Like so many things, I learned it from my mum. “Don’t tell tales,” she would say, “good girls don’t tell tales.” And as I grew older I learned that bad girls don’t tell tales either. I knew how to keep a secret. I learned how to find a secret, and I learned that other peoples secrets are very valuable commodities. Silence is golden. Quite literally. Used properly, silence can give you all the gold you want.
So I became a collector of secrets and gold. It was easy. Everyone has something to hide, and all you have to do is pick those with the most to lose. That narrows the field down a bit – go for the men with a bit of money, a bit of prestige. Watch them. Follow them. Sooner or later, they make a mistake, no matter how goodie-goodie they pretend to be. You just need to be patient, have a good eye, duck round a few corners, look in the right windows and you’ve got them.
Then comes the diplomatic bit. Persuading them that you are very good at keeping secrets. In fact, it’s your job to keep secrets, you are sort of a freelance worker, open to the highest bidder. The penny soon drops, but you impress upon them that it will be more than a penny. A lot more.
“Be sure your sins will find you out,” Mum taught me. How true! I used that against so many people, but like a fool, never thought that it applied to me too. But life has a funny way of getting you.
I suppose they had all had enough of me, and I had become dangerous, too dangerous. They were all worried that I would spill the beans. Fools that they were, they just didn’t understand. No trader ever gives his stock away, and I was no different. They were worried that I would blab, but that would have destroyed my business. If I told my tales, they would have become worthless, then how would I earn a living? But they didn’t think it through and the best idea they could come up with was to get rid of me. Quickly. So quickly I never saw it coming.
Most of my clients hated me for what I did, but one of them had begun to understand that I was just trying to make a living. We began to talk about other things, and one thing swiftly led to another. Last night he stayed with me for the first time. Before the sun rose this morning, the door of the house crashed in. They were all there, all of my ‘customers’.
“Adultery!” they screamed.
They dragged me out of bed and threw a sheet around me. I was pulled into the street, still in shock and fear. I looked around, and saw my so-called lover, fully dressed, calmly walking away. The smiles on the faces of the men around me made it clear that I had been set up, and that he had done a good job. I was taken to a room near the temple. It wasn’t much of an interrogation – they knew what had happened. They just made it clear to me that I couldn’t win. And I couldn’t spill the beans on them – who would believe an adulteress? I was finished. They had enough witnesses, and I didn’t have a leg to stand on.
I was still covered only in the sheet that had been so close to my sin. They were dressed in the finery that hid theirs. They took me into the temple courts, over to where the man Jesus was surrounded by a crowd. They pushed me into the middle of the crowd, in front of the man.
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” they asked. He said nothing. He just bent down and wrote in the sand. I don’t know what he wrote, but one word just flew into my head – ADULTERESS. They kept pushing him for an answer – they obviously wanted him to commit himself.
Then he said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again he bent down and wrote in the sand. BLACKMAILER screamed inside me.
How did he know? Those who had brought me seemed as shocked as I was. There was a silence while they thought of what to do, but it was as if he was speaking into their minds too, one at a time. And one at a time they left, saying nothing. The whole crowd just went away.
The man Jesus stood up and looked at me. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” I said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” he declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Based on John 8:1-11