This time the entrance was exactly the opposite to the bluster of Murtha. The man who sidled deferentially into the room, a moment after Carton had said he would see him, was a middle-sized fellow, with a high, slightly bald forehead, a shifty expression in his sharp ferret eyes, and a nervous, self-confident manner that must have been very impressive before the ignorant. “My name is Kahn,” he introduced himself. “I’m a lawyer.”
Carton nodded recognition.
Although I had never seen the man before, I recollected the name which Miss Kendall had mentioned. He was one of the best known lawyers of the System. He had begun his career as an “ambulance chaser,” had risen later to the dignity of a police court lawyer, and now was of the type that might be called, for want of a better name, a high class “shyster”—unscrupulous, sharp, cunning.
Shyster, I believe, has been defined as a legal knave, a lawyer who practises in an unprofessional or tricky manner. Kahn was all that—and still more. If he had been less successful, he would have been the black sheep of the overcrowded legal flock. Ideals he had none. His claws reached out to grab the pittance of the poverty-stricken client as well as the fee of the wealthy. He had risen from hospitals to police courts, coroner’s court, and criminal courts, at last attaining the dignity of offices opposite an entrance to the criminal courts building, from which vantage point his underlings surveyed the scene of operations like vultures hovering over bewildered cattle.
Carton knew him. Kahn was the leader among some score of men more or less well dressed, of more or less evil appearance, who are constantly prowling from one end to the other of the broad first floor of the criminal courts building during the hours of the day that justice is being administered there.
These are the shyster lawyers and their runners and agents who prey upon the men and women whom misfortune or crime have delivered into the hands of the law. Others of the same species are wandering about the galleries on other floors of the building, each with a furtive eye for those who may be in trouble themselves or those who seem to be in need of legal assistance for a relative or friend in trouble.
Perhaps the majority of lawyers practising in the courts are reputable to the highest degree, and many of the rest merely to a safe degree. Many devote themselves to philanthropic work whenever a prisoner is penniless. But the percentage of shysters is high. Kahn belonged in the latter class, although his days of doing dirty work himself were passed. He had a large force of incipient shysters for that purpose. As for himself, he handled only the big cases in which he veneered the dirty work by a sort of finesse.
Kahn bowed and smiled ingratiatingly. “Mr. Carton,” he began in a conciliatory tone, “I have intruded on your valuable time in the interest of my client, Mr. Jack Rubano.”