David W. Wilkin
May 31st, 2000/1631 Wednesday after Memorial Day, 3 days after the Ring of Fire.
The man sat amidst the pandemonium as many others did, numbly. He was one of many. Next to him his wife was quite vocal. Screaming as Mayor Dreeson tried to quiet the crowd.
"1631... 1631... Christ." Someone kept saying over and over. Jack realized that others were saying it also. He heard a few more choice explicatives, not nearly as bad as what he had heard in the service, but bad. "Ouch!" he then realized that he had been using a few himself when his wife, Jessica, elbowed him sharply in the ribs. Most of the crowd had regained their composure. It was time for Jack to do so also.
Jack Whitney, started to pay some attention but really began to worry about his portfolio. ‘No going back...' What did that mean? He had to get back. His parents, brother and sister were all back at Morgantown. His portfolio. His Job. His money.
"Urghhhh," Jack groaned and buried his head in his hands.
Jack felt his Uncle Ira's hand on his shoulder. Jessica was ignoring him, surely thinking of the children. Jack just focused at a spot on the floor and tried not to think at all.
Later, outside the gymnasium as groups of people clustered to talk, or comfort those who were amongst the bereaved, Ira stood with Jack as Jessica went over to her parents. "What's wrong Jack? I didn't expect you to take it so hard."
"It's nothing Uncle Ira." Ira had been staying with them for the last three days. Ira had been in town visiting his daughter Deann for the day, when he was stranded in Grantville by the Ring of Fire.
Ira cocked his head to the side, and stared at Jack, "Unh huh."
"Alright. You remember how Dad always was saying I was a good for nothing."
Ira nodded. "He didn't mean it." Jack shook visibly all over.
"He did though. He was never proud of me. He was proud of Michael. But not of me." Jack's older brother had become a lawyer. Michael had even gotten an academic scholarship to Duke. His sister Ellen had been a very successful real estate agent, last year making nearly six figures, and her husband was no slouch either. Jack really couldn't stand Peter Driscoll. He owned his own plumbing fixture distribution company and always seemed to drive a new BMW 5 series every year. Jack's father Albert seemed to think that was fabulous.
"Look Jack, I know it's tough. Your Dad and I didn't have much when we were growing up. Our father didn't finish high school, and he was damn upset when your Dad and I didn't go to college."
"I know all about Gramps. But you don't understand..."
"Sure I do. I know your dad often goaded you about your job. Night manager of the South Morgantown Blockbuster, he thought you could do better. But you were doing fine. You are doing fine." Ira hastily corrected himself.
Jack just shook his head, "You don't understand," Jack had more to say but Ira continued.
"Sure, it was a stepping stone for other things. But look, you have a loving wife and two children. Michael has no time for kids and is on his second wife. Even if he has, er had, will have a home worth half a million."
"Uncle Ira!" Jack stopped his uncle as his cousin Deann came over. "I have a million dollars!" It was said loud enough for others to hear. Some turned their heads and saw Jack reaching for a piece of paper. Jack was shoving it at Ira, who stood looking at his red faced nephew. Deann stepped in and took it, and started reading from it.
"AG Edwards, Jack Whitney, April closing balance, 897 thousand dollars!" She said. "How did you get so much money?"
"It's all gone." Jack shook himself. "Gone."
"What do you mean? Oh. Right."
"897 thousand dollars," Ira said in disbelief, "Eight hundred and Nine... Where did you get so much money?"
"I asked that poppa." He ignored his daughter. Jessica and her parents were now coming over.
Jack finally supplied the answer, reaching for another paper, "I've been day trading for three years. For three long hard years, every day at 9:30 I go online and buy and sell stocks. On Friday my account finally reached a million. $1,003,142.18 I was going to show Dad yesterday, er at the barbecue." Jack's parents always hosted the Memorial Day barbecue at their home in Morgantown.
"Son, are you alright?" His father-in-law asked. Price Ellis owned the Pritchard Extended Care facility. He was an educated man, and encouraged Jack to finish College. He had been glad of Jack's rise through the ranks of retail, but hoped for more from the father of his grandchildren. He saw how much Albert Whitney's vocal disapproval of Jack affected the young man, and so only tried to encourage Jack in his endeavors. Two semesters of Psychology went along way to understanding others, and 30 years of taking care of people also helped.
"Yes, Honey, what's wrong?" Jessica asked.
Deann was full of her youthful exuberance, and at nearly 20, she did not know how to finesse a conversation between husband and wife. "You've just lost a million dollars!" she clearly scowled as if it were Jessica's fault for the Ring of Fire.
"Dee dee, please." Jessica could not understand the girl very often. They were 10 years different in age, but it was a gulf of generations.
"She's right. Remember when I bought those stocks with my Christmas bonus?" Jack chimed in.
Jessica did, it was not a decision she approved of. Amanda Jane had just been born and with the added expense of their second child and Jessica going to be off work for six months, it seemed foolish. They really needed that $3000. "Yes." One terse word.
"Well. I did. But we made some money, so I bought some others." Jack looked straight at her. He had learned how to talk to his wife and to avoid, or at least he thought he had learned how to avoid, the big fights.
"You mean that Deann is telling the truth?" Deann stamped her foot. Jessica's mother recognizing that Jack and Jessica should have a little space, though she wanted to hear this also, still was wise enough to take Deann and the others a little distance away. "You said you were playing computer games!" Which had made her just as mad at the time, Jack remembered.
"It was kind of a game..." Jack stammered.
"How much money?" Jessica was trying to calm down. Jack tentatively showed her the statement from his computer. As he closed out his balance at the end of the session each day, it was in his brokerage account. An account held in Morgantown nearly 370 years in the future.
Jack had to jump to catch Jessica as she crumpled to the ground. The paper with the portfolio balance, skipping across the parking lot.
June 30th, 1631
Jack was not very happy. "No matter what you all think, anything this time of day is too early." His circadian rhythm didn't like being switched so violently from late nights to early mornings. Reece chuckled.
