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 am well thank you; is it about the person we saw outside?”

 

“It is about that – what time was this and did you see where they were heading?”

 

“Well my wife saw the figure heading towards the stile at the back of the hotel about 10 minutes ago.”

 

“Really? Was it someone she recognised from the hotel?”

 

Mr Jones turned around and passed on the question to his wife who came to the door to explain.

 

“I don’t believe it was one of the guests, because I think all the men from the hotel were in The Lounge at the time.”

 

“Well, thank you for passing on that information – I suppose I should investigate by going outside again. I hope you get a good night’s sleep.”

 

The Jones’s thanked Andrew and closed the door.

 

Andrew asked Wendy to remain at the reception. He opened the front door and could see no one had either entered or exited the entrance hall for several hours. He rescued the welcome mat from around a foot of windblown snow and placed it on the bench where people normally sat if they were taking off their outside shoes before entering. After closing the door he walked towards The Lounge. Aneurin James wished him pleasant dreams – Mr James was going to read in bed. Margaret and Clifford Benson were close behind – they were going to work out their route for the following day on their detailed Ordnance Survey map. As it was their first night in the hotel, Andrew reminded them breakfast would start at 8:00 am.

 

He told Annette and Roger Scott he was going outside again, just to check what the Jones’s had said. Everything was where he’d previously left it in the seating area: torch, boots, and outside coat were all present and correct. All six pairs of guest wellingtons were there. He dressed quickly and headed outside again. It was colder now and the snow was still coming down thickly. There were some tracks in the snow heading to the stile, but he couldn’t be certain how old they were. He followed them down the side of the hotel where the snow was thicker and lost them outside the restaurant window. He was cooling down rapidly and decided to head back inside, but first he opened the shed and picked up Albert the cat, who was watching the snow fall from the shed window.

 

“Time for you to come inside, Mister Cat,” said Andrew.

 

Albert gave him a condescending look as if to say, I am alright I have a fur coat, but allowed himself to be carried inside before jumping down and heading to sit on the mantelpiece over the fireplace.

 

Andrew took off his wellingtons and outdoor clothes and headed into The Lounge where the only people remaining were The Smiths, who had stopped putting together jigsaws, and Wanda Bowles and Ann Martin who were holding hands and watching the snow fall.

 

Annette came over to him with a glass of brandy.

 

“Anything out there, Andrew?”

 

“There were some tracks, which were sort of fresh, but they were only going one way, so I wonder whether the person carried on walking to Frisby or possibly doubled-back behind the shed and woodpile.”

“The same size boots as before?”

 

“Yes, I believe they were – oh goodnight, pleasant dreams.” Wanda Bowles and Anne Martin waved in response as they weaved their merry way out of the Lounge, giggling slightly in the process.

 

“Is someone messing us around or are they looking for something?” asked Annette.

 

“I have no idea; in the morning I will check all the outbuildings in the daylight and make sure no one has been hiding in them or sleeping rough. Have those two completed any more jigsaws?”

 

“No, they half did the Parthenon one – it’s only about 200 pieces – and looked underneath and saw nothing so they broke it up again.”

 

“Odd – they are definitely looking for something then, oh here they come.”

 

“Is it OK, if we take our drinks to our room,” said Mr Smith in a rather thick Birmingham accent, “only we’re feeling a bit tired, like?”

 

“We don’t mind at all,” said Annette, “and just in case you’re interested, we have some more jigsaws for people to do – they’re behind the bar.”

 

“Oh great,” said Mrs Smith, “we’ll probably start on those tomorrow – it’s nice to do something different when you’re away from home, isn’t it?”

 

“Well, we rarely get away as I am sure you can appreciate; we have to close the hotel and that’s never good for business.”

 

“No, it wouldn’t be,” said Mr Smith, “but sometimes you just have to bite that bullet and do it, for your own sanity, like me coming here, where there’s no way people can contact me – sometimes you just have to do it.”