Tuesday, 5th of February, 17:53 [UT 36577590812.27] -- Begin log I opened the door to the local coffee shop, branded with a neon sign spelling "Alpha". Immediately, a strong coffee fragrance enveloped me. The shop appeared mostly empty, a few lonely customers minding their own business on the side. The barista shot me a quick glance before returning her attention to a ruffled magazine. I'm not sure if it was just my impression at the time, but the shop appeared extraordinarily quiet, especially compared to the droning of the sandstorm just outside. All I could hear now was the chime of the doorbell slowly ringing out and the low grumble of the water cookers below the bar. I stood there for a brief moment, taking in the atmosphere. A million specks of dust shone in the beam of light passing through the door window. I could have sworn that I could see the smell of the coffee swirl about in the air. As I stood there I also took a closer look at the locals in the shop. At the far corner sat an old codger, with eyebrows so thick, you could hardly make out whether he was actually awake or not. A few rows before him sat an older couple. The one of the two that resembled a woman shot daggers at me over her knitting. The man with a wide set of shoulders had his back turned towards me. He seemed to be invested in an outdated copy of the town's irregularly published newspaper. The barista herself was a tall piece of work. Slender figure, dark complexion, rough appearance. You could swear that she reeked of cigarettes, if it weren't for the overpowering smell of coffee. Her outfit had seen better days, but then again, everything in this town had. I strode forward to the counter. The barista glanced at me again briefly, threw the magazine to the side, and leaned onto the counter. "What will it be?" she asked, staring me plain in the face. Her expression was completely flat. It was the kind you only see with people that have, although begrudgingly, completely settled into their routine. The kind that would just do their job, get back home, and repeat without giving it any more thought than just that. The kind that was trustworthy, if perhaps not very cooperative. I pointed to the blue emblem on my uniform and smiled. She stared at it for a moment, then back directly at me. "You're not having anything then." "Maybe later. I'm here about the posting. Can you give me the details of the case? The posting was rather brief." "Sure. Come with me." The barista took me through a short corridor, past a ruddy looking bathroom, and into the back room. The back room was musty, the air heavy with dust and cigarette smoke. A single bulb dangling from the ceiling dimly lit it up, bathing everything in a soft yellow. The room was outfitted with a run-down desk, a bookshelf stuffed to the brim with magazines and documents, two chairs, and a small iron safe. On the desk lay an open HC-50 workstation, various parts of its interior electronics spread about. The barista followed my glance. "I like to tinker," she said, a dash of colour appearing on her face. "My name's Fi, by the way". She quickly turned and grabbed a book out of the shelf, and handed it to me. "Here. Should be in the back." Quizzically, I flipped through the pages. They were photos of this room, each labelled with a date. Most photos only showed Fi, with the dates jumping ahead days and months at a time. The last few photos however were only seconds apart, dated last Friday. They showed a strange figure in a dark trench coat with a wide-brimmed hat obscuring the head and face. The figure moved around the room, seemingly searching for something. Judging by the timestamps, the figure left again ten minutes later. Nothing else in the pictures appeared to have changed. I looked at Fi quizzically, "And?" "Odd, right? For a while I thought it was just some weirdo looking for anything to nick, but then... I found this." Fi picked something up from the ground and tossed it to me. It was a small, grey cube. "A transmitter, huh. Interesting," I remarked, studying the little device. "I don't suppose you do anything in here that would be worth the trouble of planting this?" "No idea," she shrugged, "I don't keep much company. Tending to the shop is enough for me, so I mostly keep to myself otherwise." "Hm." I had another look around the room. Indeed, everything still looked much the same as in the photos; nothing obvious was missing or different. "The next question would be if you remember any people that fit the description," I looked back at the photos, "though being as obvious as that I'm sure you would have mentioned it." "Yeah, never seen anyone like that." "Are there any other entrances?" "There is a back entrance, but I keep it locked at all times." "Where were you at the time?" "I'm not too sure. I only discovered this the day after. I might have left the shop for a few minutes around this time, though." "Do you remember who was in the cafe on that day?" "Yeah- the same regulars as now, as well as a drifter." "Can you describe the drifter to me?" "Medium height, very skinny. Thick glasses and dressed like a dork. Had a big backpack full of stuff." "How long did he stay?" "About an hour or so, I wager." "O-key," I scratched my head, "I suppose I should have a word with the rest." Fi and I went back to the shop. A new guest was impatiently tapping his fingers on the counter. Fi went on to business, and I tried to make up my mind about how I wanted to approach this. The outburst from the burly man certainly seemed suspicious, but I wasn't ready to jump to any conclusions quite yet. The thought of having to deal with his wife however convinced me to start with the old geezer in the back first. I sat down opposite of him and put on my most convincing smile. "May I have a few words with you?" "Wuh?" the man looked around himself in confusion, big eyes shining from beneath his eyebrows. "Listen, old-timer. I have some questions for you." "Oh yeah?" "Yeah. You don't seem to be in a hurry, so I'm sure you have some time to answer them. Do you come here often?" "I ain't done nothin'." I sighed, "You like this shop, right? I'm just trying to help Fi out." The man grumbled. "So what if I do." "So, you tell me what I want to know and I'll be out of here in no time flat." The man said nothing, but his eyes tried to burn a hole through my face. I continued on regardless. "You were here last Friday. Do you remember who else was in the cafe at the time?" The man paused for a while before replying. "Yeah. 