"Huh, some combat veteran you are."
"Jack," Another said.
"Yo?" he replied.
It was Bill, "Look man, how can these guys be any different then the Iraqi's." Jack had told them all, twice, that he had spent the Gulf War in Riyadh. He worked for a REMF in logistics. Getting away from his family in Morganton had seemed like a good idea at the time. His MOS might have a grandiose title. He was really just a clerk in supply. As privates go, he was a warm body. He could point a gun, hump the gear, and sit for hours as well as any other troop. Well he really couldn't shoot with much accuracy.
"She really made you sleep on the couch," his brother-in-law Reece was always trying to tease him. Jack just did the same. They had been talking about the day after the town meeting at the Gym, again. Jack responded carrying on the two conversations. "Just like the time I brought you home to Anne Marie drunk. Oh wait, was that the time last year, or was that the time last..."
"Yeah okay." Reece knew to stand pat.
"Jack," his uncle Ira said.
"Keep the men in your section focused, they'll be coming soon.." Ira motioned out across the plain. Tilly's mercenaries were trying to form into some sort of order, not at all concerned about the handful of men in front of them.
"Yes Uncle Ira."
Jack kicked Reece in the shin, and glared over at Bill. "Tell us about the Iraqi's again." Reece said reaching down to rub his injured leg. Wooden parapet or not, Jack flipped onto his back and stared up at the sky.
"The Iraqis were just men, like those mercenaries. A lot like ‘em. We outgunned the Iraqis and we outgun these Germans too. I wish we had more ammo for the M-60, though." Jack had spent a good deal of time typing and filing ammunition estimates for the 3rd Infantry Division. The Generals and Colonels had all been concerned that there would not be enough. With a four day war, they had stored more than enough ammunition. Odds were running that their battles in 1631 and after would be longer than the four day fighting of Desert Storm.
Frank Jackson had come to Jack shortly after the meeting at the gym. "You're a vet from Desert Storm, I heard."
Jack had said he was, "Need you to lead a section of men. Can you help out." Jack had said yes again, though he had told Frank that he had been a clerk in supply only. "Don't matter much. You've been to Basic. You've been to a war zone. That's important. The boys will look to you. You hunt right?"
"Uh, no." Reese and Jack had gone out hunting once. Reese had a great time, Jack tried to forget it.
"Right, you're a city boy, aren't you. Your daddy couldn't wait to get out of town when he was younger. Why did you come back?" Frank wasn't sure of the whole story. Morgantown was not all that far away.
"My Grandparents live here, and my wife's family is from Grantville."
"You the one they saying had all them stocks?"
"Actually sir, I was a day trader..." Jack tried to explain.
"Makes no never mind, I need a body, and you've got the experience. You got your own rifle?" Jack hadn't and he had quickly found himself outfitted with one from the stock that Eddie Cantrell was bringing in with Paul Santee. It was a rather good one too. He was issued 100 rounds of ammo and soon had a section of four men with assigned patrol zones and times. It was still at night so he was used to the hours.
It was a boring month. The only thing he had accomplished was something no one else was thinking of. Tulips.
Jessica had often wondered why he had taken to putting flower boxes around the house the last three years. And as the Internet accelerated stock market zoomed ahead, Jack kept it in his mind that it could always be a bubble. His last trade was in Cisco, which seemed to be plateauing, like many other stocks he had bought and sold so consistently. He had planted Tulips to remind himself that at any time the Stock Market could burst and that he did not want to have any long positions. He did not want to hold anything but cash at the end of the day, and he did not want to have a lot of money riding on any one position at any time.
That strategy had kept him from some tremendous losses, he never bought more than ten thousand shares. And he had never held them for more than a dollar loss. Sometimes he would have to sell for a one and a quarter, to at most one and three eights loss. But If the stock was swinging to the upside, then he held for the ride to the end of the day. He would lock in his profits if he saw some retrograde movement, but he moved in and out several times a day of a handful of stocks.
The only time he cashed out was to pay his taxes and a few bills that Jessica had wanted to cover the children's expenses. They had gotten her parents a very nice anniversary gift last year, three pieces of Wedgewood. Price and Amanda Ellis had a small collection, now nearly doubled in size from the gift. Price Ellis was back with Dr. Nichols and the other medical types up the hill in case anything went wrong. Jack glanced over at the mercenaries, he was sure someone was going to need the medics' help.
Jack remembered when he and Jessica finally talked about his trading, and then about the future. It had taken her three days to get over the scene at the town meeting. "You're sure about these flowers."
Jack had been patient. He had spent two hours going over much of what he had done as a day trader, showing her that he had never really been in danger of losing anything. He might have lost the $3000 bonus he had gotten at the very beginning, but he didn't. He hadn't mortgaged the house, nor had he over extended the margin accounts that he had used to get money. He even took that bonus money and stuck it in the sock drawer.
"Yes. Here and now they are going to be worth a fortune. But we have to sell them in the next six years. After that the Dutch realize that they are trading nothing."
Jessica really didn't understand. "They will have the flower."
"Yes, but would you be willing to pay $10,000 for a flower?"
"No." She would have sworn, but the children, Jack Price or JP as they called him and Amanda Jane were playing with Uncle Ira in the living room also. Ira was trying to listen and not listen at the same time.
"Exactly. People get caught up in the spirit of the thing. Like going to an auction. Well it is actually going to be just that. The traders will be sitting around at their bars and they will be spending the night bidding on the bulbs. And then the next day if they paid $10 for one, well it has to be worth at least that if not more the next day. Soon they'll run out of real cash and pay promissories which will be backed up by the tulips. The artificial price of the tulips. Finally someone is going to realize that they are flowers. More will be coming along every year. The bubble will burst. Early February 1637. Right after an auction is held to bring in a fortune for a group of orphaned children."
Jack knew she was asking about the orphans. That she might not have followed everything about the trading in promissories, "Yes their parents had died leaving them some rare bulbs so they get auctioned on their behalf. I wonder what will happen back home? So many stocks were overvalued, I wonder if it is a bubble and will burst?"
