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Chapter 1

The Masters Speak: An American Businessman Encounters Ashish and Gurdjieff
Seymour B. Ginsburg

The young widow couldn't believe her husband had anything valuable enough to keep locked in a bank vault. Yet shortly after dawn, less than seven hours after her husband's death, the key to the safe-deposit box decided to make its presence known.

She found the key in a small yellow envelope beneath the bedroom dresser, where it had apparently fallen from its hiding place. The envelope was faded and brittle with age, but curiously free of dust. The tape which had held it in place broke apart when she touched it.

The key was made of flattened brass, characterless except for the number "52" stamped into its shank. A penciled notation on the envelope, not in her husband's handwriting, identified the bank where the box was located. Closer examination of the bottom of the dresser revealed a hidden ledge, from which the envelope must somehow have become dislodged after years of concealment.

Why, she wondered, had the tape chosen to release its grip on this particular morning?

Nicole knew it wasn't an accident. She had been taught by her mother that nothing happened by accident, that all natural events were determined in advance by an unseen hand, and that once set in motion, nothing could alter the course of Fate.

Those early beliefs in predestination had been reinforced by the Ukrainian psychic she occasionally consulted in Brooklyn.

But her mother was dead and buried in an unknown cemetery, the psychic had ominously refused any further readings, and the young widow was left alone and heartbroken to consider the significance of her discovery.

The more she tried to reason it out, the more confused she became. If Fate intended her to possess whatever hidden wealth might be in the safe-deposit box, then had that same Fate long ago planned the death of her husband? And before that, the still-unexplained circumstance of their brief marriage? And even before that, the shadowy procession of men who took control of her destiny? If life was decided by the whims of Fate, as her mother believed, how far back would she have to go to trace the sequence of events that brought her to this small bedroom in this strange little Pennsylvania town?

And what awful destiny yet awaited her? ...

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