'The Suzumiya And Tsuruya Solve The World's Mysteries With Excitement And Style Detective Agency' was a long name for a small office in an alley off a main street, but they liked it that way. Haruhi liked the way that the name took up the whole of the small front window, concealing the insides of the office from the view on the street, because she thought this fulfilled the need for a detective's office to be mysterious to everyone who walked past. This was also why she liked the office space; it was hard to miss, because there were few other doorways in the alley, but sufficiently suspicious to satisfy Haruhi's list of items that were essential for every detective to successfully solve mysteries. As well as 'suspicious and mysterious office!' the list also included items like 'a really big old desk', 'a mysterious pet' and 'a pipe like the ones Sherlock Holmes had in that movie'. (Haruhi only tried to smoke the pipe once, and she coughed and declared it a disgusting habit that she was never going to indulge in again, but true to her list, she kept it in a prominent position on her desk for all her clients to see.) She'd drawn up the list the very same day that they decided to go into business together, and the first thing she wrote on the list was 'Tsuruya and Haruhi'.
"Because we're an unbeatable crime fighting team!" she said, when Tsuruya asked her about it. "Even though we won't be a proper detective agency without all the other stuff, as long as we stick together we'll always get to the bottom of things!" Tsuruya still keeps the list in her desk drawer.
Tsuruya liked the location of their office because there was a coffee shop on the corner of the laneway, so she could get herself a hot chocolate every morning on her way to work. They had a kitchen in the office where she made tea and instant coffee for their clients, but she liked a proper hot chocolate with lots of froth, and she couldn't make that with their little office kettle. And the rent was cheap. Haruhi didn't tend to keep an eye on things like their expenses, but Tsuruya was mindful of the fact that getting evicted was usually bad for business.
She was running just a little bit one morning due to a queue at the coffee shop when she found a young man waiting outside their office, looking furtive.
"Yoo hoo!" she said, happily, making him jump. "Tsuruya-chan, at your service!"
"I'm Kyon." He looked at her cautiously. "Tsuruya? You're Tsuruya the detective?"
"Assistant detective, but yep, that's me!"
"Oh, thank god," he said, "I've been wanting to come inside, it's cold out here and it doesn't look that good to be standing in an overcoat in front of a detective agency…"
"Why are you out here, though?" she frowned. "You could just go inside."
"But the sign on the door says…"
Tsuruya looked at the 'closed' sign in the door window and turned the handle. "Sorry," she said, apologetically. "Come inside."
"Tsuruya!" Haruhi said, jumping up from where she had been sitting with her feet propped on her desk, and then sitting back down and trying to look a bit more mysterious when she realised that Tsuruya had brought a guest with her. "I mean, hello there, sir."
"Why did you leave the closed sign up when you were already here?" Tsuruya asked, with her hands on her hips. "You left our new client out in the cold!"
"We can't just let anyone in," Haruhi insisted. "To be a true detective you have to maintain an air of being out of reach! If clients really need our help, they'll be desperate enough to hammer on the door and shout that they'll do anything for us to solve a case, or maybe even break in through the fire escape!"
Kyon looked startled and turned to Tsuruya for reassurance, but the other girl had a small smile on her face as she shook her head. "Typical Haruhi!" she said. "Kyon-kun, you sit yourself down and talk to Suzumiya-san while I get you some tea."
Haruhi watched Kyon like a hawk. He lowered himself gingerly into the seat opposite her desk, as though he expected someone to accuse him of doing something wrong at any moment. "Hello, Kyon," she said.
"Call him Kyon-kun!" Tsuruya shouted, from the kitchen.
"You don't care what I call other people!" Haruhi yelled back.
"They're not clients."
"Fine," Haruhi sighed. "Kyon-kun, I'm Suzumiya Haruhi, Super Detective! And I see you've already met Tsuruya-chan, my partner."
"Assistant Detective!" Tsuruya corrected her again, over the rumble of the kettle.
"Your name's on the window, isn't it?"
"I don't want people thinking I run the operation," said Tsuruya, ducking her grinning face around the doorframe. "It's super fun being a detective, but I really just help out. Haruhi-chan's the real genius here!"