"What do you think will happen to the money? The money in your stock account?" Jessica was a little more practical.
"I guess my parents will get it."
"Sweet!" Ira exclaimed. Jack and Jessica looked over to him. "I was just thinking how speechless your father will be when they roll up and present him with a million dollars." Jack looked away.
Jessica knew how much his fathers' disapproval hurt Jack. She grabbed his hand. "So we have 16 flowers, and some are the most important ones?"
"Yes, we have 16 different types of tulips. Our Admirael van der Eijck and the Generael Gouda, they are very important. Our Semper Augustus is the prize though, that was the most valuable tulip ever. It sold for 10,000 guilders, that is like one and half million dollars." Jack motioned to the pot with three on the center of the dining table. "I have been going around town, and a few ladies have a couple tulips, but nothing like the collection we have. I also picked up the last three packs of bulbs from Yost Florists. I had to use some of the cash." Jack said.
Jack referred to the $3000 in cash rolled up in his sock drawer. Ira spoke from his spot on the couch, "You've been saving that kind of money for how long? I don't think it is safe here in the house. There are all sorts of people coming into town nowadays."
"Maybe we should divide it up then. It's in hundreds, the initial bonus money." Jack later did just that, giving some to Ira to carry, most to Jessica to carry and keeping the rest.
That money was coming in handy. Frank Jackson was seeing to the non essential men who served in the emergency defense force being paid, but so far Jack wasn't sure he was going to be able to make ends meet on those wages. He may not have had to pay his mortgage any longer, but the emergency committee was talking about a lot of equitable fees for service, such as the electricity. Jack could see how they needed the money, but so did Jack.
Jessica took the children during the day and went to help out at the Extended Care center her parents owned. More of the seniors were taking the Ring of Fire pretty hard. Cutoff from family and friends, many spirits were very low in the community of retirees. Though many were also extremely active with the challenges everyone faced.
As the mercenaries assembled in front of their camp, Jack looked over towards where Frank Jackson and Mike Stearns stood chatting with the Scotsmen. Frank was looking at the enemy and at the troops. Jack knew more about hurry up and wait then many of the others in the line, though there were quite a few who had seen service. Uncle Ira had been in ‘Nam too, like Frank. Ira was acting like a lieutenant for a platoon at the moment, 30 men looking to him for some leadership.
Ira could shoot and hit what he aimed at. Jack knew that all he was capable of doing was making noise with a gun. Jack reached into his pocket to get the one thing he had taken to the MidEast with him. A Yo-Yo. It had been a joke in barracks stateside, but it had stuck.
Leon Curtis, an Afro-American from Brooklyn that had gone through Basic with Jack had always used ‘Yo' unless ‘Yes' was required. He got Jack to start using ‘Yo,' also. They became the Yo-Yo's and when Leon went to the 101st, he had given Jack the Yo-Yo. Jack had become quite good at using it. Walk the Dog, Sleeper, Around the World. Jack had mastered them all. He found using it relaxed him. He did so now. With his head propped against the wood log, he flicked his wrist back and forth. The toy spinning out and back.
Frank scanned across his own troops. "Hunh!" He grinned.
Mike Stearns looked at his friend, "What?" was the unspoken question.
"See Jack Whitney. Damn kid is cool as a cucumber. Said he was rear echelon in Desert Storm."
Mike looked towards the Americans. "Yeah, he's enjoying it. He certainly hasn't told you everything."
Down at the front line Ira looked over to his nephew. He knew that Jack had sat in barracks stateside for months as the ramp up of Desert Shield, then Desert Storm became reality. He remembered that Thanksgiving being very tense when Jack was overseas. It was before Jack knew Jessica, he was just a kid back then. Ira's brother Albert had been worried sick and was so relieved when Jack came home. The family asked what Jack did over there, and he always said the same, "Not much at all."
Well in a few minutes, "Not much at all," was going to count for a whole lot with everyone in the line. There were a handful of veterans like Ira and Jack who had been in a war, and more who had been in one of the services. Jack's little nonchalance with the toy was calming a lot of the young men around him. Especially the high school boys. "Shit" Ira muttered, his thoughts were that the mercenaries of Tilly's had real guns, that shot real bullets.
When Frank Jackson yelled "Light ‘em up." It was over quicker than Ira had thought it would be. As close to a slaughter as one could say. Ira had watched Jack as he watched his other ‘sergeants.' Jack was the only one who didn't shoot his rifle. He laid a hand on a shoulder of one of his men, or whispered to another. The men in Jack's section poured out a good deal of lead, and Jack was back and forth along his designated section a dozen or more times.
When the smoke cleared Tilly's mercenaries were surrendering or running, or wounded, dying and dead. Jack got his men up and walking down to the enemy, carefully aware that anyone of the enemy still alive, also might still attack the Americans from the future. Frank Jackson saw that Jack's squad was the first walking towards the enemy, followed by other squads and platoons. Frank nodded.
Late June 1631
As the number of German soldiers rapidly increased the size of the new US army, Jack found himself downsized. The emergency committee was working things out but there were a lot of changes. There were more restrictions all of a sudden. He couldn't drive his car. His computers were gone, the working one, and the one he had replaced it with two years ago. Jack had thought to save that for the kids. He had gotten payment for it, but it was smart to get all the computers in the hands of people who really needed them. They would break down one day and could not be replaced.
Frank Jackson spoke to him one morning at the end of July, "Jack,"
"Yeah, we are getting things more permanent around here. I could use your help."
"Like always being a Sergeant?" Jack was not sure what the ‘General' wanted.
"Sort of. Perhaps something more."
"If you need me Mr. Jackson, I'll do it, but I'm really not all that great a soldier." Frank thought otherwise. Because Jack was the first on the field with his squad after the Battle of the Crapper, he had helped stop a lot of the carnage that Hoffman's troops succeeded in doing elsewhere. With the whole of Ira Whitney's platoon, a lot of wounded soldiers were gotten to the field hospital quickly too.
