The Rarest Treasure

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Note from the Author: Hi everyone! It has taken me a long time to imagine and write this story; in fact, I find it more and more difficult to find a fresh take on the corny love stories I so obviously crave. In any case, I began weaving this tale during a James Bond soundtrack phase on my IPod, this winter. As always, I hope you have a pleasant and exciting read. 🙂

P.S. At almost 47 500 words, this is my longest story to date. It is certainly my most introspective as well. It is heavy on sweet emotions and rather light on action. You have been warned…


1. – One dream appears…

When he enjoyed himself, Lawrence Linney could be a multitasking young man; and on the night of April 8, 2019, such was the case: he was currently watching on his laptop the air raid on Fort Knox scene from Goldfinger, furiously waving his arms as if he was John Barry directing his orchestra, loudly humming the brass melody and, at the same time, keeping an eye on eight different camera screens in the security cubicle where he worked.

But this ode to joy came to a sudden halt when his eye instantly caught, on one of the cameras, the rotund silhouette of his supervisor walking towards his workstation. Lawrence quickly shut the lid of his laptop and settled himself on his chair; he was now fully focused on this surprise visit and managed to act nonchalant when the supervisor used his access chip to enter the one-man security control center.

“Good evening Vince… what brings you at the office on a Monday night?”

“Hi Larry… how are things on your shift?”

“Same as usual; the mall has been closed for…” Lawrence quickly glanced at his watch before carrying on “… almost four hours now; the main doors and loading docks are all locked; the cleaning crews are at work and even the Costco staff is almost all gone. Monday nights have a dull routine… just the way I like it.”

“Good. So… huh… could you spare me a minute? I actually came here to have a talk with you before Martin comes in for the night shift.”

This was unusual; and also on par with Lawrence’s last few days, to his great annoyance.

“Alllll right… do you want us to go in your office?”

“Naaa… we can do this while you stay on post… for the record.” Indeed, Lawrence was quite aware of Vincent Dubois’ ardent desire to please his client, which in this case meant keeping the control station manned at all times.

“Cool… should I have a union rep present?”

The supervisor chuckled. “Geez! Stop being so insecure! This isn’t an official feedback… besides, you’re the man of the hour right now!”

Lawrence scoffed, turned his back on his boss and focused again on the camera screens. “Oh… that thing again…”

Vincent moved closer to the desk to bring himself in Lawrence’s field of vision. He had expected this reaction. “Larry, you’ve been bitching about and resisting all the praise and attention since Saturday. What’s the matter with you?”

Lawrence felt he could finally vent. “Nothing’s the matter with ME Vince! This whole… hoopla… it’s all publicity bullshit! Just because she is a popular artist! I didn’t DO anything special… I didn’t perform CPR for thirty minutes or carry her on my arms away from a fire! I just told her to go to the hospital! Besides, her breathing was so shallow only a complete moron wouldn’t have noticed… she was probably panicking from all those drooling idiots around her. I just did my job, Vince… I did what you asked me to do when you booked me this additional shift.”

Vincent now had a satisfied smug and picked up the security cell phone that was being charged on the desk. “I see… so you think your job performance was not really praiseworthy.”

Lawrence was starting to feel cornered. “Huh… yeah… something like that…”

Vincent smiled and produced the phone. “Larry, this morning I had a long phone conversation with Zooey Zephyr’s mother, who happens to also be her agent. First of all, she was very insistent on the fact that her daughter was refusing your suggestion and that you ordered both of them to dial 911; second, she told me that you saved Zooey’s life.”

Lawrence slumped in his chair, flummoxed, and whimpered back. “I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me…”

“But… like… I mean… what did she have, then?”

“She didn’t say, Larry. But she did ask that you visit them at the hospital. They both wish to thank you in person.”

“Oooh great! And… let me guess… it would greatly please the mall owners?”

“Yes, Larry. It would please our client immensely.”

“Will there be reporters?”

“I don’t know…” Vincent’s grin told a very different story.


“Tomorrow afternoon. I already have your shift covered here, at no loss of salary.”

Lawrence was resigned and defeated. “All right, Vince… tell them I’ll be there.”

