Row 22, Seats A & B Story "Two Towns Down"
I turned the key in the lock and stepped into the house of a woman I did not know, had never met, and never would.

The front hall was round and grand, with a marble floor, a chandelier, and a stairway that curved up along the wall. To my right, the security-system light blinked red. I punched in four numbers, and the light became a steady green.

I turned to take the key from the door -- and that's when the cameras' soft clicks and whirrs began.

This, I realized, was the picture that the photographers out on the sidewalk had been hoping for: of a tall black man in a business suit, his skin, hair, and clothes all sharply outlined by the white front door.

The captions under the newspapers' photos would, I guessed, say something like: "Cayce Johnson, trust officer of the Alabama bank serving as executor of Sandra Pierce's estate, arrives Friday morning at the actress's Bel-Air home to begin searching for ... "

More than a dozen photographers had been waiting for me. They took pictures as I got out of the car, then introduced themselves -- not with their names, but with "L.A.Times," "AP,"  "Reuters,"  "The Register," etc. They asked for my business card, and I gave one to each of them. And for the 10,000th time, made the small joke about my name that I was short when I was young, so my family called me "Briefcase." It wasn't true -- I've always been fairly tall -- but if you're from the South, you learn that setting people at ease is more important than telling the truth all the time.

I put the key in my pocket, nodded to the photographers, and closed the door.

(End of excerpt)