White Darkness

White Darkness

by David A. McIntee
White Darkness
            Hooded eyes glinting in the darkness, Paul Richmann sat on a wrathered boulder overlooking the city below. His thumb blindly traced tiny circles over smoothed metal, like a silent litany, feeling the faint impress of engraved initials on the back of the casing. The lights of the city flickered and danced like the worshippers at temples, electric light not yet having reached Port-au-Prince.
            Though he looked out over the city on a balmy night, Richmann's eyes did not see the dancing flames.
            They didn't see the sparkling stars that fell from the heavens into the inky night-time waters of the Caribbean.
            They saw...

            The building was an ancient red brick tenement, with mould staining the walls. Red and green should never be seen, it was said, and the corners of Richmann's thin lips turned up slightly at the thought of old superstition It was certainly the landlord's unlucky day.
            Iron railings sprouted from the tarmac in front of the building, and Richmann tapped a few of them experimentally on his way long to the door, recalling how a stick bounced from them when running past almost a quarter of a century ago. The thought was distracting, so he shoved it away into the darker recesses of his mind, returning his full attention to the door which he was approaching.
            It was time-worn now, the paint peeling, the overhang fallen away from each step bellow. He had been told that it now creaked a bit, unless the edge was held near the top. Wrapping gloved fingers around the edge. he slowly opened it, and stepped into the dusty hallway, pulling the door closed. He stood for a moment, letting a faint thrill run through him, as the musty scent of the hall brought long-dormant memories to mind.
            His pulse quickened in anticipation as he heard a faint groaning of wood from above. He glanced at the old clock on die wall, noting that it was five to twelve. He recalled that the old man always used return at midday, and had discovered from discreet enquiries that this was still the case.
            Glancing only briefly to either side, he jogged up the stairs as lightly as a cat.
            The apartment was exactly as he remembered it, from the tatty curtains, to the table propped up with a book, a stuffed armchair, sagging with age, was off to one side, back to the door. Richmann scowled, not liking the idea of having his back to a door, but nevertheless settled into the chair.
            With quick, silent movements, he slid a charger in the breech of a large automatic pistol, a Steyr 19I2, and clipped a magazine into the butt. The gun sitting heavy and and cold and in his hand he sat back, ears listening carefully for any sound from outside.
            It was several minutes before he heard it - the door below cracking open then shut.
            Wearied footfalls on the stairs.
            The door behind slipping open.
            A grizzled, yet still quite large figure, passed by to his left, and stumped off towards the other room. A few vague shuffling noises came through the open door, and then the figure returned this time without its coat.
            The old man stopped in astonishment, as he saw Richmann sitting confortably in the armchair. Is that you, Paul?" he asked incredulously.
            Richmann nodded wordlessly, and levelled the gun at the old man's chest.
            "It's so good to see you! Ever since you... had your falling-out with those men and left, your mother and I -"
            "I heard she died," Richmann stated softly.
            "Yes, yes," the old man nodded nervously. His face reflected grief, but the tone of his voice hinted at something darker. "Her legs were no longer what they were; she fell..."
            "So I heard. I received a letter, from her recently, you know. Do you you want me to read it to you? I have it here."
            "I... don't think that'll be necessary."
            "I thought not. I still have the scars, of course, but I presume you won't need to see them either?
            "No." The old man's voice was very quiet.
            "Good. Richmann smiled wanly, "I haven't got all day."

            If the other residents heard the sharp retorts, they either were wise enough to pay no attention, or idly put it down to the gleaming automobile - still something of a rarity even in Philadelphia - that squatted outside.
            In a few moments, Richmann emerged from the red brick building, and got into the back seat of the car, which drove off.
            "You saw him?" asked the man who sat next to Richmann.
            "Wilhelm? For the last time, General, and just long enough to collect what was left to me."
            Richmann held a small pocket watch up by its chain. "Why did you come?"
            "I've been curious about you since we met in Africa."
            "And are you satisfied?"
            "Not really."
            "Good." Richmann looked out at the city as it passed them by. "I'd forgotten how cold it can get here."
            "No matter; we'll be in warmer clime soon enough."

            The slim white trails of jet aircraft now crossed the sky in place of falling stars, but the country was much the same. Apparently unaffected by the heat, a tall man strode through the gently waving sisal, his eyes glued to the dial on a little box on his hand. "Haven't the Americans got their own people to find bits of rockets?" he called.
            "Quite a lot of them," came the measured answer from the nearby road side, "but none with your... qualifications, Doctor."
            "I suppose not," the Doctor muttered irritably, glancing back to where sunlight gleamed from the shoulder pips of a moustachioed man leaning against a jeep. "I warned you this would not do anything except delay my repairs to the TARDIS."
            "Oh come on, don't tell me you still think you'll get that old Police Box working?"
            "Of course I - " He broke off as the needle quivered on the dial. "Just a minute Brigadier, I think I've found something." He knelt down, bending some of the sisal out of the way, to reveal a dull gleam set into the earth.
            As the Brigadier jogged over, the Doctor dug out the piece of metal with a Swiss Army knife. "Any luck, Doctor?"
            The Doctor examined the piece of metal, noting the faintness of the engraved letters 'W.R.' on the back. He flipped open the lid, weighing it it thoughtfully in his hand as he stared at the still hands coated with dust. "No," he said, reburying it after a moment's thought. "We'd best keep looking."

Source: Doctor Who Magazine #201