This excerpt is from the book entitled The Black Hill Hotel Mystery an English Murder Mystery book set in the winter countryside, starring two policemen who have been working together for a few years and get along well.

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“They probably did, but there were no tracks out there as the snow had covered them up, even after 10 minutes.”

“Well it’s a heavy fall that’s for sure, anyway I should go back and talk to Mr Aneurin James for a few minutes longer. I would talk to that couple to the left of the fire, but they seem locked in some deeply meaningful conversation.”

 

“That would be Room 6, my namesake Benny Scott and his friend Cloda, both drinking real ale.”  

 

“You have such a good memory for names.”

 

“Well, Annette, I do for people who introduce themselves and who drink the Wobbly Bob real ale. I think we might run out of that the way they’re going.”

 

“There’s some more on order,” said Andrew Croft as he put his arm around his partner Annette’s waist, “and it should arrive by the end of the week. I asked for four barrels or casks this time as the news has got around that we serve good drinks here.”

 

“Has Robert Wooster arrived, Andrew?” asked Annette stepping aside to allow Mr Benny Scott a clear path to the toilet by the side of the bar.

 

“That’s why I came in, because in his email he said he’d be arriving at around 3pm probably on the local bus and yet he’s not here and he’s not answering his phone. His key is still on the rack at reception, so he’s not sneaked in. He said he’s been here before and asked for Room 8. I was getting a bit worried that he might be stuck somewhere or might have fallen down or something. I am going to put my wellingtons on and have a look around the grounds and go up to the road.”

 

“Take care, Andrew,” said Annette, “and put your bobble hat on.”

 

“It messes my hair up,” said Andrew, running his hands through his full head of black hair.

 

Annette pointed her finger at him “I don’t want you catching cold out there and not being fit to help run things.” She was only half-joking as she knew things would be busy in the run up to Christmas.

 

“OK, OK, I’ll wear it,” said Andrew, holding his hands up.

 

“Did you want me to check around the back and head along the path to Clarke’s farm, just to see there’s any sign of him there?” suggested Roger.

 

“Thanks for the offer, I’ll just check along the path with the torch that’s out by the wellingtons, it doesn’t make sense to have both of us out there.”

 

There was a crashing sound and a large slab of snow landed outside the lounge window, causing Anne Martin to jump although Wanda Bowles just glanced at the offending mound and didn’t seem that alarmed.

 

“I will take that as my cue to leave,” said Andrew, “oh look Roger another drink for Miss Baxter.”

 

Roger returned to the bar and served the young lady a Rum and Coke. Annette smiled and headed back to Aneurin James, who had just moved his walking shoes from the airing cupboard to the rack by the back door. The fire crackled in the grate as the flames reached wet wood. A spark flew out of the fire and landed on the fireside rug, causing a wisp of smoke to rise. No one noticed that happening, just as no one noticed that Roger Scott’s glove was no longer hanging from the rail in front of the bar.

 

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Andrew Croft put on his wellingtons, bobble hat, and outdoor coat. He opened a wooden box on the shelf and took out his torch.

 

“That’s strange,” he thought, “I am left-handed and I don’t put the torch in the box that way, but perhaps someone borrowed it?”

 

He opened the backdoor and looked up at the conservatory roof. He decided to knock off some of the snow with the broom hanging on the wall. There was around two feet of snow and he was concerned any great build-up of snow might cause the roof to sag. He grabbed the broom and swished it around for a minute or two covering himself in snow, but removing most of it from the roof. It would have to be done again after dinner if the snow kept on falling at this rate. He put the broom back and closed the door. He headed to the garage where he kept his car, an Audi A3. The lock was on the door although he couldn’t help noticing that the lock was hanging down whereas he normally left it tilted upwards slightly and to the right.

 

Why would someone move the lock like that?” he asked himself. He decided to have a look inside the garage, just in case, but everything looked fine. All his motoring paraphernalia lay undisturbed on the shelf. He locked the door and moved the lock to its normal position.

 

He moved to the shed and noticed Albert asleep on the workbench between the vice and the lathe which Andrew used to restore old furniture in any spare time he had. The cat was fast asleep with his rear paws resting on the top of the vice. If Albert put on any more weight he wouldn’t be able to get through the catflap Andrew had so carefully added to the shed door.

 

Andrew shone the torch towards the stile and headed towards it; he was already finding it difficult to move in the rapidly deepening snow, but he kept going and climbed over the stile before bearing right by the side of the wall. After 50 yards he veered left at the edge of the field. The snow was hitting him in the face now as he was on the exposed part of the hill. He took off his glasses as they were no longer of any benefit. He saw the lights of Clarke’s farm around three-quarters of a mile away. Some black objects were huddled together by a wall and these were presumably the farmer’s prized bulls who were being left outside for the night. They had a good supply of feed in metal hoppers, which had been carefully placed by a wall so as to reduce the amount of snow falling on them. Andrew looked across and thought he saw figure moving through the woods, but it might have been the tree branches moving in the rising wind.