'side from Fi and me the two over there were also here. Making a right racket they were." "What about?" "Hell if I know, I was just tryin' to have my peace." He avoided my gaze. "Don't care for gossip." "Was there anyone else?" "No." "Not even a random passerby?" "Don't remember anythin' like that." That was strange. "Have you ever been to the back room?" "What would I want there? Steal coffee beans?" The man laughed. "Did you notice anything unusual that day? Aside from the quarrel, that is." "Nah. Quiet day. Jus' the way I like it." I stared at the old man for a while, but then figured I wasn't going to get much more out of him. "Al-right then. Thank you for your time," I put on my best smile again and got up. Something was clearly amiss. The customer from earlier had since gotten his filling and sat in the row between the couple and the geezer. I took a closer look at him. Tall, gruff, dirty uniform, probably a construction worker. Fi had returned to her magazine and didn't seem to pay anyone any mind. I decided to just move on and have a word with the couple. I sat down opposite the dame, next to wide-shoulders, and introduced myself "I'd like to ask you some questions if you don't mind." The dame immediately started into a frenzy. "Why, how rude, who-" the husband interrupted her, eyeing me suspiciously. "What's this about?" I pointed to the blue emblem on my uniform and added "just helping out the shop owner." The man huffed and shrugged his wide shoulders. The dame, however, would not be convinced so easily. She screeched on "I know your kind! I'd recognise those ears anywhere! I don't want anything to do with the likes of you!" I shrugged, "Okey, I'm still going to ask some questions though. Do you remember where you were last Friday?" The man answered, still reading his newspaper. "Yeah, we were here. Came in around noon and stayed for a few hours. That a problem?" "No. It would be one if you had said otherwise. Aside from the two of you, was there anyone else in the cafe at the time?" "That gentleman over there was here, and for a while some boy was around as well. He left pretty soon, though. The youngsters these days can't take a break, always rushing here and there. Can't even take the proper time for a coffee." He stared into the distance for a while and then added with a chuckle "I suppose I was the same when I was his age though." "Did you notice anything unusual?" "Can't say I did." "Did you see anyone go near the back room at any point?" "My wife had to go for number two at one point, but that's it." "Harry!" the dame screeched. Harry made no effort to calm her. "O-key. The old geezer in the back said you had a dispute at some point. Is that right?" "That's none of your business!" the dame shouted, now visibly upset. Harry continued unshaken "yeah that happened alright. You won't believe this! Cindy here thinks I'm committing adultery! Me!" His hands flew all over the place, gesturing angrily. "Unbelievable!" Cindy was staring at her knitting, veins popping out at her hands. It felt like she was going to break her needles any second. "So yes," Harry went on, "we were having 'a little dispute', if you will." Brushing aside the old-couples' drama, I continued "Al-right. Do you remember Fi -- that is, the barista -- leaving at any point?" "Yeah, she went out for a bit, don't know what for." He furrowed his brow "think it was around the same time Cindy went to the toilet." The mention of her name earned him another furious glare. The most suspicious people at this point were the drifter and Cindy, but I had to find at least some amount of solid evidence before I would be able to put the squeezer on her. I decided to investigate the cafe itself and the area around it a bit closer. I got up and excused myself "thanks, that's all for now." First, the hallway connecting the back room and the cafe. Footprints or handprints would have been futile to investigate at this point, so I concentrated on finding anything else that would be out of place. At the end of the hallway, angled away from the door to the back room was the back entrance door, and a window showing the alley it was connected to. The door was closed shut and, sure enough, appeared locked. The lock was a rather old-fashioned mechanical one, though, and someone with the right tools would be able to break in well enough. I turned to the bathroom connected to the hallway. It was a small room with a sink, a small cabinet, and a toilet. Like the rest of the cafe, and very unlike the back room, it was surprisingly clean. The cabinet was full of toilet paper and cleaning utensils. The dim light made it very hard to make out, but I noticed an odd, black rag in the back corner of the cabinet. This black rag turned out to be a vital piece: it unfolded into a trench coat, one that perfectly matched the figure from the recorded photos. The question was now how that coat found its way into the closet. It was unlikely that someone would be able to enter from the front with a coat, but return without one without anyone noticing. I decided to take a closer look at the back alley and stashed the coat back where I got it from. The back alley was connected to the cafe and a small private housing block. Aside from the door to the cafe, there was a small staircase to the apartment block, likely an entrance to utilities. A large dumpster stood in the back of it, swirling flies and all. Idea: - Harry is a retired railway worker - Cindy is a secret agent spying on Harry, under suspicion of him being a local contact for the underground mafia 1. Harry goes to cafe often. 2. Cindy thinks he's going there to see a contact. 4. Cindy goes to the cafe as well, but observes nothing wrong. 5. Decides to sneak into back room to plant a tracker. 6. Using metal detector notices camera in room. Decides to disguise. 7. Stashes trench coat outside the backdoor -- can't break in now as she might get seen. 8. Joins cafe as guest with Harry. 9. When Fi leaves, Cindy pretends to go to the toilet and breaks through the back door to get the coat. 10. Then sneaks into the back room and plants the tracker. 11. She notices Fi coming back as she's about to leave, so can't exit through back door. 12. Stashes coat in toilet cabinet. 13. Can't easily retrieve the coat without being noticed. Before having a proper opportunity the stranger shows up.