Fifteen hours later, after eating a light lunch, Lawrence stepped out of his apartment building’s xslot lobby and walked cautiously on the salted walkway. The light drizzle, the near-zero weather and the heavy overcast did nothing to improve his depressed and anxious mood. Looking at the thick ice sheet and even thicker snow cover on the front yard – it did not require his Major in geology to figure that the forecasts for a record 2019 spring flood would turn out to be accurate – did obviously not help.

Yet he did not reconsider his decision to walk the distance between his apartment on Lausanne street and Gatineau Hospital, as it would certainly be quicker than chancing a bus ride on its non-rush hour schedule. Besides, he grudgingly had to admit to himself that he would use the idle time to relive that fateful Saturday.

“Seriously, Vince? You booked six agents – you know, of course, that it’s almost two-thirds of our regular staff – for a kiddy concert? Santa Claus doesn’t get that much protection!”

“It’s in line with all the warnings I’ve received from other venues, Larry… Zooey Zephyr brings in big frantic crowds, so be prepared for unruly adults, not just excited children…”

That warning turned out to be prophetic. From the moment the road crew had started to set up the small tour stage, even before the opening hour of the stores, a small mob of local fans kept hounding the concert site and pacing all over the shopping mall in the hope of catching an early glimpse of the writer and singer that was all the current rage in the preschool market. An exasperated Lawrence kept telling to himself that he was a graduate student and a part-time security agent, not the bodyguard to a rock star, and the whole security team had a dreadful morning trying to keep the peace, which also implied, to Lawrence’s dismay, reigning in several fathers shoving in for good viewing positions.

But, as the saying goes, the show must go on. And, from his ideal vantage point near the lateral access ramp to the stage, Lawrence had been privy to a performance that had genuinely shocked him silly. Not for the lullabies or the nursery rhymes, obviously, but for a stage presence that had obliterated all his preconceptions about modern performing arts.

For one thing, Lawrence always assumed that live shows now have a ton of sampling and filters to augment the musical and vocal talent of the artists, and there evidently was in this one-woman show, but Lawrence saw and heard an immensely gifted multi-instrumentalist: Zooey played multiple keyboards, a flute, a vibraphone or a twelve-string guitar, plus several sound pedals, and she did it, for more than eighty minutes, without ever taking an eye away from her crowd.

Lawrence could also hear some of Zooey’s true voice, beside her headset microphone, and he found it even, pure and powerful.

Lawrence had expected a conceited diva milking profits from a lucrative market; the artist he ogled at turned out to be the exact opposite: a young, unassuming, smiling and flirtatious young woman who seemed to thrive in the company of children and truly cherish every second of her time near them, on stage. After her show, when Zooey signed autographs and performed minor magic tricks to hand out gifts to her young fans, she did so with loving patience.

He was also ashamed to admit to himself that he had noticed enticing curves under the many layers of Zooey Zephyr’s costume and he had admonished himself for being just as pervy as the drooling fathers he had earlier threatened to expel.

He was sure that such a long mane of golden-blonde hair must be a wig, or maybe extensions; after a brief time near her, when Zooey left the conference room that she had used to change in, he had to admit that he was wrong again.

Her blue-grey eyes? If they were due to contact lenses, Zooey was wearing them in civilian life as well.

That was when Lawrence had noticed that Zooey was quite sweaty and uncomfortable, with a labored breathing…

That’s also when the autopilot part of his brain warned him to stop daydreaming and prepare to cross safely La Verendrye boulevard, and then enter the hospital guest entrance.

Lawrence had no idea what to expect for this planned and requested visit; but, since no matter what he tried to guess, his mind always returned to wonder about just how pretty Zooey will turn out to be, he admitted he was excited to be thanked by her and to spend some time in her company… and her mother. He giggled at that addition, shut down his phone and walked in the observation ward.

As he neared Zooey’s recovery room, Lawrence froze in place. He could not pick out the words, from the distance, but he was hearing an interview, and that overpowered him with anxiety. However, his eyes caught a glimpse of a bored and bedridden Zooey and that sight shocked him back to life: even with no makeup, no costume, barely an expression on her lovely face, Lawrence did not see a patient in a hospital gown xslot Giriş and hooked up to an IV drip, he saw an angel with clipped wings, with the afternoon sun perfectly highlighting the long blonde hair that meandered all along her breasts and almost to her thighs. His limbs were back on autopilot: he knocked on the door frame and placed himself in full view of the room’s occupants.