"Well, I'm going to need you in the reserves of course." Frank was not letting him get away completely.
"Figured that. Anybody is a good a body." Jack smiled. He had his toy out and was spinning it up and down.
"Something like," And it was done, Jack was a reservist, not a sergeant any longer. He had been talking to Mr. Beasley at the video store. They had been friendly before the Ring of Fire, and since, Jack had shared a lot of ideas with Everett Beasley. Everett and he had purchased every video tape in the entire community. That more than doubled the size of the rental base available. And with the influx of displaced Germans into Grantville, business was booming.
Jack found a job as night manager of the video store while trying to think of something else to do. Perhaps go to work for the banks, or the Finance Subcommittee. Two and half years of college before JP was born had taught Jack a lot about economics and finance. He had been working to a degree when the reality of bills caught up with his little family. Just as that reality was catching up now.
Late September 1631
Jack had found one copy of Wall Street with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas in the stacks. Since no one was renting it, he started playing it on the TV in the store. During his night shift it soon became the only video that was ever on, over and over again. The tulips were doing well at home, though the house was becoming quite crowded. His in-laws had moved in and taken over his old office as their bedroom. They had moved out of their rooms at the Pritchard Extended Care Center so it could be turned into patient care rooms. Jack's four bedroom house was now full with the kids sleeping in the living room, as they also had a German family living with them.
Pieter Spraetzer worked at Dave Marcantonio's machine shop, his wife Helga cleaned the house and cooked the meals for everyone. Their children Margretha and Shuli also lived in the living room with JP and Amanda. Fall was approaching and Jack stopped at Thuringen Gardens for a beer and lunch with Pieter whose English was getting better just as Jack's German was also improving.
"Ja, Misteer Marcantonio says the stock is very valuable." Pieter didn't quite say that, but after working through the words, Jack understood. Pieter had been given some stock in one of the many ventures that Dave Marcantonio was involved in. At another table two men were discussing the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. One was an up-timer, the other a down-timer, like Jack and Pieter.
"Hi boys, what ya want? Zee special?" The waitress came over. She was a rather stout woman.
Jack looked over at one of the three chalk boards around the outdoor biergarten. One listed: Dark Beer $5, American Piss Beer $2, Sandwich & Beer $14. There was a good deal of inflationary pressures on the small colony and the finance subcommittee was having a very difficult time of things.
They ordered specials. "Did Dave say you had to work for a long time to earn the stock." Jack asked Pieter.
"Ja, zwei years. These undt mine now." Pieter showed Jack two papers.
Jack saw a hastily printed certificate that said 100 shares. It didn't have a seal, and it didn't have much more than the name of the company and 100, printed on an inkjet. Fortunately all the computers and printers were accounted for so forgery would not be a very large problem at first. "Dave says worth thousand dollars." That was good money, probably five weeks wages for Pieter.
Reece Ellis walked in to the gardens to join Jack and Pieter. With him was Dietrich Schols. Reece and Dietrich were working with the farming crews. For now. Reece wanted to be a lawyer. Dietrich was boarding with Reece and Marie, just as Jack had taken in the Spraetzers.
"Those shares in the new scissor company? Hell I'll give you 1200 dollars for them now." An uptimer said from another table. Balthazar Abrabanel happened to be in the gardens and looked on bemusedly. He had heard that his old acquaintances and friends in Amsterdam were starting a bourse to trade stocks. Though knowing those men, they would seek to make money over honesty. He bit back on his tongue from offering for the stocks also.
"Hold on Gus," Jack said. "Pieter just got them today. There is no way to know if they are worth that. Who's running the scissor company? How much money do they have behind them, assets? How much money are they going to bring in and then spend making those scissors? There is a lot to consider, and Pieter, if Gus is going to pay you $12 a share, we should really see if someone else thinks it is worth more than that."
Jack had traded for over three years nearly every day. He looked at a lot of fundamentals and tracked a lot of indicators to find stocks on the uptick. This was not a game for a novice.
"Shoot, Jack are you talking about stocks. You traded stocks all that time and never talked about it. And now you are going to talk about it?" Reece and subtlety were not synonymous. "We should get Jessica because she's been worried sick. You haven't said anything about all that money you lost since the Ring of Fire."
Jack looked at his brother-in-law. He and Reece had become good friends, as you do with the family you marry into, but they were not as close as brothers. "Well I am saying now. Excuse me Mr. Abrabanel, you may know a lot more about the economics of our Europe right now, but I know a hell of a lot about trading stocks." Jack nodded to Balthazar.
"Don't mind me, young man. You asked some good questions. But haven't I seen you in the army?" Balthazar said.
"I used to be in the army. I am a reservist now."
"Oh, yes. I remember. Please go on." Balthazar wanted to hear more. He had read of the NYSE and NASDAQ, the DOW Jones, but it hadn't been more than a mere mention so far. And certainly there was not enough time to explore it all. And what was the Footsie?
"Alright," and Jack proceeded to talk about Sales Revenue, and Earnings, and Shares Outstanding, which led to Earnings Per Share, and Price to Earnings multiples and Market Capitalization and Dividends, and soon the lunch hour was over.
"We talk more tonight at dinner. I must get back to machine shop." Pieter said.
"No." A downtimer a table away said.
"We must learn too, ja?" Another spoke up.
Reece also spoke, "Yeah Jack. Look around, all these men are listening to what you're saying. There may be something to all those hours of day trading."
"Alright, alright. Tomorrow at lunch, I will continue then." Jack said, and he smiled. He placed the Yo-Yo back in his pocket, never remembering when he stood up and started playing with it as he talked to the over twenty men scattered about the biergarten.
"Please Jack, tell me more before you go to work." Pieter asked for the fourth time.
"Sorry Pieter we promised not until tomorrow.
The large group sat at the dining room table with the four children at the card table. Helga had cooked chicken and dumplings, which they had about three times a week now. It was quite good and she liked making new sauces and experimenting with a lot of things from the cupboard. Tonight the chicken had been marinated in soy sauce. Helga liked that and Worcestershire sauce especially also.
