Her name is Joan and her nationality is thief. She is dark-haired, exciting, and thoroughly believable.
When she told an old lady in Central Park that she had just found all this money on the walk, the old lady immediately said, “Did you? What are you going to do with it?”
“I’m going to give the money back and get a big reward,” Joan said.
“Isn’t that wonderful,” the old lady said.
“Do you want to get some of the big reward with me?” Joan asked.
Of course the old lady wanted some of the reward. And of course before the week was over, Joan had taken the old lady for $10,000 and the old lady, wailing, was in a police station identifying a picture of Joan.
The old lady, Klein the Lawyer decided, was a greedy old thief herself, one too ignorant to figure out any decent larceny on her own, and therefore her attempt to join in Joan’s reward plan brought her exactly what she deserved. Klein the Lawyer formed his opinion when he was called in by Joan’s friends to be Joan’s lawyer. However, if Klein the Lawyer announced that the old lady was a greedy thief, he would be admitting that his client, Joan, had been doing something wrong too.
Bail was set at $4500. As none of Joan’s people came forward with any money — thieves are always broke, which is why they steal — Joan was sent to Rikers Island. Leaving the court, Klein the Lawyer muttered, “If she can’t make bail, how can she do something more important, pay me?”
At 6:00 A.M. the next day, he left his bedroom without making a sound. Recently, his woman friend, or second or third wife, or whatever the legal standing is this time, Rosalie, moved into Klein’s apartment. When she moved in, she brought her dog with her. The next week, an aunt arrived. Now Klein the Lawyer tiptoed past Rosalie, past the aunt’s door, and stepped over the sleeping dog. He did not do this because he is so considerate. He did this because he has decided that he is irritated with Rosalie, hates her aunt, and wants the dog killed.
As he was closing the door, Rosalie’s sleepy voice called out, “Now it’s all right with the party?”
“Do what you want,” Klein said. He neither knew nor cared what she was talking about. His mind was on business. By eight-thirty, he was at the women’s jail at Rikers Island to talk to his client, Joan, about money. She came into the room in a drab smock and sad face. A beautiful sad face.
She took Klein’s hand and looked into his eyes and said, “Thank you for coming to save me.”
Klein the Lawyer has fallen in love in many places. At the bar watching the Super Bowl; in a dry-cleaning store; in the elevator of his apartment house. This was the first time he ever had fallen in love in a jailhouse.
Joan handed him a bankbook with withdrawal slips made out. “Go to the bank and get all this money and take out your fee and then put up my bail and tonight we will be together someplace,” Joan said.
Klein the Lawyer never looked at the bankbook. His eyes remained on Joan.
Later, at a bank in the Bronx, a teller smirked at Joan’s bankbook. “She’s got eighteen dollars in the account,” the teller said.
This woman is trying to make a fool of me, Klein told himself. She doesn’t know what she is up against this time.
He drove back to jail, waited an hour for his client to be produced, and had a growl in his throat when she walked in. Joan walked over to Klein and brushed her lips against his.
“I’m sorry I failed and didn’t get the money,” Klein said.
“Somebody must have forged my name at the bank,” Joan said. “Go to my uncle’s house tonight. He’ll put up all the money we need.”
Some hours later, the uncle stood in his doorway and said, “I don’t even want to hear her name.”
“Her name is Beautiful Joan,” Klein the Lawyer said.
At Rikers Island the next day, Joan told Klein the Lawyer, “If you can get me out of here, we’ll be together forever.”
Klein brought forth all of his instinct and training to solve the matter. All of his life, Klein had seen true love separated by prison bars and he felt it terribly sad, but now that it was his love that was being denied by prison bars, he felt the true agony of such a situation.
And he went to court, in a smashing new suit and with long hours of preparation behind him. He confronted the old lady. Klein looked down at his notes. The detective, hired for considerable money out of Klein’s pocket, had done a beautiful job of looking into the background of this greedy old lady.
“How long did you have the money that you say you lost?” Klein asked.
“My husband left it to me,” she said, in her best old-lady weak voice.
“I understand your husband was in the banking business,” Klein said.
“The trucking business,” she said.
“Is a term that your husband always used to use, ‘six for five,’ part of the trucking business or the banking business?” Klein asked.
The greedy old lady said, “I don’t think I lost ten thousand dollars. Maybe it was only a thousand.”
No Roman conqueror ever strode through public halls as did Klein the Lawyer as he took Beautiful Joan out of the courthouse and to her freedom in the early evening. She kissed him on the steps. She said she was going home to change and that she would expect Klein at 8:30 P.M. She kissed him again. Klein’s heart soared. What did it matter that he wasn’t being paid? He was in love. He headed for his apartment. His effort had left him wringing wet and he wanted to change clothes.
When he stepped into his apartment he thought he was getting on a subway train. There in the living room was Rosalie, her aunt, her mother and father, her dog, and nearly everybody whom Klein the Lawyer ever had known on Queens Boulevard.
“What’s this?” Klein said.
“The housewarming party for our apartment together,” Rosalie said. “I told you about it twenty times.” She guided him toward the kitchen. “You’re in charge of making the drinks.”
Later that night, Klein the Lawyer, an island of silence in a loud room, stood at the picture window of his living room and stared down at the lights of Queens Boulevard. After a while, bars appeared in the window.
“I get her out of jail and I wind up in jail myself,” Klein the Lawyer said. He stood at the window and drank until it didn’t matter where he was.