Chapter 8:

(Anastasia) A Congregation of Criminals

Cafe Eris

There is a certain café which I always see on the way to my dentist’s office. Bookmark here

Being in the line of work that I am, I end up going there quite often. Did you know that 1 in 5 chase scenes end in being punched in the teeth? Bookmark here

After getting my teeth re-inserted into my mouth, I usually stop by the café to eat something cold as my Anastas- I mean, Anesthesia...wears off.Bookmark here

Today I was doing just that, after I got punched in the teeth by a small child who looked like my dead brother. He said he was practicing his Racing Gun.Bookmark here

So after I dropped by the dentist’s, I had a rendezvous with my assistant Matéo Sanchez at the café. Bookmark here

As soon as I entered, I noticed something was off. Something...was missing.Bookmark here

Tables? Check. Disharmonious decorations? Check. Girl with an unfortunate workload? Check. Comedian in the 2nd stage of grief? Check. Disagreeable owner? Unfortunately, check. Bookmark here

What was missing? It seems my assistant might know the answer. He rushed to the door, looking pale. Bookmark here

“Sanchez,” I greeted him with a nod.Bookmark here

“Madam Anastasia…” he said, his expression quite desperate. I could tell something was wrong.Bookmark here

“Tell me.”Bookmark here

“Your Baier Easy Breezy 9000-BTU portable air conditioning with window ventilation kit included…” he squeezed his wrist. Bookmark here

“Yes…?”Bookmark here

“It…it has been stolen.”Bookmark here

I paused for a moment, gripped with shock.Bookmark here

“...”Bookmark here

I tipped my fedora, casting a shadow over my eyes. Bookmark here

“I was afraid this day would come…”Bookmark here

“Madam Ana, that is not all…”Bookmark here

“Speak, Sanchez.”Bookmark here

“Your collector’s edition of the Bespicable Me 2 version Game of Living…it…it has been stolen also…”Bookmark here

“Surely, you jest?”Bookmark here

“No Madam, I saw it, I saw it with my own eyes…” Sanchez shook at the memory.Bookmark here

“You saw it disappear? You mean to say you saw the culprit?”Bookmark here

“Yes Madam, but they were in disguise…” Bookmark here

“Sit down, Sanchez.” I took out my typewriter. Sanchez knew what to do. Bookmark here

“They…they were dressed in grey…”Bookmark here

“Grey? An unconventional choice...” Bookmark here

“They- they had a black bandana over their eyes…and…and…”Bookmark here

I paused my typing as he bit his lip. His gaze flitted around the room. He was a nervous wreck.Bookmark here

I took him by the shoulders. “Get a grip, Sanchez. You must tell me what you saw.”Bookmark here

He paused and took a shuddering breath. Just how fearsome was this criminal? Bookmark here

“They were short and portly, their face was round…” he continued slowly, trying to recall the figure.Bookmark here

“Any other distinguishing features?”Bookmark here

“I…no, I think- I…” Bookmark here

I watched as he picked at his unfinished piece of cake. Bookmark here

As I looked back down at my typewriter, he suddenly slammed his fist on the table.Bookmark here

“Their ears! Their ears, Madam! They had the pointiest ears!! Like a devil! Oh Madam, the vile creature!”Bookmark here

“I see…so it doesn’t seem like we are dealing with a professional…” I said, but I had my doubts.Bookmark here

I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something sinister behind this. Else, what could render Sanchez into this incomprehensible fool?Bookmark here

Sanchez clenched his hair, about to tear it out. “Oh Madam Ana, if only I could remember something else…”Bookmark here

“No Sanchez, you did well. Tell me if anything else comes to mind.” Bookmark here

“I will. I will Madam,” he nodded vigorously.Bookmark here

It was time for me to investigate.Bookmark here

------------------------------Bookmark here

“A thief?” The new worker looked pensive. Bookmark here

“Please let me know if you can recall anything of value. Anything at all,” I pressed. Although, I wasn’t expecting too much from this scrawny, oblivious kid. This was a courtesy of sorts.Bookmark here

After thinking for a while, he desisted. Bookmark here

“If it helps, I can give you my shift schedule?” he suggested. “I didn’t see anything when I was at the counter.”Bookmark here

