning. We will end you. We will wipe you from existence. You have no choice, concede…now.”
My subconscious told me this was a dream, nothing more. But that warning…I just couldn’t overlook it. I responded: “What do you want me to do?”
I tossed that book back in the safe, but it didn’t last.
I conceded, I gave in; but what now? Turn me in?
There was no response for more than a week. I began to relax a little and slowly but surely got back to deciphering the codes.
The emails were done, but my next contact was the phone messages. The first was a simple message from a non-existent number. The message was the same, “We know.”
I again ignored the message just like the email. At this point, I thought it was a hoax, a scam, or even a hacker. I wasn’t going to fall for it.
Another week passed with no contact. Then the pictures came through.
The first picture was of me. I was in my office on the 98th floor of the Steel building downtown. There’s no way anyone could have gotten that picture. Later that night, I got a picture of you, sleeping. The third picture was of Max, at school.
I couldn’t go to the cops. They couldn’t be allowed to dig into my business or my personal life. I was getting mad. After those emails, I was ready to back down and sell everything. But after the pictures of you and Max, let alone the picture of me with that book, I was beyond pissed. The next day I got three of my best IT gurus on that phone number. I knew that I might have to kill them after just so they wouldn’t ask questions but I had no choice. None of my specialists could beat their security to trace their phone number..
The next picture I received was later that night.
Three pictures came through. Each picture showed three pairs of hands.
Then one more picture.
The three IT employees had been tied up to a chain link fence. The location actually was reminiscent of Chelsea Furnace. Their arms were pulled through the ropes. All that remained were stumps where their hands used to be. They were all still alive.
I never heard from any of them again.
Do you remember last week when you pretty much forced me to take Max to the Pittsburgh Zoo? Granted, I’m glad you did for the record (at first). But there were about 30-40 minutes where I lost Max. I thought that was the end. I thought we lost him for good. I thought the end was near for all of us.
I got a picture of him holding a gloved man’s hand. He looked confused but not hurt. I tried calling the number; and I texted them multiple times. I told them I would do anything they wanted.
Eventually, I got another picture of Max standing outside our car. The caption was “We can do anything we want.”
I knew that was the end of this charade. I was done. I made my decision. That was the night I didn’t get home until probably 3 or 4 in the morning.
Once I dropped Max back off at your parent’s house, I did what the coffee man told me to do. As difficult as it was, I went back to my office, ripped all my notes out of the book, and torched it all right there in my garbage can.
Done. So I thought.
No more than two days later, I got another picture of you. This time it was up close, right behind you at the grocery store. It was captioned, “Not enough.”
I couldn’t take this anymore. I was done with the games, done with the threats. I texted them back and told them, “Come get me.”
So they did.
I emptied out my wallet on the nightstand.
The credit cards have all been closed. The debit cards have all been consolidated into our PNC account, although I implore you to empty it into a cashier’s check and move it to a separate, private, and secure account.
The stock folders are in the nightstand drawer. I did not touch them aside from changing the passwords. I have all of the necessary information there. I’d like you to transfer them to Max’s name so that once he turns 18 he can control them. Just a safety thing.
I wiped and torched my laptop last night and canceled all of my email accounts. There is one left open that we share but I highly recommend you cancel that and begin your own.
The shadow men are going to try to wipe me from the history books, so I already moved all businesses in your name and created an LLC to protect you. Feel free to sell them or transfer them, whatever you like. I consolidated them all under the LLC so whatever you prefer it’s under your name.
Please, please, please, get rid of everything, sell the house, and the cars, and get the hell out of town. Go live at the beach. Go to your dream place, what was it? Oak Island? Just take Max and leave. Be safe, and be happy. I love you both more than you will ever understand.
I was in my office when the door burst off the hinges. I had no more time than to spin and spot four men, all in dark brown trench coats and derby caps.
I can’t be certain if they clubbed me or stunned me or whatnot but the next thing I remembered was waking up groggy, like I was coming out of an anesthetic, in the back of some vehicle. There was a dim red light illuminating the cab and a wall full of knives, rope, baseball bats, nightsticks, and barbed wire. These guys weren’t messing around.
