Sample Chapter

1965. Grandma Confesses.

‘I’m getting old, Vincent,’ Grandma said as Vince helped her pour the Guinness from the bottle into a glass. She had become more unsteady on her feet. Her arthritis was evident as she lay in bed and she rarely got up to sit in the chair anymore. She preferred to lie on the bed and listen to her radio. Her appetite wasn’t what it had been although she did like the stew that Pamela made, done the Irish way, along with cabbage. She could always find space in her stomach for a glass of stout and there were always a few bottles on standby. Pamela had given up her part-time work at the post office to be at home for Grandma. There was not enough work for her since Mr Jeffries had passed away and his daughter and son-in-law had taken over. The telegram service was hardly used anymore with an increased dependency on the telephone. Grandma had been slowly getting weaker. She’d had a good life and was not a complainer but she knew her time was approaching.
‘Vincent, there’s something I want to tell you. I’ve never told anyone else.’
‘What is it, Gran?’
‘You know your Grandad was in the war?’
‘Yes, you’ve told me lots of times.’
‘Well,’ she stopped to sip her stout, ‘he did something very bad.’
‘What! He shot someone?’
‘I don’t know about that, he never talked much about it. He was in Germany and one day found himself in a building that had been bombed. It could have been a bank, I suppose. Anyway, he was alone for a while, waiting for his unit to catch up, I think. He was looking for booby traps when he found a box. A deposit box or something and inside the box there were bits of metal, or so he thought.’ She paused for another sip. ‘Where was I?’
‘A box, and metal bits.’
‘That’s right. Your Grandad had a closer look and saw that they were coins,’ she paused again.
‘What’s that? Coins! What kind of coins?’
‘They were gold coins.’ She stopped for another drink of the stout. ‘Are you listening to all of this,Vincent?’
‘Yes, Gran.’
‘What was I saying?’
‘Coins, gold coins.’
‘Right, well anyway, he took the coins and put them in his pack. He knew that the Germans would have done the same. He thought that he could always give them back, or so he said. Anyhow, he never told his unit about it and he came back home with them. Get us another bottle, Vincent, and have a glass yourself.’
‘What?’ Vince was mesmerised with this story.
‘Open me another bottle.’
Vince reached inside the cabinet beside the bed and produced another of her favourite tipple.
‘Get a glass for yourself.’ She had a twinkle in her eye just like she used to have when Vince listened to all those wonderful stories she told.
‘What happened next?’
‘I said that he took them home, didn’t I?’
‘You said that Grandad came home with them.’
‘OK, well, he knew that he couldn’t do anything about them just then. He would have been in terrible trouble, so he decided to stash them somewhere safe.’
‘What, here in the house?’
‘No, we didn’t live here then. We had a rented place over in the valley.’
‘So where did he hide them, then?’ Vince was already half-way down his glass.
She leaned closer. ‘At Ferguson’s place,’ she whispered. ‘Your Grandad worked at his place when Ferguson’s father was alive.’ They both stopped for another drink.
‘So when did he go back and get them?’
‘He didn’t. He died before he had the chance to.’ She had a sad look in her eyes now. The twinkle had gone.
‘What do you mean? He didn’t get them back?’
‘What happened to them?’
‘They should still be there.’
‘Still there...are they worth a lot of money?’
‘I should imagine so.’
‘What, even now?’
‘They should be worth a lot more now.’
‘Is this a true story, Gran?’ She had told countless stories to him before and it didn’t matter that some of her tales were a little far-fetched. He was always an eager student.
‘Yes, it’s true and I want you to find them, Vincent.’
‘Bloody hell!’
‘Don’t use that language here.’
‘I want you to find them and get money for them.’
‘How do I do that?’
‘You’ll find a way, and when you do, I want you to give the money to your mother and father. Just keep this to yourself.’
Vince had finished his stout and was looking at the empty glass.
‘Want another?’
‘Yes please. It tastes quite nice.’
‘Help yourself, but don’t go sneaking into my room just because you’re getting a taste for it,’ she said with a smile.
‘I wouldn’t pinch your stout, Gran. Tell me again, you want me to find these...these coins and somehow get them cashed for money?’
‘That’s right, my boy.’
‘Sorry. Where about at Ferguson’s place are they hidden?’
‘Ah! Your Grandad didn’t tell me exactly. What I do know is that they must be in the buildings somewhere. I know he didn’t bury them.’
Vince could feel the Guinness going to his head.
‘Slow down with that. Stop gulping it.’ Vince hadn’t realised he had finished the second glassful.
‘Nobody else knows about this. I haven’t told your mother or father. When I’m gone and if you manage to find the coins, just say that they must have been mine and that I hid them somewhere. You’ll think of something.’
‘What do they look like?’
‘They’ll be small in size and have the head of the German ruler Wilhelm. Your Grandad was a good man. I know that he shouldn’t have stolen them in the first place but strange things happened then. It wasn’t an easy time.’
‘How am I going to find these gold coins? I mean, are you saying I can’t tell Mum and Dad?’
‘Vincent, I’m telling you because if anyone can find them, you can.’
‘If they’re still there.’
‘Yes, if they are still there. You do what you have to. It would be nice if you could find them. Your parents could use the money.’
‘And what about you, Gran?’
‘Oh, don’t worry about me. I have plenty of stout nowadays.’ She had finished her drink by now. ‘I’m sleepy. This is our secret, remember. Now, off you go. Don’t do anything right now. Take your time. Ferguson won’t know about this, so you be careful.’
‘OK, Gran,’ he said, tucking in her cover. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.’
‘You are a good lad, Vincent, night, night.’
Vince lay in his bed that night trying to recall all that his Grandma had said. It wasn’t long before he was fast asleep aided by the stout he had drunk.