"Reece said you talked for a whole hour, almost forgot to eat lunch." His father-in-law had already gotten the entire briefing before dinner from his son, and since they had sat down to eat, the topic had been discussed twice, thoroughly.
"Well I'm glad you are showing an interest. Maybe Everett will offer you some stock in the video store now." Jessica was just as attuned to stock options as the entire community. Jack had tried to explain that when the VCR's broke down and the tapes disintegrated, Everett Beasely's store wasn't going to be very valuable.
"So bitter, you will tell me more?" Pieter asked again.
"I can't Pieter. That would be Insider trading." Uncle Ira laughed. Actually more like a guffaw. He was so happy that he stayed with his nephew rather than his daughter. Ira used to make the mistake of using Deann as a pawn in the war with his ex-wife. Staying with Jack, Jessica and the rest of the household provided him with a great deal of entertainment.
"No really, it is not fair to talk about stuff like this and give one person an advantage. We shouldn't do that here and now. We should be better!" Jack had a determined look on his face.
"You are right. You are exactly right." Amanda, his mother-in-law said. "And I would personally appreciate it if the family would show Jack our support in this. He is right." And when Amanda spoke like that, it would take a small army to move mountain to Mohammed.
Jack walked into the Thuringen Gardens the following day, Pieter, Reece and Dietrich waiting for him outside. "Bitter, we have Ein hour for luncheon." Dietrich wanted to hear everything but knew that their boss would be upset if he and Reece were late getting back to work.
"Alright, lets go find a table. Hmm, it seems rather noisy today." Reece smiled rather funnily at him as he held the door open. Jack was carrying a green covered book in his right hand.
As they walked through the nearly empty indoor lounge they could just begin to see the outside garden. It wasn't completely packed, but it was very busy.
"Business ist gut, ja?" Jack asked a waitress who was to busy with a tray of steins to stop and gossip. "Where do we sit," he said turning to his companions. Reece pointed at the table in the center, it was cleared and Uncle Ira sat next to Balthazar and Uriel Abrabanel. There were four steins at four unoccupied places at the table. Jack saw several other up-timers around, including Mr. Wendell from the Finance Subcommittee but no other government notables. Probably better to not have too many movers and shakers noticing you.
"Mr. Whitney, would you and your guests join us here?" Balthazar stood up and motioned him over, and the crowd which had grown muted, all said "Yes, Ja, That's it." Jack, overwhelmed led his group to the table, under the giant Oak tree.
Jack quickly counted and where yesterday there were 20 men who had been at the Gardens to talk about stocks, now there were closer to 80. He was certain that almost all the uptimers he saw must have some stock. The mine had a 401K plan. Even Uncle Ira had shares of AT&T stashed away back in the there and then.
Jack took the beer and stood with his back to the tree. "Can everyone hear me?"
The chorus of agreement was startling, "Alright, I am not sure if you need me to go over what we talked about yesterday, or just keep going?"
Balthazar spoke up, "If you please Mr. Whitney, we have discussed in detail all that you spoke of yesterday. Please continue from where you left off, you were talking of Sector Variables and weighted averages."
And so Jack began. Every so often he would thumb through the dogged eared book he had brought, stop for a moment to read a passage and then speak. He answered a lot of questions, one of which came from Mr. Wendell. "That book you keep using, what is it?"
"Oh this is Benjamin Graham's Intelligent Investor. He taught Warren Buffet how to invest." That got some "oohs," of recognition, but only from the up-timers. As the second wealthiest man in the there and then, it would be very hard to explain how a man could be worth such a fortune from just trading in stocks and companies. It would be very hard to explain the size of that fortune.
Jack did editorialize some of the concepts of investing. He made no mention of certain things and was surprised when he received a question from Balthazar Abrabanel, "Can you tell me of this short-selling? Some others have mentioned it, and I know the men of Amsterdam are doing this?"
"Please Mr. Abrabanel, I think that if we have the choice, and I believe we do, we can avoid short selling. It was an abomination in our old time, and there is no reason to have it in the here and now. In fact I think that should anyone engage in shorting a stock, they should be run out of town on a rail."
Most of the up-timers pounded the table in agreement. Jack knew he was on a roll and continued to talk about Stocks. "But Jack, how do we trade now?
"Well Sam, do you have any Stocks to sell. I know a lot of people want to buy a stock, but do you have any to sell?"
"Yes, I do. I heard you were going to be selling some of the Grantville Scissor company stock. I have three hundred shares, I could see me selling a couple hundred of that."
Jack walked over to the chalk board and used his sleeve to erase the daily specials. It was the same as yesterday, and also displayed on the other two chalk boards. "Right, yesterday, GVSC was trading at Bid of $11.75 and ask of $12. We figure this is about a 14 PE to leading earnings. Until next year there will be no trailing earnings." Jack wrote the stock name on the board, and the two different dollar amounts, and at the far side he wrote the price to earnings number with a big question mark.
"Now as a former investor, I will tell you that a PE value of 14 is high. As a day trader, I didn't really care, but if I was looking to value the company I would say that is high." Jack saw that there were two people in the audience who had a fair amount of stock in GVSC. They frowned.
"Fred, I wouldn't look so glum, didn't you reserve yourself 50,000 shares at a par value of a dollar. If the market stays at 11.75 you are worth more than a thousand percent more today than yesterday before we valued you at anything."
Jack looked at the men around him and noted there was only 15 minutes before lunch would end. "I am going to open the floor for trading in this stock. We have 200 shares for sale at the moment. The floor will be open to trade for 15 minutes. If there are other trades that take place during that time, I need those who conduct the trade for their clients to see me and be recognized. We should do this so we all do this honestly. The spread is twenty five cents. Out of that we will pay our commissions, our expenses and pay to transfer the shares of the stock.
"The New York Stock Exchange grew out of the Buttonwood agreement. Let me read it to you, ‘We the subscribers, brokers for the purchase and sale of public stock do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day on for any persons whatsoever any kind of public stock at a less rate than one-quarter percent commission on the specie value of, and that we will give preference to each other in our negotiations.'
