I turned the key to my apartment- or Billy's apartment, rather. I hadn't even been in here for weeks. The wildest parts of my imagination played it out as, left unattended, a forest of green algae had taken root, spreading through my kitchen, embedding itself in the living room carpeting, creeping up the walls, converting drywall into mildew and dampness. Pushing in on the front door, I was almost disappointed by the crumbling of this expectation; In six months, the apartment was unchanged.
I stepped onto the beige carpeting in the entryway, closing the door behind me. I had used the restroom at a nearby convenience store to change out of my coat and goggles, already wearing incognito clothing beneath it, the style unknown to the public. Now, I was home, and looking for something more casual. My current apparel consisted of a black long sleeved turtle neck, which admittedly kept me cozy in the latest autumn nights. In addition to that was a pair of fitted black dress pants and a pair of shiny black Magnanni Colo dress shoes. As much as I didn't look like Dr. Horrible, I also didn't look below a $65,000 wage line. According to Bowie, we were headed deeper into the city. He'd said we would be unrecognizable to the people at the bottom. Dr. Horrible didn't have clothing to use for such a thing... but, perhaps Billy had something in his closet that would pass. I doubted much consideration was even needed for an outfit.
Each step along that beige carpeting felt foreign. Algebraic equations were scrawled along the hallway in black, red and purple sharpie as I passed through, toward Billy's room. Improper equations, I knew now. I had been doing my own experiments and research since using the quote on quote, Death Ray. I'd corrected the power pack's issue with discharging. In that fool Hammer's hands, caution had been tossed to the wind, and of course, he somehow prompted wonderflonium to leak into the main system at the last second, directly corrupting the operating system. So, when the american idol fired the Death Ray while aiming down, he had really just added ignition to a compressed little pocket of the most explosive mixture I'd ever created. Hammer destroyed himself, all on his own. He slaughtered his own public image. Murdered his own egocentric prowess. Gave himself PTSD. Captain Hammer was the one, in the final moments of the explosion, who lifted the aim upwards, expanding the range of the rocketing debris. I hesitated on the way to my bedroom, pausing just outside the door. For the millionth time, I closed my eyes as I confirmed what I had known from day one; Captain Hammer had been the one to kill Penny.
The thought was my own, and it never left my mind. Because, if I kept on thinking that, the guilt was bound to leave me alone, eventually. Of course, it didn't help that Penny's death had been the starting point of my advancement in society. I could never risk admitting it out loud, that her death had been unplanned. Lying, convincing the world of something that unfolded before their very eyes was one thing; My weapon did, after all, kill Penny.
Bearing the weight of the contrasting truth, however, was an entirely different ballgame; None of it was ever intended.
One side of the spectrum appealed to the Doctor, and the other, to Billy, or whatever remained of him. No matter the truth of the situation, Doctor Horrible was born with the death of Captain Hammer's lover. The opening of that homeless shelter six months back was my evil beginning.
I entered my bedroom, also unchanged, taking sparing time to open my dresser door, surprised to find more than half of it missing. Then, I remembered...
"What about your clothes?" Penny had asked, her eyes widening, brow arching down in the same confusion that she'd shown only a short time before, when I'd had to cover for a slip up by replacing Bad Horse's name with Gandhi's. A ball of panic was collecting rapidly in my chest. Captain Hammer was on his way. I had to get out of there, fast...
I rushed to the dryer, lifting the lid and peering in, quickly. My regular clothing, a long sleeved cotton shirt I'd gotten from Moist two Christmases ago, the jeans I'd picked up at Goodwill last summer, and five or six other articles of clothing I'd had for at least three years. While I obviously valued them, I valued my own skin astronomically more. And if Hammer got here before I was gone... I turned my head to Penny. Trying to keep my voice steady and failing miserably, I stated, "I don't love these."
Smooth. I attempted leaving the laundromat in such a hurry that I ended up deserting an entire drier. 2/3rds of my dresser was empty. Luckily, I'd gone to the washer solely to see Her, before all my clothing was dirty. There were still two shirts, one being a white tank top, while the other was short-sleeved, black. I grabbed the latter, unfolding it and giving it a once over before setting it on the unmade bed behind me. I closed the shirt drawer, ducking down to my pants drawer, certain I'd find a plethora to choose from. Sliding out the drawer, I had a small moment of cheering in my mind. Five folded pairs of jeans? That was more than I'd usually had set aside. I was, after all, a bachelor. We were supposed to be notorious for never having the laundry done.
Now, I sifted through all the pairs, deciding on one with a deep navy tone to it. I found a decent pair of sneakers under my bed, which I grabbed with relief.
Dawning my old skin, I left my rich clothes on the floor, and, sitting back on my bed, I began to replace my shoes with the sneakers, double knotting each foot. Then, I just laid back, gazing up to the ceiling.
