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Both men sat quietly for a few minutes. Only the fire spoke. Now that his story was finished, the vigor that had suddenly flowed into Leviticus' withered body left it just as quickly.
"It is time. Help me up, son."
Together, father and son exited the library and walked down a short hallway to an adjoining room. Randolph pushed open the large double oak doors. In the middle of the room was a matching oak library table. Sitting squarely in the center was an object Randolph would come to understand better than anything else in his life.
It was an ancient Egyptian box. Many years ago, his grandfather Benjamin had told him the story of its origins and travels. After the genius of its engineering and humble beginnings, the ornately carved wooden box with a granite top had made its way to Egypt in 2585 BC, where it was used by Pharaoh Khufu to build Egypt's Great Pyramid. According to legend, it was stolen from Gaza by the magician Djedi and eventually came under the control of the cult of Isis around 1300 BC. After the fall of Alexandria, the box was secreted away to Rome by Ptolomy I, a Greek general in Macedonian service. There, the box's capabilities were utilized in ways unimaginable to those who had come before.
Today, October 29, 1929, its awesome power would be transferred to Randolph.
Leviticus took Randolph's hand and placed it on the granite lid. Randolph could almost feel the incredible supremacy contained within. "The empire is now yours, my son," whispered the old man. "I'll give you my last instructions now."
With that, Leviticus turned slowly around and sat down in a chair. A relaxed, almost relieved look, spilled over him. The torch had been passed. The short coughing fit that swept through his body ended almost as soon as it began. He swallowed with some difficulty and then, finally, began. Randolph bent low to hear his father's voice, which had been growing weaker and softer by the second. By now it was barely audible.
The old man pointed to the dials on the right side of the box and spelled out his instructions carefully. First, Randolph would convert 60% of the group's cash to buy DOW blue chips stocks by the middle of the next month, November 1929. Leviticus had a pen in his hand and wrote out his instructions on a pad of paper he always carried with him in his jacket pocket. "You will have no problem executing the positions. The market makers and locals will be more than glad to fill your orders. The remaining balance of the money should be left safely in cash." He paused and looked carefully at Randolph. "Is that clear?"
Leviticus nodded and cleared his throat. "Next, during the middle of the month of April 1930, you must not only liquidate your positions to cash during the market rally, but in addition, sell-short the same blue chip stocks with 100% of the group's capital. However," Leviticus carefully cautioned Randolph, "be forewarned that the Group will protest mightily. Ignore them. My closest associates will stand by your decision."
He stopped again to make sure Randolph understood. Only after his son nodded in agreement did he continue. "Your next move is to close all your short-sell positions in the middle of October 1932 and take the profits to safe holdings." He was done writing. His spidery hand was still, his final command to his closest associates issued.
Randolph was now in charge.
* * *
Leviticus was laid to rest long before the final results of the 1929 stock market crash were written. The market moved down to the middle of November 1929 just as he expected. Though down nearly 40%, the market gained back half its losses by the middle of April 1930, delivering to Randolph and the Group an extraordinary profit. And then the market began its long journey down until October 1932, by which time it had lost 89% of its value. The profits envisioned by Leviticus were fully realized and topped one hundred and thirty-seven billion dollars by the time Randolph closed their positions.
The coffin was finally nailed shut on the market, ensuring Randolph a victory of astounding proportion. His handling of the crash, an honor his father had enjoyed during the 1907 market collapse, sealed his position as head of the Group.
Randolph leaned over his father's sprawling mahogany desk, delighted with the legacy the old man had left him. Shortly after Leviticus' death, he and Catherine had moved into the house overlooking Central Park. The home echoed with children's laughter and scampering feet.
Randolph was thinking about how much he missed Leviticus when his son raced through the pocket doors to the library with a nanny in close pursuit. Smiling, Randolph scooped up the fleeing Bernard in his arms.
"Now, where were you going in such a rush?" he teased, tussling the youngster's hair as he waved the girl off. He sat Bernard down on the desk and gazed thoughtfully at his son.
History, he knew, would repeat itself. Will he be ready when his time comes?