Whether or not this whole event had been cleverly timed and staged, Lawrence was taken aback by the intensity of the hug that immediately ensued. Zooey’s mother was channeling emotion in her embrace that could rival his own mother when he returns home to visit. She had buried her head on his shoulder and was thanking him effusively. Lawrence, feeling awkward and very aware of everyone in the room staring at them, politely returned her embrace.

And yet, she quickly regained her control of the visit. She swallowed a burgeoning sob and turned towards the reporter to introduce Saturday’s hero. “This is mister Lawrence Linney, the security agent who persuaded us to seek medical help. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, young man.”

“It’s quite all right, miss… Zephyr. Like I was saying to my supervisor, I only did my job; but I’m happy that Zooey seems to recover nicely.”

“Yes, yes, of course… and you can call me Ailin, Ailin Nummi; Zephyr is only Zooey’s stage name.” Lawrence was perplexed by her mixed expression, a blend of gratefulness and apprehension. Now that he had arrived, she seemed intent on leading the reporter out of the room as quickly as possible. And, after the mandatory picture of Lawrence and Zooey, side by side near her bed, she managed to do just that, to discuss the impact of this medical hiatus on Zooey’s tour.

Which led a baffled Lawrence stranded in a private hospital room, near a silent and angelic figure, without a clue on how to break the ice.

“So… huh… is Zooey also a stage name? You can call me Larry if you like…”

She slowly turned her head to look at him with a tired smile. Lawrence looked a lot more like a landscape worker than her idea of a shopping mall security guard. He was taller than her, close to 6 ft. tall, without a hint of excess weight; the skin of his face and hands was browned by the sun, even in this early spring weather; his hands looked rough and blistered; he was wearing work clothes that had not an iota of elegance and wide black shoes that were adorned by the CSA green triangle patch; his nails looked like they were more often dirty than clean; his crew cut short hair was not militaristic, just plain serious, without any frivolous cut or styling. And yet, looking at his nervous smile, Zooey was seeing another side to him: Lawrence had pale brown eyes and his gaze seemed to project goodness, caring and also intense sharpness.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Larry… my name is Zooey Nummi. Please call me Zooey. And I’m sorry to be such poor company… I’m bored… and I’m lonely and, on top of it all, this treatment is freaking me out a little.”

“That’s quite all right Zooey; it was good to see you. I can let you rest if you wan…”

“No NOOO!” Zooey, startled by her own panicked reply, paused before carrying on, in a supplication tone. “You’re my first true visitor… even if mom set up the visit… I mean, if you have engagements and need to go, I’ll understand, of course…”

“Nope. I’ve been replaced at work and I’m free to stay with you all afternoon and all evening, if that would please you.”

Zooey kept trying to decipher Lawrence’s nervous demeanor. For one thing, he seemed incapable of looking at her in the eye and he was staring at her hair. Then again, he also seemed to suppress an urge to take her hand and his smile was beaming: he looked truly happy to spend time with her.

She took his hand before answering and she felt it shiver. “Thank you, Larry. I would like that a lot. Just make yourself comfortable on that chair over there… we can talk about whatever you like.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want me to get you something to eat or a board game to play?” He was trying to meet her gaze and was obviously having a hard time at it.

“No, no… I’m perfectly fine, really… just sit near the window and fire away.”

“Ok…” Lawrence sat down, looked at her feet at the base of the bed, rubbed his hands nervously and then used all of his precious little courage to ask what has been eating at him for almost sixteen hours. “Zooey… I know I have no right to ask but… your mom told Vince – my supervisor – that I saved your life…”

“Considering that the ER doctor called me a living dead, I don’t believe that mom exaggerated, Larry.” She had answered in candor and without a trace of excitement or anger; this settled Lawrence considerably and gave him the impetus to carry on.

“Well, what happened? I mean, you don’t look at death’s door and certainly not like a zombie!!!” The banter eased him enough to look Zooey xslot Güncel Giriş in the eyes again; they were still blue-grey and sparkling.

“I was explained that the difficulty breathing I had on Saturday was due to a pulmonary embolism…”

“PE?” Lawrence was now full of fright and instinctively grabbed both her feet, which startled her in a good way. “How come?”

