Her brother, who was wearing a dark raincoat over his sport jacket, looked a trifle bulkier than usual. And, beneath a cosmetically perfect public face, Vanessa was absolutely livid.
"I can’t believe you wore your gun to the opera," she hissed. "Are you intentionally trying to embarrass me or is this your idea of a joke?"
Brad pushed through the crowd as he headed for the ticket takers. "It’s no joke, Vanessa. I had to put in a few extra hours at the police station this afternoon and figured I’d grab a quick bite before coming over to Lincoln Center," he explained.
"You said tonight’s performance was a one-act opera, so just relax. Nobody’s going to spot me wearing a concealed weapon and suddenly freak out while you’re parading your new gown up and down the Grand Staircase." A quick look at Vanessa’s face revealed that she was pouting again, just like she did when she was a little girl.
"C’mon, Sis. Cool those expensive six-inch heels," teased Brad. "Tell you what. Let’s just pretend we’re a couple of nice, social-climbing black yuppies, okay? Because I can guarantee you, there ain’t nobody in this crowd who would ever guess that I was armed."
After handing their tickets to one of the ushers at the main entrance to the auditorium, Brad took hold of his sister’s elbow and guided her up the stairs leading to the parterre level. As they entered their box, Sergeant Carson received his first big shock of the evening.
Seated by the railing were an old woman, her mink coat draped over the back of her chair, and a young man with blond hair who was dressed in a tuxedo. As they conversed, the two kept pointing to the television cameras on the main floor which were in position for the evening’s telecast. At first, the angle at which they sat made it difficult for Brad to see their faces.
However, after taking off her coat and hanging it in the tiny chamber behind their seats, Vanessa leaned forward to handle the social amenities. "Hello, Mrs. Fitzwater, it’s so nice to see you again. It’s too bad my husband, Peter, can’t be with us tonight. He’s away in Tokyo on business right now, but I’d love to have you meet my brother. Please let me introduce you. Mrs. Fitzwater, this is Brad Carson. Brad, this is our good friend, Mrs. Fitzwater."
The old woman stood up and nodded curtly toward Brad. Lally might share a box with this woman and her husband, but she had never in her life referred to a black person as her "good friend."
Mind you, now, it wasn’t that Lally Fitzwater was prejudiced. She knew lots of blacks had started coming to the opera in recent years. Lally just didn’t think such people belonged in the boxes on the Parterre level -- boxes which had been paid for by the cream of New York’s old-line society!
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Carson," she said. "I’d like for you and your sister to meet my nephew, Lance van Dyke. Pay attention, young man," Lally hissed as she snapped her fingers at her escort. "We have company."
Kevin struggled to maintain his composure as he turned around and recognized the tall black man facing him. The last place he ever expected to see Officer Carson was sharing a parterre box at the Metropolitan Opera House with old Lally Fitzwater!
As soon as Brad was sure that the old woman’s attention had been diverted by Vanessa’s jewelry, he winked at Kevin to let the young man know that his secret was safe. With a broad smile, he reached forward to shake hands and said, "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. van Dyke. Do you come here often?"