What was I doing? I'd been wondering that since I first agreed to this fiasco. It really was a stupid idea. It was wrong to assume it could be anything other than a mistake. I didn't trust Bowie as far as I could throw him. So why had I agreed to something so risky, so personal? ...I checked my watch. 38 minutes had passed since work got out. 5:38. Was I really that quick? How long would it take Bowie to get ready on his end? I didn't want to rush him. Hell, I wasn't even sure where to get picked up from. I at least liked the effort on his part to keep things anonymous, but really. Maybe that, too, was a trick to analyze me. Would I pick a spot close to my home, a careless choice, or further away, a careful and effective attempt at maintaining anonymity? The bottom line was, we were both going to be risking our secret identities in doing this. ...But my end goal was to eliminate Billy from the equation, entirely. So it didn't matter if Bowie found out where he lived, anyway.
I went to the deli down the street and texted him from there:
Are you ready yet?
In nearly a minute, my phone buzzed with his reply. I withdrew it, opening the text. It read:
Yes. Are you? If so, where are you?
I replied with the coordinates. My phone buzzed again, 15 seconds later.
Be there in 10.
I shifted my weight, one foot to the other. My coworker was picking me up. That was all it was. We would both be incognito by ditching our masks. I zipped up my loose, blue grey hoodie. The one I'd been wearing at the start of my brand new day, six months ago. The day I'd first decided to destroy Captain Hammer. Tonight was supposed to get chilly, and that was the only hoodie in Billy's apartment. I went with it.
At precisely 6:00, a red Cavalier pulled into the deli parking lot. I watched through the store window as the ignition was cut, and then, the driver's side door opened, and out stepped a clean faced man with short auburn hair, wearing a gray hoodie with three horizontal, thick black stripes lining across the body. He withdrew a phone from his pants pocket, glancing down to the screen and then tapping it patiently. A moment later, my phone buzzed in the deli. My eyes fell to the screen. One new message.
Closing my eyes, I knew this was legitimate. Bowie really meant it. He was taking me out tonight. And what's more was that, again, he was courteous enough to show his face, first, giving me the knowledge that I wasn't being duped. Either that, or Bowie had hired a stunt double, just to expose me. And while Bowie's trick of the trade was using people, his list of tactics simply didn't include honest hiring. This was him.
I pushed open the front door of the deli, and Bowie's head turned to me. Even from this distance, I could see the amused smirk as it blossomed on his lips. His hands slipped into his middle pocket. As I drew closer, I saw that he was examining me, the curve to his lips ever present. It made me feel exposed, almost as if I were doing a catwalk when none of the judges were invited to the show. What could I do but attempt to show that I didn't need goggles to be respectable? I straightened my back some, trying to enhance my demeanor. I had to show him that I was still Dr. Horrible.
His brown eyes found my blue eyes, and then, he stated in his ever present accent, "To be frank, I was almost afraid you were going to cancel."
"Breaking arrangements? That would be malpractice," I loosely quipped, and a suppressed grin crept up Bowie's left cheek.
"Even off the clock, you spew puns," Bowie breathed, shoulders shaking once in a grinning exhale, and I smirked.
"So, where are we headed?" The question escaped my lips casually, though the wonder had been wearing on me since earlier that afternoon. In our large city, there were more than a few places to go out. I remembered, still, Bowie referring to it as a lower level social engagement. Now, he gave a smooth laugh, laying a hand on the hood of his Cavalier as he stated, "I have some friends in Beckway that know a good time, if you're up for it."
Beckway was ten, maybe fifteen minutes from where we were now. Off the top off my head, I knew it only vaguely as a sketchier inner city within Amityview, the giant metropolitan area that thrived all around us. Amityview was where I'd grown up. It was were I'd gone to school, from third grade to graduation. Moist, my evil moisture buddy, had been my only friend, since long before even middle school. He'd been my first friend in all of Amityview, and was still my dampened confidant to this day. The faction of Amityview Bowie referred to now, Beckway, was a section of bars and nightclubs and skyscraper hotels. Billy had never had a reason to tread those grounds, but now, I was nodding my head, slipping my own hands in my hoodie pocket. "I'm up for anything you want to throw at me."
"Careful what you wish for," Dead Bowie teased with his smirk as he turned, grasping the door handle and popping the driver's side open. He gestured to the passenger seat on the other side of the car, noting as he swung into the vehicle, "You left your medical license at home, after all."
` Bowie was right. I had no leverage tonight. I wasn't going into this as Dr. Horrible. I didn't have any identity as I rounded that crimson cavalier. I just knew that I was going to a new place with Bowie leading the way. I opened the door, climbed in the car and pulled it shut behind me. "Right," I noted, buckling my seatbelt to match Bowie's own. "You drive, then."