After the Doctor left, I took a bathroom break and copied down the address and phone number on a pharmacy receipt. Then I ran water over the card and tore it into several pieces looking for concealed circuity before I flushed the pieces down the toilet. Maybe that was overkill, the card seemed to be just paper, but better safe than sorry.
The rest of my work day was tinged with anxiety but nothing else happened.
I walked past the living room to set my purse on the dresser in the bedroom and sled my shoes. I also reached up behind my back and unhooked my bra and pulled it off through a sleeve. I rubbed the sore area under my breasts from the bra and walked back into the living room.
I found Julie curled up on the sofa watching her medical drama. She lifted her legs so I could sit beside her and then laid them on my lap. I leaned into her for quick kiss and settled back to read on my phone. We were dating right now but even if we hadn’t been we would still be spending the evening together as roommates. I was perfectly happy to let her have other partners but she had a streak of monogamy that had us breaking up when she met someone new and then getting back together when it didn’t work out.
I tried to absorb myself in the book I was reading but I kept thinking about that receipt with the Doctor’s info written on it. He had been an ally in the past and I trusted him more than any other villain I had worked with during my career.
“I ran into a … an old co-worker today,” I said during a commercial break.
“Oh yeah? How did that go?” Julie asked.
“Better than I thought it would. He wants to meet up to talk.”
“Is he from the company that fired you when you came out?” Part of my fake past.
“Yes but he never heard why they fired me.” Mostly true.
“Were you friends?” Commercials had ended and she was half listening to me and half to her show.
“Co-workers. Friends at work I guess but not outside of it.” We really hadn’t been friends outside of working together on some heists. I’m not sure how that would have worked. ‘Hey after we rob the First National Bank want to catch the latest Spider-Man movie?’ ‘Want to bbq for the Fourth of July? My secret lair or yours?’
“You should go. It might be good to reconnect with him. Maybe he could help you get a job in your field.” More fake past. According to me I had been a programmer at a mid-sized company that had fired me once I started transitioning. Since then I had supposedly had problems finding work in my field with the implication that my former employer was sabotaging me during reference checks.
“Maybe.” I let the conversation trail off. The Doctor of Death wanted to ‘talk’. Sooner or later if he was serious about ‘talking’ to me he would track me down. At work. In public. At home. If I had my old resources, I could have set the time and place of our meeting. Now the best I could do was walk unto his turf as prepared as I could be.
The next day, after Julie left for work, I opened the secret concealed safe in the closet. I had kept a few items from the old days for a rainy day. A small stun blaster, personal shield generator, passkey for my last hidden base, and a drone remote. The stun blaster was small and boxy with a wide stubby barrel. Not flashy enough to be intimidating and not powerful enough to use in a firefight. At best it could give me an opening to run away. I wasn’t thrilled with only taking a dinky little stun blaster but it was better than going unarmed. I shoved it in my purse and headed to The Doctor’s office.
The address from “Benjamin Ford’s” card was an office suite in a medical plaza building adjacent to a hospital. Not a bad setup. Backup power from the hospital’s power grid, access to medical supplies, and multiple pick-up points for delivery of ordered goods. The hospital was also good for discouraging superhero attacks. No hero wants to be caught on the evening news breaking through a hospital wall even if they are taking down a supervillain.
His suite was on the on the first floor which probably meant he probably had basement access which was good for hiding movements or escape. I passed the bank of elevators and found the suite. Inside was every waiting room ever made. A few lightly padded chairs around a coffee table littered with old magazines. At the back a woman sat behind a an old style office desk covered with papers, folders, two phones, and a control panel of switches. She smiled and greeted me warmly. Interesting, I had expected her to be walled off not out in the open.
I smiled and tried to sound chipper, “Hi, I’m Melody Parks. I’m here to see Benjamin. We’re old friends and he said I could drop by anytime to see him. Could you let him know I’m here.?”
The receptionist, name-tag Susie, shifted her left hand out of sight while picking up the phone with her right. Hidden gun maybe or controls for a defense system. I shifted my hand closer to the top of my purse where I had stashed the stun blaster.
“Dr. Ford, a Melody Parks is here to see you,” she flashed me another smile while listening to “Dr. Ford”. “Okay, I send her right in.” Her left hand reappeared, empty, and pressed switch on the control panel. A loud thump from the door leading back into the rest of the office indicated some sort of heavy deadbolt system being mechanically opened. “Go right in he’s expecting you.”
“Thank you,” I said and flashed her another smile. I walked down a short hallway passing a couple of empty exam rooms until I came to a closed door marked Dr. Benjamin Ford. It opened before I could knock and Doctor Death stood in the doorway.
He smiled and ushered me into the room, “Hey I’m glad you came by. Come in and sit down.” The room oddly enough looked like a regular doctor’s office. He cleared off a chair covered with file folders and motion for me to sit. I hesitated. Was the chair rigged with restraints or shock points or both? There was another chair next to the one he cleared also covered with file folders. Had he selected this chair randomly between the two or was the second chair just to throw me off? I shoved my hand into my purse gripping the stun blaster as I sat down.
Nothing happened. It was just a chair.
He continued talking, “I’m sorry for the other day. I’m adjusting to a new med. Got a little excited seeing you after so long.”
“No, you weren’t that bad,” I said pulling my hand out of my purse, “You caught me off guard mostly.”
“Yes. Well, how have you been?” he asked taking a seat behind the desk in the room. He was smiling, eyes darting around my face and body. Studying my new appearance.
“I’ve been fine. Working retail sucks but I’m finally who I’m supposed to be.” That’s what he wanted to hear, it’s what they all want to hear.
“That’s great but what happened to you? You just disappeared and then I see you working in a retail store?” He leaned forward resting his arms on the desk.
“What was I supposed to do transition ‘on the job’?” I asked.
“Well, not exactly but you could have gone to ground for a while and come back when you were ready.”
“I’m sure the League of Evil has a gender non-discrimination policy,” I snarked.
“Not exactly but we’re villains not inhumane monsters,” he said.
“You think they would have respected me like this?”
“Like this no. But in your battle suit, armed with whatever new weapons system you just invented, and backed by your henchmen? Yes. I would have respected you. I still do.”
“Thank you. It doesn’t really matter. I’ve given up being a villain. I have a new life. An ordinary life working retail. I have a girlfriend I love. I’m happy with my life.” I had said these things to myself so many times but never to another person. Hearing them out loud was different than just repeating them to myself.
“I glad you’re happy,” he said.
“I am,” I said.
“So, I guess you wouldn’t be interested in doing a small job for me? No field work. I just need a tech genius.”
I should say no. I just said I’m done with that life. I’ve got a good life with a great girlfriend. I only met with The Doctor so he wouldn’t feel the need to track me down later. This was supposed to be a final goodbye to that life.
Instead I said, “What’s the job?”
Next issue: The Scientist of Death takes on a job for Doctor Death.