"I hope you can both help me," said Kyon, smoothly, and Tsuruya disappeared again with a giggle.
"We can solve even the weirdest and most mysterious cases," Haruhi said. "So tell me about your problems, Kyon-kun."
"Well, I work for the government…"
"Really?" Haruhi leaned forwards on the desk, her eyes shining. "What do you do? Are you an assistant to the Prime Minister who suspects a key minister of suspicious behavior but you can't prove it without damaging the government's reputation?"
"Oh. Well, are you a low-level employee in Parliament, like a librarian or a security guard, and you overheard something scandalous and it's not enough evidence to make any accusations and risk losing your job, but it's so important your conscience won't let you forget about it?"
"Are you a spy?"
"If I were a spy, why would I need to go to a private detective?"
Haruhi jumped suddenly as a large tortoiseshell cat jumped up on her shoulder. She tried to pull it down into her lap and stroke it while she made a thoughtful expression, but it wriggled out of her hands and started walking over the top of the desk, messing up all her notes. Mercifully, Tsuruya returned and shooed it away so that she could set the tea tray down on the edge of the desk. The cat jumped down into Kyon's lap, which made Tsuruya frown and try to tell it off, but Kyon didn't seem bothered. The cat even settled down when he started stroking it.
"It looks like Shami likes you!"
"His name is Shamisen," Haruhi explained, frowning at her cat's disloyalty. "I named him! He used to be a stray."
"So tell us about yourself, Kyon-kun," Tsuruya said. "What do you need our help for?"
"Oh, right. Well, like I was just telling Suzumiya-san, I work for the government. Nothing exciting," he added, apologetically. "I work on statistical research for the Department of Education."
"Boring," Haruhi muttered.
She and Tsuruya glared at each other for a moment before Haruhi met Kyon's eyes with a smile again. "Nothing! Tell us about your mysterious problem!"
"Well, I know it seems weird, but I think one of my workmates has been stealing my things."
"What? That's all it is? Go to the police if you have a thief!"
"It's not like it's stuff I can report! It's really weird things, like photos, or letters from my sister." He hesitated. "I think someone's stalking me. At first it was just stuff from work that's been going missing, but lately I've noticed a couple of things missing from around my house. I don't know who's doing it, but it's seriously creepy, and some of these things were really important to me. So can you please help me figure out who it is?"
Haruhi regarded him with a long stare, as though sizing him up. Shamisen butted his head against Kyon's hand to remind him to keep patting him, and Tsuruya started to pour the tea.
"Nope," Haruhi said, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Too boring. Tsuruya, why don't we try calling the Scientologists again and see if we can get some business there?"
"What do you mean, 'too boring'?" Kyon demanded. Tsuruya handed him a cup of tea and he took an angry gulp before setting it down on the table. "It's a case, isn't it?"
"I'm here to solve serious mysteries! I only care about cases that are deeply intriguing or have a huge impact on the world!"
"You don't think me being stalked is intriguing? That's prime scandal!"
"I could read a story about stalking any time I want! I just have to go down to the news stand and buy a magazine!"
"Haruhi-chan," said Tsuruya, sweetly, "Don't forget to drink your tea."
Haruhi took a big gulp of tea just like Kyon did and almost choked on it.
"Now, I know stalking all seems very commonplace, but we don't know what the stalker's motives are," Tsuruya continued, while Haruhi was getting her breath back. "It may simply be an unhealthy interest, but for all we know they could be trying to steal Kyon's identity for a nefarious plot, or maybe Kyon is really the next in line to be Emperor and he doesn't know, so political assassins are investigating him to try and figure out the right time to pick him off!"
"Um, I really don't think…"
Tsuruya held up a finger to silence Kyon and gave him a quick wink when Haruhi wasn't looking. "Besides, Suzumiya, we could really use the money," she added, in a low voice.
Haruhi gave Kyon another measured look as she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand, but she was sizing him up now, considering the offer. "You're right, Tsuruya. We don't know what kind of evil intentions someone could have for stealing Kyon's family photos."
"Great!" Tsuruya stood up and took the tea tray with her, flashing them both a wide grin. "You'd better get started gathering background for our investigation, Suzumiya-san! I'll go and work out our fee."