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By David Ronayne

The old man shuffled into the room, desperately trying to avoid the gaze of the young private. God, he felt too old for this. He waved her away, wishing to be alone rather than be reminded he was here again of all places.

She said something before she left. Oh hell, why did she have to say it? He didn't want to have this interview, didn't want to have to be reminded, or briefed once more on what he was allowed to say, the niceties of the Official Secrets Act, or the importance of trans-Atlantic relations. He'd deliberately left all that behind a long time ago.

Why did she have to say it?

His old desk, his old office. It was all the same. Except they had painted the walls; he hadn't initially noticed when he came in. They used to be blue, he thought. He didn't want to be here. He ran his fingers over the desk, tracing where the old concentric coffee stains ran into the new, before flicking through the box of trinkets he was happily meant to produce and show. Old photos, odds and ends, old friends, old memories, old hat. He wanted to be on a beach in Brighton remembering that, not this.

‘Sorry to hear about your wife, sir.’

Why did she have to say it?

The knock on the door roused him, and it opened before he had answered. Bloody rude Americans. He did not want to be here. The man seemed to exude all the charm of a dead fish.

‘Mister Lethbridge-Stewart?’ he asked, not realising how much the words seemed to jar the old veteran in front of him. ‘My name's Mulder. I'd like to ask you a few questions.’

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: Fiction