I stuff everything but the new shoes into the two backpacks and head out. I'm hoping if anyone is watching, they think I just bought the shoes and the bag. The record of the purchase isn't itemized so I should be okay. I keep the old shoes in the bottom of my old backpack and head towards the club. The sun has already setting so I won't have to wait too long for it to open. I hope. After walking for an hour, I decide I'm probably close enough to make a stop and change my clothes. There's a coffee shop and I dart inside. The shop is a deep open space filled with old sofas pointed in all different directions. Each sofa is already filled with folks on their handhelds reading or writing or dozing off. I order a coffee and get the code for the bathroom. Someone is already inside so I stand near by and wait for my coffee to come out. 2 people walk in the front door. They're the same that I saw in the Automat. I look away and take a deep breath.
It's okay. Everything is working well. I have nothing to worry about yet. I pace around a bit and try to peek around the back of the counter for a back door. There are double doors that lead into a kitchen, but that's all I see. My legal name gets called for the coffee and I walk up to counter and take it. The bathroom door still hasn't opened. I take a sip of my coffee and look over the cup for my new friends. They are ordering right now. I sit down on a sofa and blow the steam off the top of the cup. They move over to the pick up area and the bathroom door opens. I walk behind them and into the bathroom. They probably saw me go inside, but they won't see me come out. Inside, I change into my new clothes and gently take the grape juice can out of the old backpack and place it down in the new backpack and place the rolled up cloak next to it. I find an old eyeliner in the bottom of my bag and make up my face a bit before throwing all the old things into the trash bin. I step back and look at myself in the mirror. A giant mass of black, will I be harder to notice or harder to miss? My bright pink hair has to be a give away. Should I put the cloak on to get out of the door? I want to try to save it to get out of the club tonight if they find me there after all this. I step back to the door and listen. I can hear some people chatting and orders being called. The door lock is an old fashioned turn style. Could I lock it as I leave, so that they think I am still in the bathroom and get a head start out? That is, if they don't see me leave in the first place? I crack open the door and look outside. There's a large group of teenagers trying to place orders. I just need to wait for them to crowd around back here and then I'll be able to sneak out. There's got to be a door on the other side of the kitchen. Right? I count down from 50 and then creak the door, slip out and shut it behind me. I'm not sure if it locked. The teens are yelling and a few turn to look at me. I dart through to the kitchen without looking back at the sofas. My heart is racing as I enter the kitchen. 2 people in white aprons are standing by a dish machine. 1 is sucking on a vaporizer and the other is balancing a cup on their ankle.
I desperately look for an EXIT sign but can't find one. "Yall have a backdoor?" I ask.
The smoker exhales a huge cloud of green vapor and asks,
"I'm uh..." fuck. Sometimes I can feel my ability to talk to people just slip away. There it goes in that cloud of green vapor, disappearing into the air.
The person with the cup on their ankle reaches back and grabs it before asking, "Are you like... looking for Dragon?"
"Yes." I sigh with relief. Sure why not. They turn to their coworker.
"Dragon's always giving folks weird code words like "backdoor" and "twilight creature." They explain.
"Strange Sisters..." I say with a smile.
"Yeah! Yeah like... weird... wizards." They slowly put together. Now both of them are giggling.
"Griffin Gateway..." I should stop before I fuck this up.
"Haha! Yeah that dude's a mysterious sorta dude."
Just then, someone from the front pokes their head through the doors behind me.
"Could one of you help me out? I have like 12 teas to brew, all with different timers." They look at me and then back to the other 2 who leap to attention.
"Yeah! Um! Dragon is upstairs! You gotta get to the elevator in the alley. Just go out the front and around!" They say as they push me out the double doors with them. "I gotta show them to Dragon real quick, I'll be back in a second, Julia!" They call over their shoulder as the rush me through the teenagers and down the aisle of sofas. I try to hide behind them but halfway to the door, I lock eyes with 1 of the plainclothes cops sitting on a sofa. I let my eyes wander past them and back around to the front door that we are now walking out. Do they know that I know? They will if they track me back to that bathroom trash can.
"Dragon's up these stairs." They pant at me after leading me outside and pointing to a fire escape. "Go up those stairs and in through that window. He's the last door at the end of the hall. You gotta knock 5 times."
"Thanks" I say and head up the steps. I start to poke my head through the window and then turn around to see if they are still there. They are. And they're waving at me with 1 hand and holding a thumbs up with the other. I turn make and stuff myself through the window. Once inside, I look down, I've gotten dirt all over my new dress and pants. But I have to admit, climbing through a window with these sneakers is a lot easier than in skates. I walk down the hallway. Maybe there's a back door I can take out of here. There are a few doors. All of them have locking knobs and none of them have an EXIT sign over them. What a strange building. Is that window really the only way up here? There must be a way out through one of these doors.
I take a deep breath and slowly try to turn one.
I turn around and face another door and try to turn that one.
Again, no luck.
I wonder who the hell this Dragon person is. They must work in the underground because why else would they be in this weird building with no front door, code words with the employees downstairs and all that. Maybe they'll let me check my CASH balance on their handheld. What the hell am I going to say to them?
I stand still for a moment and decide to take a minute to figure that out. I mean this person could make a big difference in me getting away. I walk back over to the window. I can see one of my new cop friends standing on the side walk on their handheld. I step back away from the window so they won't spot me. They are probably still tracking my location here at the building so they will probably just wait for me to get out. My best bet is really a backdoor from Dragon. Can my luck give me another basement exit? I'll just tell Dragon the truth. I'll offer them some CASH to get me out of here. Hopefully they aren't so paranoid of cops that they push me back out the window. I'll say I'm a friend of Julia's from downstairs. That might help to get them to trust me.