“I see you know what it is…” she was looking fondly at his hands on her feet.

Lawrence turned self-conscious in a flash and let them go. “Sorry about that… and, huh… yes, the security agents all have up-to-date CPR.”

“That’s a good thing, Larry… as for why, the main hypothesis is a post-operation complication but, as long as no definitive answer is found, I will be tested and rested and injected with enough heparin to turn me into a hemophiliac. So no hits or cuts, OK? I could dieee!” She had joined in on his banter and took a spooky tone. She felt good with him in the room.

Lawrence placed his hand behind his back, tucked in the chair. He was relaxing and was also obviously feeling good in her company. “There… no more grabbing, no hits, no cuts, promised!”

“Good! Now can we please go back to the part where I look like a zombie?”

Lawrence guffawed loud enough that a passing nurse in the corridor turned her head to check in. “PFFFT!!! Mademoiselle, I believe YOU are fishing for a compliment! Do you really need to be told how pretty you are?”

“Why, Mister Linney! Of course, I’m fishing for a compliment! I’m always fishing for compliments! Now, will you please be a good sport and bite?”

Lawrence mockingly snapped his teeth and closed in on her feet. Zooey moved them away in panic. “Not literally, Larryyyy!”

Lawrence’s laughter had such warmth that Zooey felt her heart melt. “OK, OK… seriously now… mmm, mmm…” Lawrence prepped himself and very visibly searched for words and wisdom for several seconds. “Zooey, I cannot find words to qualify, or compute a model to quantify, your beauty, so I’ll just have to say it plain: you are the most amazingly beautiful woman I have ever met or seen. There… you can reel me in now…”

Zooey swallowed hard. “That… was a pretty good bite, Larry. You should be careful, you know… I’m not sure that I would cast such a catch back in the water.”

Lawrence’s smile faltered a little. “Come on, Zooey… don’t… we both know I’m no catch.”

“Says you, good sir. But, since I am the one fishing, I would like to be the judge of that, thank you very much! So, start at the beginning, please, after you tell me what it is that you do when you are not too busy saving my life.” Lawrence was wowed; gone was the bored pout: Zooey had the same flirtatious expression that he had seen on Saturday.

“All right then… but you have been warned. Guarding a closed shopping mall and saving damsels-in-distress is how I finance my daily routine. In my superhero identity, I’m a PhD student at McGill University, in Earth and Planetary sciences…”

“McGill? That’s in Montreal… what are you doing here?”

“And I am a Montrealer through and through myself. But the minerals are here: it’s easier to commute to the occasional class and remain based here, near my research area.”

Zooey seemed captivated. “I seeee… and what is it that you study in the Ottawa region?”

“Hydrothermal rare earth minerals. Specifically, I study pegmatite and feldspar to calibrate the output data from a felsic gneiss metamorphic mineralization model.”

She remained absorbed. “I will pretend I understood all of that. What use will this have, if it works?”

An unseen feminine answer startled them both. “To find local rare earth deposits and break Canada free of China’s stranglehold on the market, of course! And I wish you success, Lawrence!” Zooey and Lawrence had both been so involved in their frivolous introduction that neither had noticed Ailin walking silently back in the room.

Zooey sneered. “You KNOW about this, mom?”

“Unlike you, darling girl, I read the papers’ business section.”

“Then my father and you have something in common. He’s a business analyst who always regretted that I didn’t follow in his footsteps but, as soon as I started my research and I got fast-tracked to the PhD program, he was completely won over and he even invested in me: he founded a generic company and he helped me acquire some claims of our own.”

“Reallyyyy? Is he still married?” Both mother and daughter seemed to share a natural affinity for flirting.


Lawrence was now completely relaxed. “Yes, miss Nummi…”


“Ailin, then… mom and dad are still married. Twenty-seven years and going on strong, as far as I know. Sorry…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Larry… it’s great that your family remains close.” Saying that, Zooey had become a tad wistful and Lawrence noticed the absence of any ring mark on Ailin’s ring finger. He ardently wished to change the subject and noticed, for the first time, that a novel was lying beside Zooey, on her bed and near the window.

“Hey, Zooey… what are you reading?”

She handed him the book, grateful for the new topic. “I’m reading From Russia With Love for the 50th time…”

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