"I am going to amend that to one-quarter of a dollar per share. We shall be party to no insider trading, or will be barred from this profession, we shall never sell short a stock, or be barred from this profession, we shall never give false information about a company, or be barred from this profession, we shall never make judgments or editorialize about a company, or be barred from this profession." Jack thought that was all very good. He thought about most of it while he had been talking to the serious minded men. They seemed to be responsive. Uriel Abrabanel nodded his own agreement.
"Then for fifteen minutes each day, at noon, we shall trade stocks. If you wish to represent someone in a trade I recommend you follow these rules. Now I am asking twelve dollars for GVSC..."
The next day, Thursday, Jack got to the Thuringia Gardens early. He had spent his shift at the Video Store answering questions for nearly 200 men and women, many down-timers, the previous night. Some had been at Wednesday's first day of trading, the rest had heard about it. He only rented two videos the entire night, but had never been more tired, and by the end of the night, he was mostly hoarse.
The Gardens was already crowed. They had now three stocks to trade, the GVSC, Thuringia Copper and Wire Supply, which he listed as TCWS, of course, and the Nail Works, NW. Jack wasn't sure that 10,000 shares for a salon catering to down-timers was going to fly, but the three ladies involved were only asking $5 a share, and were keeping fifteen thousand for themselves. They had a good location on Main Street and so far they had been overbooked for their six weeks of operations. They wanted to use the money they raised from selling their stock to finance a salon in Badnburg.
Franchises and Initial Public Offerings. He would have to cover that in his discussion today. Some had already discussed this, but he would have to talk about what it means to the stock market. He would have to mention such failures as Boston Chicken, which probably no Uptimer would know about, there never was one even in Morgantown, but every investor from Up-time knew about that colossal failure. Jack wasn't supposed to be protecting everyone's money, but he saw it as part of his fiduciary duty to put some safeguards into place. Jack noticed that today every member of the Finance Subcommittee, and several others of the emergency committee were in attendance.
Jack was also set to talk about transparency, which was the reason to have a stock exchange, but he noticed that even by 11:30 there was standing room only in the Gardens. He had the chalk board all worked out. He posted yesterday's numbers. It was the GVSC and for the last five minutes the TCWS which had resulted in a volume of 27 trades. The value of the stock had moved very slowly, but it had moved to $12.50 Jack's lectures on relative value and a bubble had been taken to heart.
Every trade had been cashed out, another item that had been added to the here and now Buttonwood agreement. No three day waiting period to close out a trade. Cash on the barrel head. The down-timers understood that. If you came to play, you came to pay.
Jack noticed that Mike Stearns looked bemusedly at him, from behind his mug of beer. Jack winked at Mike, and the froth from the beer splattered his companions as Mike choked back a laugh.
"If I can have your attention? Your attention please." Jack had stood up and put away his toy. "Last night, many of you came by the video store and we talked about a concept that I want to reiterate. Insider trading. I can not say this strongly enough. The Grantville Stock Exchange shall tolerate no member to be a party to any Insider trading. That means that I, or any other who buys and sells stock can not do so without disclosing all information. For instance, should we one day list a stock in say an airplane company..." That got a laugh from the up-timers present. "And the stock was trading low, but someone witnessed the plane actually fly..."
Jack motioned with his hand taking off, "And this was in secret and that person came here and bought a lot of shares before the announcement of the plane flying, which would make the stock take off, er rise, er increase in value." Jack paused to let the chuckles die down again, "then that would be insider trading. If I was told by someone whose stock I put on this board," he motioned back to the board, "that sales were down by 1 in 5, and I didn't tell everyone here, then that would be non-disclosure. We must do everything we can to make this transparent. So the money people spend on stocks here and now, are valuable, not valueless. I urge you to bring your trades in the open to this forum. Not to trade elsewhere. If we need more brokers, and we probably will, then men and women will come forth to serve, provided they can live off of a quarter per share." Some men pounded on the table.
"Let me tell you what the quarter buys, by the way. Yesterday we sold 5400 shares..."
"Jack." He was interrupted by Johann Brucker.
"Jack I was here, ja? You had sechs hundert ja?"
"Yes Johann, but some of those sold again and again. We started with 200 shares of GVSC and then four hundred more were added later. We also had five hundred shares of TCWS. After all the trading we moved 5400 shares, that is the total volume of the market." Jack pointed to the place on the chalk board.
"Oh, ja..." Johann nodded. He remembered but this led Jack to spend sometime explaining for many of the others.
Jack had gotten out his Yo-Yo again as he was not trading, "What I wanted to say, I'll not have people think that I made a lot of money yesterday, though the money was good, but out of the quarter on every share, we paid for new certificates to be recorded. The Stationary store still had this seal embosser and I've commissioned Dave Marcantonio to make a special stamp. We may not be able to afford gold foil, but we will come up with a way to authenticate shares. I have arranged to rent space here in the Gardens during lunch, but we may have to move, if so many people show up each day."
"Jack, what about Saturday trading, we asked you last night."
"Yo Billy. We didn't have it in the then and there, and it would be discourteous to do so in the here and now. Our many Jewish citizens regardless, you have a two-day weekend, what about giving me the same benefit?" Jack got a chuckle again.
"Yeah but you work for 15 minutes..." Jack stared Billy down.
"Tell, you what Billy, after your shift over at the refugee center, come on over and work till midnight with me at the Video Store..." Billy backed down. "Seriously though, the commission money goes to cover expenses. After we have stabilized our system I hope that a broker might be able to earn ten cents a share when all is said and done." The finance subcommittee nodded instead of shaking their heads so Jack felt reassured. It was nearly noon.
"Alright, before we open today, we have a new listing..."
