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I scrambled beneath the humbling granite archway that framed the Canadian National Museum’s staff entrance, water dripping from me as if I had just slipped out of the shower. The quivers that waved through my body triggered an uncomfortable realization, not that I was cold from my drenched state, but that I’d transitioned into the first stage of chocolate detox. I hadn’t had a crumble of the substance for at least eighteen hours. The tinted glass of the door before me mirrored a startling reflection – “harrowing” would have been a kind descriptor.
The morning had started as a good-hair day, but the flash-flood rains that had caught me sans umbrella put a different spin on the do. So not fair. Why was it that Audrey Hepburn looked positively radiant after being soaked in a torrential downpour in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? I looked like Breakfast at Wal-Mart. Mind you, I didn’t resemble Audrey Hepburn at the best of times except perhaps for the dark, doe-like eyes I shared with the Hollywood icon.
I tilted closer towards the glass, raised my index fingers to the corners of my eyes and elongated the fragile skin upwards, planing out the subtle crow’s feet. Maybe I did have a bit of Hepburn going on. The image grimaced back at me. Who was I kidding? The Hepburn I was channeling was Katharine when she was fished out of the Ulanga River in African Queen.
“Are you going inside or are you planning on staring at yourself all day?”
Embarrassed that my self-deprecation had been interpreted as vanity, I rotated towards the person with the after-hours-club voice. The young woman I faced sliced away any traces of my self-esteem in a nanosecond, bulldozed past me and vanished behind the second set of doors.
I mustered a handful of dignity only to lose it after slipping and lurching on the stone floor opposite the security control room. Through the triple-glazed, bullet-proof glass, there was a beehive of activity. Security command central was crammed full of people, and I discerned guards who didn’t usually work the morning swing. The news must have broken over the weekend. But I had eyeballed all the dailies before stepping onto the subway – The Globe, The Post, The Star, and even skimmed the free Metro paper, but none referred to the disappearance of the porcelain Tang horse from the Chinese gallery the previous Friday.
One more set of doors steered me to the main security checkpoint where a boyish newbie guard was planted behind the counter of black polished laminate. I instantly dove into his eyes. Emerald green pools like that are a rarity. The combination of those eyes with his dirty blonde faux bed-head was irresistible. His neck was a tad thick, but I suspected there was a body-builder’s frame hidden beneath the uniform.
“Good morning.” I hoped my voice would drown out the sound of my heart palpitating.
“Good morning, ma’am. Looks like you forgot your umbrella today.”
Ma’am? Seriously? Clearly my cougarishly-tight skirt wasn’t fooling anyone.
“You can call me Kalena. And I suggest you drop the word ‘ma’am’ from your vocabulary, at least around here.” I was doing him a favour. He could lose his head if he used that term on one of our resident feminazis.
“Uh…noted. My name’s Marco…Marco Zeffirelli.”
“Like the director?” Franco Zeffirelli’s screen version of Romeo and Juliet was my all-time favourite version of the story of the star-crossed lovers.
“I thought the Director’s name was Carson James.”
“Never mind.” Eyes you could lose yourself in – yes. Knowledge of Italian film directors – no. I plunked my purse down and rummaged for my ID badge. No point asking a keener if he’d swipe me through. “What’s going on in the control room?” I scrounged deeper into my bag with the fervour of a manic dog trying to surface a buried bone.
“They caught the guy that stole that horse.”