They met. One last time. Though he didn't know it was the last time. It was a public place, just for coffee. She insisted on that. We arrived early and prepared the setting, well wired. He arrived late.
He dropped into the open chair across the small table. "Why can't we meet in the hotel?"
"I can't trust what will happen," she replied.
"Baby," he started, "I need $15,000 more and we will cinch the deal. That's all."
"That's all?" she asked. "I've given you pretty much everything I had and there is still no cinched deal. I don't have any more and you couldn't have it if I did."
"That's a shame," he lamented. "Then all of my work will fall through. I can't let that happen. I will have to go to your husband to see if he has any money for me."
"You are a fool," she countered. "Why would he give you any money?"
"So that I don't have to ask at your church. I'm sure you would prefer I not try to raise funds there. I don't think our history would do your family much good."
With that, I stepped over from the table across the room. I pulled up a chair and sat down between them. I introduced myself. He looked stricken, then angry. He rose to leave.
"If you leave, I'll hand you long term ticket to the penitentiary. You want to go there again? Then take a step to that door." He sat back down.
I explained what we had on him. I reviewed his risk. I showed him the wire and asked if he wanted to hear himself on tape. I informed him that should he ever contact, come near or communicate anything about my client, I would relish sending him up river for five to 10 years. I was just itching for the opportunity.
He sat there, stoned faced, taking it all in. After I'd said my piece, he focused again on my client.
"I love you," he implored. "I am devastated that you would ever do such a thing to me. I'm a broken man that you would ever believe that of me. I will leave you alone because that is your wish," he turned to me, "not because that is the demand of your lawyer." And with that, he was gone.
My client and I finished our coffees. They were bold. We bid our farewells with a reminder to contact us if she ever needed help again.
About three years later she called me. This time it was for an uncontested divorce. She and her husband had ironed out all the terms. Her oldest had graduated high school. Her younger two were doing well. She had found a new, meaningful job and pushed herself aggressively in it. She was bringing down a good six figures. She realized she had no business staying with a husband she did not desire and did not need. As the saying goes, she needed him about as much as a fish needs a bicycle. He never found out about her wild ride.
"I won't say I learned anything from that charlatan," she told me, "but I did learn a lot from myself. I learned not to devalue myself. I learned about my value. I learned about my endurance. I learned about my power."
I'd say she did.