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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“I will do that right now, just to show you I am not inebriated.” Benny stood up and swayed slightly before fixing his gaze on the barman and heading towards him, hoping with every step that his namesake Roger didn’t move at all.

 

Closer to the fire, Mr and Mrs Jones were watching the snow fall. Betty Jones was worried that their taxi might not be able to reach them on Saturday to take them back to the station.

 

“What should we do, Barry, if they can’t fetch us – we’ll have to try and walk there through the snow and me with my ankles and all.”

 

“It’ll probably all be melted by Thursday, you know how the weather changes quickly these days, try not to worry so much Betty love, try and live in the moment more often.”

 

“You and your buddhist tapes, I wish you wouldn’t keep referring to them all the time and showing off your learning to everyone.”

 

“I am not showing off, I am trying to give you the benefit of my knowledge, as you are constantly looking forwards all the time and not enjoying the present moment. I am trying to help.”

 

“I don’t need your help Barry Jones to live my life; I’ve done alright so far, oh who was that out there? I thought I saw someone out there – we should go to reception and tell them. It might be the missing man that they were talking about earlier.”

 

“It’s 9:55 p.m. should anyone ask us, right let’s go and tell the receptionist what we saw. You tell her and I will go and look out of the window in our room to see if I can see anything.”

 

The Jones’s got up and said “Hello” to Mr Aneurin James who was returning from the airing room where his outdoor clothes were almost dry. Mr James walked back to his chair where he continued to read his book on the Roman Empire, a much abridged version of a classic, but not, as he was always quick to point out, a Reader’s Digest book. He glanced over at the Smith’s who seemed to be completing one of the hotel’s own jigsaws of cherry blossoms in Kyoto. How odd it seemed to him that a young woman should be so interested in a jigsaw puzzle; surely she would be more suited to a disco or going on the town, not that this hotel was conveniently located for such pleasures.

 

Clifford and Margaret Benson were talking to Andrew Croft about the walking opportunities in the area.    

 

“We were thinking of walking down to Frisby Magna in the morning and then perhaps along by the river; it looked really lovely down there,” said Margaret Benson.

 

Andrew smiled – “I am not sure you’ll be able to go that far, but if you can get out of the hotel and walk to the woods, you should be able to get to Frisby without a problem and there probably won’t be much snow by the river.”

 

“And coming back – will that be a problem if it gets icy?” asked Clifford.

 

“It might well become icy soon after it becomes dark and in those woods it will be cold all day, so be careful of those slippery roots; of course you could always head down through Farmer Clarke’s fields although he seems to be keeping his bulls out this year, or at least he has so far.”

 

“A man in the pub in Frisby told us to avoid his land as he’s not a very sympathetic character,” said Margaret.

 

“Was that the landlord?”

 

“A man sitting in the corner on his own,” said Clifford, “wearing a flat cap and carrying a thumbstick. He was probably a rival farmer, perhaps?”

 

“More than likely Jackie Cheyne, who sold some of his farm to Clarke about 4 years ago, and regretted it afterwards and is still bitter about it, by the sound of things.”

 

“We’ll stick to the woods I think; I wouldn’t want us to get involved in any disputes between fighting farmers,” continued Margaret.

 

“I am sure they don’t fight each other,” said Clifford.

 

“We aren’t taking the risk,” replied Margaret pointedly staring at her husband.

 

Andrew Croft had been a hotelier for long enough to know to obey the voice in his head, which was screaming “Time to go, time to leave, withdraw, let them alone.”

 

“I should go and attend to the other guests,” he said, diplomatically and walked over to talk to Miss Baxter, who was cradling a large gin and tonic and reading a book on Italy.

 

“Hello, Miss Baxter, how are you?”

 

“I am fine, thank you, and you can call me Penny, if you wish – Miss Baxter makes me sound like a spinster.”

 

“Right you are, Penny,” said Andrew, “what brings you here on a day like this?”

 

“I had a few day’s holiday remaining and I saw your offer of a few days almost certainly cut off from most of the outside world, although I have to say you have surpassed yourself in respect of the weather.”