"There was one inside too..." I say, crawling across the rug to the monitor. "I can't recognize them here yet..." The camera pans and then switches to another feed. "Geez. The shop is really big."
"No doors. Cept the bathroom and the kitchen. Gotta have those." Dragon snaps. "We just have to make a diversion to get you out the door and down the block. If you head south and turn at the next building, you will avoid the city cameras for a bit. It might help you get away if they have someone watching from above."
"Thanks." I say. "I don't really know why they are following me..."
"They are probably just hoping you will lead them to a bigger source than yourself. Ahem." Dragon stands up and sits on the opposite side of the rug. "I can think better if I am not as close to the machine." They say, tapping their finger on their hairy chin. I wait several minutes and look back at the camera monitors. The cop outside is still standing there. I think I might see the other cop sitting in the shop but I can't be sure that's them. Security cameras look so terrible. I don't know how any can recognize anyone in them. I guess they just rely on the software to recognize folks. But if they could, then why are there two human cops following me right now? Maybe my hair dye is working after all. Dragon is staring at me. I realize I am touching my hair and I let go and sit up straight, forcing my gaze down on the rug. Dragon stands up and stomps over to the door. "Come on, then." They snap at me and swing the door open, ploughing through down the hallway.
I scramble to get up and find them unlocking a door in the hallway. The door opens out into the hall and inside, Dragon starts pulling out small machines into the halway. "Grab as many as you can but make sure all the peices are together. They walk down the hall and dump them by an outlet and walk back into their apartment. Inside the room is hundereds of humidifiers. There is a box full of the type that you clamp onto a gallon jug of water, and piles of pyramid shaped machines, all crusted over with minerals. The room smells weird and I am glad to grab a few and step back out into the hall. I put them down on the floor by the outlet and walk back to retireve a few more. I stack a few of the pyramid ones int the box of jug attachments and walk them back. Dragon is waiting for me, on the floor taking one apart. "You can put that box of clamp-ons back, I don't have any water jugs up here anymore since we got the water filter fromt he shop routing up here too. I bring them back and pick up two bubble-shaped machines with vacant smiley faces painted on them.
"What are we doing?" I ask.
"Get a knife and start scraping the scale off. If you look inside, you really only need to remove it where the tank attaches to the machine and then on the hole in the top if it looks really bad."
There is a small knife sitting on the floor next to dragons leg and I pick it up and open up one of the bubble machines to inspect it. The scale is harder to remove on some machines than others and Dragon and I both ruin a couple in the process. Dragon tells me to fill up all the tanks while he gets something called ULTRABLACK. "We use this in our Deepest Black Coffee in the shop. It's just dye though, but folks love to buy it because it makes the drink cloudy with black coloring. "We add a little goat's milk to make it look thicker." They explain. "Idiots."
I've heard of Deep Black Coffee but I thought it was a special strain of bean. I don't bother saying this because I already feel too awkward to even ask what the hell we are doing. Dragon drops dye in each of the tanks and gives them a shake as we carry them down the hallway towards the fire escape. "Turn em all up to full blast." They instruct and I start cranking the little plastic wheels and clicking tiny buttons, watching all the LEDs light up. Slowly, deep black vapor starts pouring out of almost all the machines. Dragon cackles. He walks back and opens the door to the humidifier room half way open so it blocks the back half of the halway. We wait as the hallway fills with black vapor. "Don't worry, it's perfectly safe to cosume." They say, giving me a thumbs up. I can feel my hair changing shape.
Dragon scurries over to the fire escape, clouds of black pushing out past him into the street. The lights of the steet are completely obscured. I can't see the building on the other side at all.
"You sir! Will you go in and tell my wife I need some help up here!" There is a pause. "Oh no! It's no emergency I just um... Well it's more like a malfunction, ya know? My wife will be able to fix it." Another pause. "Julia, she's working at the coffee bar!... Thanks so much!" Dragon coughs loudly several times. "No. Thank you sir!"
Their head suddenly appears through the black clouds, now completely filling the hallway. "Go now!" They Grab my arm and pull me through and push me out the window onto the fire escape. I can feel that I'm outside but I still can't see a thing. I climb down the stairs and turn away from the building and run. Suddenly I can see again and the street lights are so bright. My eyes are filled with tears and the air is cold on my wet face. I turn left around the corner of the next building and wipe my eyes and face. I reach around my tunic and into my pants pocket and pull out the handwritten flier. Poltergeist. It's not a far walk from here.