Six months later and the stock exchange was a going concern. 19 stocks listed on the exchange, three other chalkboards were manned by other brokers. Average daily volume of around 20,000 shares. The take home part of commissions, true to Jack's word had come down to ten cents a share, split between the buyer and the seller, half of that money paid the expenses, after Jack had recouped his initial layout. Jack was bringing in $300 a day average and there were some other projects in the works also.
Of the nineteen stocks, NW, the Nail Works had shot up to $32 and franchises were being developed all over, Jena, Saalfeld, Suhl. The very next one would be in Madgeburg. The HSMC was the biggest surprise, nearing $60 a share on the big board. The Whitney Industrial Average, listed both of those, though the project closest to Jack's heart was not up there yet. It still traded at five and three quarters, but Jack had hopes.
WYYF, or Whitney Yo-Yo Factory, was close to mass production of its first Yo-Yo. There were several other toys on the drawing board, but that was to be the first. After the Ring of Fire, Jack had found that there were less than 20 Yo-Yo's in Grantville. He had bought as many of those as he could also. Not that they would be worth as much as his other investments.
But even as the Stock Exchange was actually paying the bills for Jack and his family, his night job was not doing as well. Usually by eight o'clock the Video Store saw very little activity. Everett was thinking of closing up the night shift, or specifically closing at eight, and Everett had Freidrich, a down timer who could do Jack's job. Which given the activities of the Exchange would be fine with him. Jack needed sometime to think of a more permanent home for the GVSE, since the rent to Thuringia Gardens kept rising. They made money off the brokers, and off the customers who had a beer or two during lunch as they traded. It was very good to be a tavern keeper.
Jack couldn't complain too much, he had stock in the TGFC, or Thuringia Garden Franchisee Corporation, and those shares were appreciating as the Thuringia Gardens concept also was being exported across the United States.
It was on just such a slow night that Don Francisco Nasi came into the video store. It was near closing and he was the only customer.
"Hello, yes, you are Jack Whitney?"
Jack was reading a book behind the counter. He had looked up and of course recognized the man. "Yes Don Francisco, I know who you are." Jack smiled.
"Ah, good than this will save me sometime."
Jack quickly thought and arrived at some conclusions. "I am afraid Don Francisco I can not help you with any information about stocks that is not available to everyone else..."
"Oh, no that is not why I am here. But I appreciate your honesty. I am here for, well I believe two reasons. First you should know that Hans Clemsker had not been as honest as you and has been trading with this prior knowledge." Hans was the newest broker of the GVSE and in the short space of a month had gotten the second greatest volume on his chalkboard. Jack knew that something was not right, but as he had told the investors everyday since starting the GVSE at the end of summer, he needed proof.
"Inside this portfolio is what you need to know the truth." Jack mumbled his thanks as he started to read through the material. "Please there is something else."
"Oh I'm sorry you did say two things." Jack smiled again. He knew that Don Francisco was a very powerful man.
"Yes, actually three, I forgot." Jack was sure Don Francisco never forgot anything, and that the information of Clemsker was his opening round to horse trading. Jack had been at the heart of the most active buying and selling in the nation. "You lent my uncles your books on trading stocks. Might I borrow them for a day or two, I understand they are they only ones here and now."
Jack nodded. He was selective on who saw the books for there were potential for abuses. Jack alone knew he could have been a lot richer if he had used some of the techniques to manipulate the market. He also knew that some of the Brokers had heard about Margin accounts and he was the lone voice amongst the investing community to forestall the adoption of it. Fortunately as the up-time founder of the GVSE his word was so far, final.
"Good, I thank you for this trust. My uncles Abrabanel told me how you discussed with them many hours the many concepts in the works. I hope that you and I shall have discourse on this also."
Jack was not taken in by the large smile. He knew that Don Francisco was probably genuine about his thanks, but he also knew that behind the smile the man was calculating how to ask for the third thing. "You said there were three things."
Don Francisco nodded, reevaluating Jack Whitney, "Yes" Jack had gotten his Yo-Yo out. "We are sending an embassy to the Hague. First they go to France, but it is the Hague we have great hopes for. We shall announce this shortly. We are looking for a suitable...
Jack interrupted him, "You want the tulips? Well I don't have all of them around here, most, but there are a couple ladies who have their own and are doing their damnest to cultivate hundreds. Trouble is they have hybrids, not at all like the ones that are prized in Holland."
"Yes, that is why I have come to you. Yours are the ones that the Dutch value most."
"Yes, well not all, some will do you no good, since we Americans like our single colored ones like the an Apricot Beauty or a Brilliant Star. You're not really interested in Tulips...
"Yes I have the tulips and I can already see how they will not be worth as much as I first thought. In a couple years tulips will be the most expensive flower you could buy, in the old there and then, but here and now, we have so many more things that will be more valuable then tulips. Tulips won't hold a candle to some of things that will be available for sale."
"Ah, I see you realize that. This is good." Don Francisco would have to watch himself around Jack, he grasped a basic relationship about the market at large.
"Yes, I realize that, they are still very pretty flowers."
"And your government needs them. We are willing to pay, say two thousand for your collection." Jack knew that was more than he had paid in both times combined. "Oh Don Francisco, that is a generous offer, but if they were on the market, they would surely bring more than that, much more than ten thousand of course." Jack smiled.
"Ah," Don Francisco smiled, they understood each other and the market went in search of a price.
Jack thought of his three tulips, all that was left after Don Nasi took them for the Embassy to the United Provinces. Hard to think of it not as Holland or the Netherlands. He had made a fair amount of money, but nothing compared to the money he would have made if the market had matured like it had in the then and there.
Here and now though he was doing well. Wooden Yo-Yo's, wooden trains, wooden building blocks. These toys had a mass appeal. The WYYF had risen to $12 per share. Not bad for a years work. There were now 14 full time traders, and the floor was open for an hour. Jack had gotten the brokers, as part of their bond and the value of their commissions to form a second audit board to audit the quarterly filings and annual report that Jack insisted companies who wished to list on the exchange do. Their were a few accountants in the here and now that were setting themselves up as CPA firms, and so Jack just jumped on board that bandwagon to ensure everything was honest.
