I was thinking furiously. "Edith, how do you know that she plans to spread it around."
"She told me of course," Edith replied thoughtfully.
"Well, why didn't she just do it rather than warn you. She wants something, or she would have just ruined you for spite. So what is it she wants?" It was not a rhetorical question. Lucy knew the answer she was holding back.
"Money, she and Edward are separated. She wants twenty thousand dollars from me or she will tell the congregation that I stole her husband."
My mind raced again. "Do you have that kind of money?"
"If I did, I would pay her. Ministers do not make a lot of money, in spite of what people think."
"But you do have access to it? The church funds, you do have the authority to tap into the till so to speak?"
"Yes but I can't do that. That money belongs to the people of my congregation. I can not take their money to buy my way out of this mess."
"Actually it would be the worst of all possible answers. When you couldn't make the next payment, or the next, you would still wind up in the river." I sat there thinking a little and knew the answer was pretty simple. I just had to somehow neutralize a blackmailer. "Do you have a relative that you have mentioned around the church, but who no one has ever met?"
She thought just a few minutes. "Yes there is an older brother."
"Go back home. When the wife calls, tell her you have arranged with your brother for the money. Tell her that he insists on delivering it in person. The money won't be here for a couple of days. Arrange a meeting in the church on Friday. Tell her to come alone, she would anyway, but I want to put in her mind that we are taking control away from her."
"I do not want this kind of thing to happen in my church?"
"Then all bets are off." I let her chew on that until she finally answered.
"Why does it have to be in the church?"
"For the very reason you said it couldn't be. She won't be as likely to expect anything other than a pay off in there. She certainly won't be worried about her safety."
"Should she be, I will not allow her to be harmed."
"She will be harmed, to what extent is up to her. She has crossed the line, just as you have. She can go back on her own, or we can nudge her. If that doesn't work, we can drag her back. If I do this, you have to trust me."
"Why should I trust you?"
"Because it's trust me or you become a thief as well as an adulteress. Of course there is always the river."