My hands were tied and I felt every bump as my head slammed off the plastic-coated floor. I managed to inch back to the wall and sit up, trying not to get cut on any of those jagged, torturous instruments or make any noise to alert my captors.
My legs were bound, my mouth was gagged, and severe pain shot up and down my spine. I could see a small pool of dried blood where I was lying. I traced it to my side and spotted a shrewd cut up my dress shirt, still tucked into my slacks.
Another bump flung me into the air. I slammed down hard on my side. As much as I tried to hold it back, I let out a loud garbled cry of pain through the gag stuffed down my throat.
At that, the cab door smashed open, shaking the walls and vibrating those demonic tools hanging above me. A man in a dark brown trench coat and black bowler grabbed my shoulders and slammed me against the wall. I could feel the sharp instruments gouging into my back.
The shadow man pulled me close. All I could manage to see were his bloodshot red eyes; the rest of his face was shielded by a black ski mask.
He had a voice altering device strapped tight under the ski mask. His voice came through muffled and deep: “Do you feel this?” He shoved his thumb into my side. I cringed, and tears rolled down my cheeks. “This is a tracking device. We will know your every move. If you do something we do not like, this fancy little tool will shock you,” he tapped on my fresh wound. “And if you act against our wishes again…” he trailed off and turned back to the cab.
I pulled myself back up into a seated position. I felt around the area the dark man disturbed. There was crude stitching, something you or I could have done. But underneath it I felt a little more. I dealt with a sizzling and burning sensation, and touched what felt like a pen. It was long and thin but it pushed tightly against my wound.
A quick spark burst out of the pen and a shock ran through my body, I seized up in a plank-like position. I was hard as a rock and couldn’t move for what seemed like an hour. In reality, it was a mere 30 seconds. I gasped for breath as soon as I was released from the paralysis.
The shadow man laughed as he ducked back into the cab, “I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.”
I just glared at him. I’m not sure if I was more scared or angry that someone could so easily control me now.
“And as I was saying before you interrupted me,” he removed his bowler and ski mask - the coffee man!? How?! He disappeared over 15 years ago. But he looked refreshed, young, and full of life. He was so close to death so many years ago. “We will end you,” he spoke softly and gently. “But before then, we will end everything and everyone you ever loved.” He slammed the door behind him, locking me in the blood-red ambiance.
That was only a week ago.
Since then, they closed up two of my smaller businesses. Well, I should rephrase that. They made me close up two of my smaller businesses.
They also made me murder two of my top employees. I followed instructions without hesitation.
The only time I disagreed, they shocked me, I seized up just like in the van. I know the next time it’ll be a worse discipline – like you and Max, or my life.
Two days ago a box showed up for me, if you recall. It was wrapped in brown paper with a string around it with “Fragile” and “Time is of the Essence” stamped on it. You delivered it to me at my office. I snatched it from you and sent you on your way. I’m sorry for that, but I thought it was some sort of weapon meant to harm you. I could not (and cannot) help but do anything in my power to protect you.
I unwrapped the package, knew exactly who it was from, and fully expected it to blow up in my face. The contents took me back. It was worse than an end – it was a new beginning. Inside folded nicely was a dark brown trench coat, a black 19th century derby hat and under that was a ski mask.
I couldn’t breathe; I thought I was seizing up again. I fell back into my chair and opened my collar. There was a simple, short and sweet note on top of it all stuck in the wrapping paper.
Bring new clothes
Johnny O’s changed owners and names a few times in the past 15 years, but when I worked as a bartender that’s exactly where I worked. These shadow men, the coffee man included, wanted this to end where it all began for me.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just accept the end. I couldn’t follow the coffee man’s path. I needed to take control, like I did before when I had that book.
I need you to follow all of my instructions. I reiterate, I left them for you on the nightstand. Do not try to follow me or track me down. The shadow men already have that tracker in me and will know where I end it all.
Please, as soon as you read this, take Max and leave. Uproot and live a happy life somewhere else, anywhere. Take all the money I made for us and use it.
I love you, forever and ever, babe.
Yours, always and forever,