Knowles headed out into the swirling snow. The wind was blowing quite hard as he walked towards the car park. He thought he heard a noise, like a door closing, behind him, but when he looked around there was no one to be seen. He reached the Landrover and inspected it closely; nothing had been tampered with, although the snow almost reached the top of the tyres. He would still be able to drive away, if necessary. He walked past the semi-collapsed stone wall and saw the hut ahead. He looked down on the ground and saw no prints at all. The hut was made from stone and had a corrugated iron roof. Moss grew on most surfaces. The glass in the windows was mainly intact, although a couple of panes had been shot at by airgun pellets and were semi-shattered. Knowles thought he heard a noise inside the hut. He went to try and open the door and then everything became an inky blackness.
The next thing Knowles knew was that hot air was being blown into his ear and something warm and sticky was caressing his face. The back of his head hurt like hell and he could feel some matted blood at the base of his neck. He opened an eye and saw a dog standing over him looking very pleased with itself. The dog looked vaguely familiar. Snow was still falling. He looked around with both eyes and saw he was lying on the edge of some woods by a field. His watch said 7:30 p.m.
“Bingo, Bingo, where are you?” shouted a familiar voice. The dog barked loudly and ran off. “Am I in Goat Parva?” thought Knowles and his head began to throb. He tried to stand up, but his head span and he fell in a crumpled heap.
The dog came running and stood over him barking loudly. Each bark sounded like a gong being struck to Knowles.
“What is it boy?” said the voice, and there was a shriek. “Bingo, you have to stop doing this”. Adelaide Hills brought herself under control and said matter-of-factly, “Bingo, because you have found this body, we shall have to go back to Betty’s and phone that nice Inspector Knowles and tell him all about it.”
“Actually,” said Knowles from the ground, “that nice Inspector Knowles is already here, in fact that nice Inspector Knowles is the body on this occasion. Thank you, Bingo, what a lovely dog you are. Now, Adelaide, tell me where are we?”
“We are on the Black Hill near Frisby Magna,” replied Adelaide.
“And you have walked all the way from Goat Parva in this weather?”
“Oh no, I drove over here by the river road to see my friend Betty, but Bingo needed a walk didn’t you Bingo, yes you did…” Bingo barked and jumped around enthusiastically and even though his head hurt, Knowles smiled.
“Adelaide can you look at the back of my head using your torch and see what the damage is?”
Adelaide Hill did as she was asked – “You’ve been hit on the back of the head with a blunt instrument by the looks of it.”
“Yes, I thought as much,” said Knowles with a large hint of irony.
“Just stay still, Inspector, I will clean the wound with some snow, it would appear you have been dragged along the ground for a few yards. I will use my scarf as a bandage.”
“Can you shine your torch over there?” said Knowles after Adelaide Hills had finished her bandaging.
Adelaide shone her torch in the direction he was pointing in – the hotel was about three hundred yards away.
“I was inspecting a hut in the trees over there when I was hit,” said Knowles, “and that’s about 400 yards away. Was I dragged all that way?”
Adelaide played the torch down his back – “You haven’t been dragged for that distance because you’d be far dirtier and more unkempt than you appear, I would say you were carried here and then dumped, so that you wouldn’t be visible from the path. That’s terrible, you were left in an exposed place, in the woods you’d have been warmer. We have to get you inside – can you stand?”
Knowles rose gradually and had to lean on Mrs Hills for a minute before the muscles in his legs registered the body weight and held him upright.
“Here’s my stick, Inspector.” Knowles took the proffered stick and leant on it gratefully.
“You need blood sugar, Inspector, so I suggest you suck a couple of these sweets, they will give you boundless energy, which is the effect they have on Bingo, isn’t it boy?”
Bingo barked with glee and Mrs Hills gave them two sweets each.
“Can we head to the hotel?” asked Knowles, “will that be alright, Adelaide?”
“Yes, I will be fine, we can walk for miles can’t we Bingo?”
Bingo barked in agreement and ran off towards the stile. Knowles looked down at Clarke’s farm – the bulls were no longer sheltering by their barn, but seemed to be more spread out. The wind must have died down and the temperature had risen as a result.
“These sweets are quite tasty, what brand are they? asked Knowles as he reached the stile.
“I buy them in bulk, I forget their name, I can let you know, the bag will be with the rest of Bingo’s food supplies.”
Knowles stopped sucking the sweets – “you mean…”.
“Oh yes…didn’t I mention that, they are dog treats…I did mention that, I am sure I did.”
Knowles shook his head slowly, but kept the sweets in his mouth, as he concentrated on climbing the stile, which seemed like Mt Everest all of a sudden.