The Silver Dollar

I think it all started when my wife died, she was killed in a road accident at the age of thirty. I can’t say I was devastated because I wasn’t; we’d been growing apart for some time. Nevertheless her death left a big hole in my life that I found hard to fill.

My wife was insured and I got quite a tidy sum, although at first the insurance company weren’t happy about paying out. They seemed to think that the accident had involved foul play, but their investigations proved inconclusive and reluctantly they sent me the cheque.

The money came in handy and with wise investments I made it grow and became a moderately wealthy young man.

For a while I didn’t know what to do with myself , but I read an article on Karate and decided to take it up – with a vengeance - and gradually I started to build a new and different life for myself.

A Silver DollarThe following February I inherited an American silver dollar that my father gave to me on my thirty-fifth birthday, he told me it had originally had been my great-grandfather’s. The family tale was that he’d gone to America to make his fortune but he had been injured at work, found the medical costs over there too expensive and had been forced to return home.

My dad said he was happy to give me the dollar, as he was sure that that it had brought him bad luck and he was glad to see the back of it.

“Thanks a lot Dad,” I smiled ruefully.

“Well I’m sure it will bring you better luck than it did for me,” he said, and we left it at that.

For some reason though this family heirloom intrigued me and I wondered how my great-grandfather had come by it. I pressed my father to give me more details about our family tree and his grandfather’s story in particular.
 
So maybe the real story began when I came to Todmorden to trace my great-grandfather’s roots. That’s the place where he was born and died and, having never been there before, I decided to spend a couple of days getting a feel for the place and finding out where he had lived and worked.

On the second day I strolled over to the library and started talking to a librarian about my great-grandfather, asking her advice on local history, books and maps that might help me get an understanding of the place. As we chatted a remarkable looking woman came over and told me she could probably help as she’d been tracing her own family tree on and off for over two years.

So I thanked the librarian for her assistance and went over to a quiet corner with Andrea to discuss with her how I should go about my task. She was brilliant, very knowledgeable, patient (she had to be with me) and a born teacher. To show my appreciation I asked her out to lunch and I was pleased when she accepted.

I’d heard about love at first site and had always been cynical about it but suddenly it was happening to me. She took me over to a little café, I think it was called Pulse, over on Water Street and we talked and talked, totally engrossed in each other.

It turned out she was a freelance writer who had moved back to the town after a successful ten years in London, and was beginning to enjoy life again after going through a particularly nasty divorce.

We left agreeing to meet up again the following day. When I got home I went and kissed my silver dollar, sure that it had brought me this very good piece of luck.

Things progressed quickly and soon Andrea and I were a regular item and it was glorious! I quickly decided to buy a house in Todmorden. I found one up in the hills because I’d heard about the floods in the lower parts of town and invited Andrea to move in with me.

I was a little surprised when she refused saying: “I think it’s better we live apart-together, it’ll keep the romance going and we’ll never be complacent and take each other for granted.”

OK, I thought, and that’s just what we did. Sometimes she stayed with me, sometimes I with her, and sometimes we slept alone; it was unconventional but it worked for us.

She helped me in my family researches and, after a while, after I’d got as far as I could with my own family-tree, I started a company where I could help others in their own genealogical searches.

Life, then, was good and, following the usual explosive honeymoon period, Andrea and I fell, if not exactly into a routine, into a comfortable way of rubbing along together.

I still kept up my Karate training though now doing it on my own rather than in a class. Andrea loved swimming, I didn’t, so, some days I’d drive her to the swimming pool and, whilst she spent an hour doing breaststroke and crawl laps, I’d run up into Buckley Wood and do a half hour work out followed by jogging a few circuits of the Park and back to the sports’ centre to pick her up. We’d usually go for lunch and a cup of coffee somewhere in town.

And every time I saw that silver dollar I thanked my lucky stars that I’d been given it and gave it a great big kiss.

