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.
He retraced his steps with difficulty and stomped along the path to the woods. In places, the snow had not yet completely penetrated the canopy and the torch picked out areas of black soil, which had given this hill its original name of Black Hill. The local council had decided in the 1950s to give Black Hill a less sombre name and had originally decided on Frisby Magna Hill, which everyone had shortened to Frisby Hill including the person who’d built the hotel in 1961.
Andrew shone his torch along the path to Frisby Magna and noticed there were some footprints in the snow, which appeared to be heading towards Frisby. There was a discarded cigarette stub in the roots of a tree. Walking here was easier and he followed the path around for about 500 yards, but he didn’t see any more signs of life other than a fleeting glimpse of a fox in the undergrowth. As he turned around, Andrew saw a figure hopping over the stile into the grounds of the hotel. He quickened his pace, taking care not to slip on the exposed roots. He arrived at the stile about 5 minutes after seeing the figure and shone his torch on to the ground. There were tracks heading to the back door and another set heading past the garage to the car park at the front of the hotel. He followed the ones around to the front. The tracks went past reception, so he popped his head in through the front door.
“Annette, did you see someone pass the door about 5 minutes ago?”
Annette looked up slightly startled “Andrew, you look like you’ve just arrived from the South Pole. No, I didn’t see anyone pass by, but I might not have been here, because Candy Smith spilled her drink and we needed to clean the table and clear up the glass.”
“Really, who’s in the lounge now?”
“There’s no one in there, they’ve all gone to get ready for dinner.”
“All of them?”
“Can you check to see if there’s any wet wellingtons in the changing room?”
“I will do, just hold on.” Annette jogged to the back of the hotel and soon came back.
“That’s odd, there’s one pair with snow on, the size 12s, but I was there when people headed to their rooms and none of them went for a walk in the snow.”
“Well, that is odd, because there’s a trail out here too. I will follow it, but can you check with Wendy, Mathilde, and Angelique and see if they headed outside for any reason.”
“I can’t imagine they would, Andrew, but I will ask them, but none of them have size 12 feet.”
“Thank you, Annette,” said Andrew and closed the door.
He followed the tracks to the car park and they came to a dead end beside the car parking space for Room 8, which was occupied by a vehicle covered in about two feet of snow. Andrew carried on towards the main road and saw some more tracks coming from the road towards the hotel, but they stopped by the outside wall. Someone was playing games unless Mr Wooster had arrived and become horribly disoriented in the snow, but surely Annette would have said “Robert Wooster has arrived” or words to that effect? Andrew was beginning to tire, but he battled against the wind and arrived at the main road. He could see the warning lights at the bottom of the hill flashing that the road was passable only with extreme care. No buses would be coming down the hill for several days and he doubted any taxis would make the hazardous trip with the one-in-five gradient putting them off. The snow was increasing in intensity with every passing moment and the wind was starting to cause drifts against the walls of the hotel. It was time to go back inside.
Andrew sat down exhausted in the changing room. The tracks to the back door had almost disappeared, but Andrew had the presence of mind to compare them with his own Size 8 wellingtons and they were the same size, just like the ones he’d followed to the front of the hotel. The only answer was that someone had their own wellingtons or other boots and had taken the Size 12s to throw him off the trail. The Size 12s had not been worn in any great depth of snow as they were dry just above the sole, so the person had just pushed them into the snow and then returned them to the changing room.
“Come to think of it,” thought Andrew, “how many pairs were here when I started this investigation? I was put off by the torch and didn’t check, but I am nearly 100% sure those Size 12s weren’t there because I would have noticed them as they were right by the back door.”
Andrew walked to the bar, poured himself a triple whiskey and downed it in one go. The Lounge was empty apart from Roger stacking the wood neatly by the fire.
“Heh, Roger,” said Andrew, “when you went outside earlier did you see any tracks in the snow?”
“Not the first time, no” replied Roger, “the second time, just now, I saw two sets of tracks, both of a similar size, yours and another set I presume. But I tell you what, my tracks from earlier had already been covered up.”