I accepted his offer and continued. But I didn’t find much value: Bookmark here

“Have you seen anything suspicious lately?”Bookmark here

“Have I seen anything suspicious?” said the young man named Dazzle, who was carrying a full mixing console under his arm. Bookmark here

“Have I seen anything suspicious?” he repeated.Bookmark here

“Yes,” I said. “Please answer the question.” Bookmark here

“Please make an appointment,” he stated. Then he was gone. Bookmark here

Next was a woman drinking tea. I recognized her.Bookmark here

“Ms. Lucky, if I’m correct?”Bookmark here

“You are, Miss Anastasia.” Bookmark here

“Well then Ms. Lucky, have you seen anything suspicious lately?”Bookmark here

“I have, Miss. Actually, a lot of things have been disappearing lately. A few bean bags, a lot of food. But actually, for once, the trash can is empty, so that’s quite fortunate. Really set an unpleasant odour in this place.”Bookmark here

“I see, thank you very much.”Bookmark here

At least that was some information. I moved to the next table.Bookmark here

“Have you seen anything suspicious lately?” Bookmark here

“Oh, are you investigating her?” replied a girl with dyed silver hair. Bookmark here

Her? Do you know something?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re looking for a criminal right?”Bookmark here

“That’s right. Do you already know who the thief is?”Bookmark here

“Oh. Thief...I misunderstood. Sorry, wrong person.” Bookmark here

After the girl refused to elaborate, I moved on to the next person. Bookmark here

“Have you seen anything suspicious lately?”Bookmark here

Maisha, the young girl who always had a new pile of work after she’d finished the last, ignored me and continued working. I would like to believe that she simply didn’t hear me because she was concentrating on her work.Bookmark here

After that, I decided to put a hold on collecting information, and create a profile of possible suspects. One thing I had gathered from my investigation is that there was apparently more than one criminal frequenting this café. However, as I made way to sit at a table, I heard a small gasp behind me. Bookmark here

“TRASHLORD!!! THERE YOU ARE!!”Bookmark here

I turned around, and behind me I saw a child of about 8 years old, who I recognized to be the child who punched me in the teeth this morning. Bookmark here

“Ah, young Maruto, what brings you to this humble establi-”Bookmark here

“MISS DETECTIVE MY BUDDY IS GETTING AWAY CAN YOU HELP ME CATCH HIM?!!” the young child interrupted me frantically. Bookmark here

I followed his gaze to see that his ‘buddy’ was a raccoon, and it had a tray of mugs balanced on its back. Bookmark here

Just as it clicked, my assistant let out a scream. “It is him! Madam Ana, it is him I tell you!!!” Bookmark here

Of course, he was pointing at the raccoon. Good God. Bookmark here

As the raccoon - allegedly named Trashlord according to young Maruto - made his escape through a window, I followed suit. Bookmark here

“WAIT FOR MEEEE!!!” screeched Maruto. I stopped, and bent over, swiftly picking the child up and carrying him through the window. The two of us ran out of the alleyway. Bookmark here

“Young Maruto, have you any clue where your buddy may have gone?”Bookmark here


Hence, the two of us made our way to the park. Bookmark here

“COME WITH ME!” said Maruto. He led me to a little expanse of woodland at the edge of the park. Bookmark here

“In there! He’s in there!” he whispered. Bookmark here

“Leave this to me, young Maruto.” It was time for another chase scene. Bookmark here

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After the chase scene - which did not end in being punched in the teeth, thankfully - I was able to discover the creature’s hideout. Bookmark here

As I thought, all of the missing items were right there - the bean bags, the food, and even the Baier Easy Breezy 9000-BTU portable air conditioning with window ventilation kit included - they were all there. Bookmark here

I sighed. In the end it was just a raccoon. Bookmark here

That was the one thing I had overlooked. My young assistant, Mateo Sanchez, had only been working with me for two weeks. I had taken his words and his fear at face value, not considering that perhaps he was just supernaturally cowardly. Bookmark here

But you see, the real mystery was after I had returned all the items to the café. A few weeks later, all of the items had disappeared once again. Bookmark here

The elusive owner insisted it would be in my best interest not to search for them this time. Bookmark here

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