There was a Chinese wall so to speak, and the work that Jack and the other brokers did was only on the firms that issued public stock. Jack and the other brokers did research on potential listers, but a company would have to prepare open financials before going up on a board. WYYF still was not one of the Whitney Industrial Average, but Jack supplemented his income with a column on business investing in the weekly newspaper. Jack was making closer to $400 a day now, and volume on the 71 actively traded shares had risen to about 60000. Jack didn't need so much money so he did purchase stock from some of the other traders.
Another rule that he had enforced, Brokers had to publicly purchase shares during trading hours in front of the entire investment community. No back rooms. When they had expelled Hans Clemsker, it had not been pretty. Apparently he had gone to Prague but when the Roth's arrived there, he fled further east.
But as he looked at the Tulips, he thought too himself, ‘two million dollar fortunes lost.' He smiled and laughed. He was making close to one hundred thousand a year. The toy factory consumed half of his day and the exchange the other half. He wasn't the wealthiest man in town, far from it. He knew of some men who were making that million on the stock trades they made daily. He also had to have serious talks with men out to live solely as investors and who tried to inflate the price of stock. The other brokers and he were quite attune to run-ups. If a company could not justify it's valuation, investors seeking to engage in large positions, would be found in the middle of the trading floor having to answer serious questions. So far the one run at a stock had fizzled after three trades, Jack had bounced on the two men trying to manipulate the price. One up-timer with one down-timer.
The brokers consulted with the legal minds of the country. A fine of a quarter of their costs and all of their profits of course, with no trading privileges in any stock for six months was levied. The up-timer was a dupe, the down-timer, Jacques Petain, was sitting on a great deal of shares that he had accumulated and that no one would buy from him. Jack calculated each day how well Jacques was doing just being a sit and holder. As the shares had doubled in value and Jacques did nothing but have a beer during trading hours, Jack liked to tell the Frenchman with his name, that it paid to have patience.
Jack felt that he could adjust to this life. He was doing something useful. The stock exchange facilitated all sorts of wealth creation for the country, and similar exchanges were soon to be up elsewhere. AT&L could carry daily closes to other parts of the country, and exchanges selling stocks of companies specific to other cities made sense. A Madgeburg exchange would surely be built as soon as some of the more pressing buildings were constructed. In Grantville a currency exchange and a commodity exchange with their own brokers were underway.
He was sitting in Thuringia Gardens, in the late afternoon after trading. The move to the new exchange building would take place in the following two weeks. "I have heard tell, that some want to sell Seats on your Stock Exchange?" Don Francisco said by way of greeting.
Jack and Don Francisco often spoke. Since selling the Tulips, Don Francisco asked many questions and he and Jack argued many points about the development of the GVSE. Jack often thought that Don Francisco guided his hand.
"Yes, some of the up-timers mentioned that it had been the custom there and then. I said that it was a foolish idea here and now."
"Ah, good. I would agree."
Jack nodded. Just like he thought, Don Francisco guiding the hand. "Still it does make you wonder..." It would be a bad idea, Jack had no doubt. The Broker community, at least amongst the stock exchange, policed itself quite well so far. If you could sell seats, characters like Jacques Petain could buy a seat and manipulate that privilege.
"Wonder?" Don Francisco paid for the two beers that showed up at the table.
"How much a seat would fetch." Jack had heard quite a range of ideas. The typical P/E was less than 20 at the moment, due to some very heavy brakes applied by Jack and the other Brokers. He wanted to keep it to an average below 8, but that was hard without editorializing, or manipulating. The one beneficial thing was that most Germans were frugal enough in this war torn land to not take hyperbole about stocks to heart.
"Ah, I have heard many numbers, but the one I think is correct is a million of your dollars. Not many can afford that, but enough can as to buy seats on your exchange." Jack nodded, he had heard that also.
"Yes, that is what I have heard also. But it won't happen. We are looking for honest men, not rich men. This is a profession as any other."
"I agree and so I must ask a favor..." Jack looked at his friend. Don Francisco was smiling, but he was not very happy about it. It was horse trading time again.
"Am I selling, or buying?" Don Francisco laughed.
"You have the soul of a Mensch. That is what I like about you, Jack." Jack smiled back.
"So Nu, vas herczach?"
"Hah!" Don Francisco was not caught off guard by Jack's use of Yiddish. He enjoyed it. "I'll tell you what is happening, my chaver. This exchange is a wonderful thing. You have done a good thing for the country, and you have done a great deal to make it honest." When Don Francisco reached to drink from his beer, Jack knew what was going to come. After all he had lost two fortunes...
"But..." Jack grinned like a feral cat. It was only money.
"Yes, But. It is big enough now that perhaps the government should be more involved. You had your SEC, yes." Jack looked at Don Francisco. Jack had been acting as the SEC since the first day of trading. He nodded.
"Would it not be the wisest thing to separate the SEC from the Brokers? And those who are in the SEC should only invest through one of your blind trusts." Jack nodded, it was a good idea, there just had not been enough bodies to make such a quasi government agency a reality.
"Jack, it is time to give up guidance to the government. You have us on a good course, but there may be some changes. I assure you it will be for the good." Don Francisco smiled.
"Very well, but what does that mean for the Brokers..." Jack was asking what it meant for him.
"Do not worry, we do not ask you to stop being a broker, and who knows, the SEC must have it's Chairman, yes. But General Jackson has told me that he may need every able bodied soldier again one day. We of course have many different discussions in the government. And I thought to ask about you."
Jack nodded slowly. It was so slow that one could tell that the actual reaction should have been shaking his head. "General Jackson said that there were men who exceptions should be made for, but you had served in the Desert Storm. I have heard that was an important battle."
Jack was now shaking his head, "I really didn't do anything." Jack had reached into his pocket. "I just sat in the rear and matched up invoices with payment stubs most of the time."
"Oh I think that story has been told a lot, but no one really believes you. Certainly not President Stearns. He thinks you ‘have it going on.'"
Jack sat back and nodded slowly again. Very slowly.