Though oddly, after one particular kiss, something made me look at it more closely. I picked it up again, scrutinised it more thoroughly than I’d ever done, weighed it my hands and wondered.

‘Is it real?’ I asked myself.

I dismissed this thought for that moment but it began to intrigue me. I knew American silver dollars had been made at one point in history using pure silver. But what were the chances that this was one of them?  After all hadn’t my great-grandfather come back from America with money difficulties? Surely he would have cashed it in; the coin must have been worth a bit even then.

It began to obsess me and worse I was upset that it was having this effect on me. I discussed it with Andrea and she said, “Take it to a Jeweller’s and ask them, maybe that’ll put your mind at rest.”

I didn’t want anyone locally knowing my business so I went to a jewellery shop in Manchester. And wouldn’t you know it, I had to go twice because on the first visit they wanted ID I didn’t have. On the second visit they took the coin away to examine it.

The good news was that it was a real silver dollar, and even better was that it was one of the originals minted in 1794 and therefore worth substantially more to coin collectors. They offered to buy it from me for a considerable sum, but it had sentimental value for me and I didn’t need the money so I refused their offer.

Perhaps I should have taken more note of the way the jeweller looked at me as I left the shop with my silver dollar, but at the time I put it down to his disappointment that I wouldn’t sell the coin

A couple of days later Andrea phoned me and said, “Hey, I want to go swimming, have some lunch and then who knows what might happen - are you up for it?”

“Try and stop me!” I replied.

I went round and picked her up, she was looking terrific and I anticipated a wonderful afternoon after our simultaneous but separate workouts.

It was beautifully, sunny, late-spring day and I was wearing sunglasses with my usual track suit and trainers.  And I quickly stuffed my wallet, keys into my pocket along with the silver dollar, though I still don’t know why I took it out that day.

The work out was one of the best I had ever had, life was so good and I was on a massive natural high. In fact, by the end I felt a bit weird, a bit otherworldly.

As I walked across the car park in front of the sports centre I noticed a man sitting in a car staring intently at me. ‘No of course he isn’t,’ I thought, my altered state was making me paranoid.

The next second I heard a car door slam and someone running, I turned around and saw the same man running at me looking quite deranged and shouting “Stay there!”

I assumed a defensive Karate position and as he got within striking range, blocked a blow he tried to make; side stepped and knocked him to the floor. I was pretty sure it was only enough to disable him but before I could find out two more men were running at me and I could see more coming.

‘What the hell?’ I shouted and kicked the first man who was on my left, switched to the one on my right and punched him as hard as I could. By this time there were more of them and I was fighting for my life. I kicked and punched and parried but eventually sheer weight of numbers pinned me to the ground.

‘You’re under arrest,’ a voice said and I felt my hands being cuffed.

As I looked around dazed I saw several bodies lying on the ground. At first I didn’t notice Andrea, but when I did I tried to go to her, she looked to be in a bad way. But the policemen prevented me from moving and moments later, as I was bundled into a police van, I heard the wails of approaching ambulances.

Later, the police apologised; the jeweller had contacted them with regard to the silver dollar and suggested that I was acting suspiciously. Two and two somehow made five and they decided to arrest me assuming I was some kind of money launderer.

They did think of charging me with attacking police officers but dropped it quickly when the first officer on the scene agreed that he hadn’t informed me that he was a policeman.

And then they told me...

…Andrea was dead.

I was stunned.

They casually told me I’d killed her; she had somehow got involved in the mêlée and I’d lashed out and hit her.

My beautiful, beautiful girl, my soul-mate! I hadn’t even known she was there…
 
I couldn’t concentrate, the pain when it came was overwhelming, the grief paralysing.

And then it got worse, they charged with me with her murder.

At the trial they downgraded the charge to manslaughter, I pleaded guilty and was jailed for two years, though, of course, my real sentence will last forever.

As the jailer took away my personal belongings he came across the silver dollar, he held it for a few moments in his hand and then said, wistfully, “I wish I had something like this.”  

"Keep it.” I said.