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 got into the driver’s seat and checked the petrol gauge, which was three-quarters full. Plenty of juice to get through any drifts they might come across, he thought. He would still go to the garage and fill his two petrol cans, just in case someone decided to syphon his tank. Linda Smythe jumped into the front seat wearing red wellingtons.
“Are those standard issue, Linda?”
“No, Inspector, standard issue is four sizes too large for me – these are the smallest I could find and in Lost Property until someone claims them.”
“No one will claim them, Linda, people don’t claim wellingtons. They were probably stolen anyway, so I would keep them if I were you. Anyway, we will stop at the petrol station and fill my cans with petrol. I may as well fill her up too.”
Five minutes later the Landrover was chugging through the snow-laden streets of Scoresby towards the Frisby Hill Hotel, gradually leaving the white roofs of the town behind and reaching the flat wastelands of the country, occasionally fractured by clumps of stick-like trees and huddles of cows and sheep, sheltering by the walls of buildings. Snow blew horizontally across the road as Knowles and Smythe started the climb to the hotel, ignoring the flashing lights of the warning signs.
“Who was it who rang you from the hotel, Linda?”
“It was Andrew Croft, the owner, sir.”
“And how did he seem to you?”
“He seemed calm enough, but I think he is going to be anxious, as there’s a thief on the premises and someone wandering around in the snow outside.”
“Yes, I have a slightly strange feeling about this; thieves in hotels we’ve had before, but people wandering around in blizzards at odd times of the night seems a little strange. It’s as though they’re looking for somebody or watching out for a signal. I know you can see the river from the stile up there, so it’s the perfect vantage point to give to or receive signals from a boat on the water. It would be the perfect time to spirit someone away as all tracks would melt away in a few hours.”
“Or be covered up, of course.”
“Indeed, wow it’s a little dense here, isn’t it, I will just have to follow the poles, Linda, so bear with me a minute.”
Knowles put his vehicle into second and kept about three feet to the right of the poles, slowly negotiating the bends with care. Up ahead, the smoke from the hotel’s chimney could be seen and a couple of room lights. The smoke was swirling around and the snow was beginning to fall more heavily.
“When we leave later, we’ll go up the hill, it’s only about two hundred yards to the top – don’t worry we aren’t going to get stuck here.”
Smythe smiled with relief as she was slightly worried about getting stuck although it was only 9 a.m.
The Landrover came to the hotel turn off and stopped. Knowles looked at the hotel and presumed the white mounds in front were cars. He turned the vehicle around so that the rear wheels were in as little depth of snow as possible. The Landrover was pointing uphill, so that Knowles could get some momentum before negotiating the road to the top. He took his shovel out and removed the snow from behind the rear tyres. They would need all the purchase they could get.
Knowles got into the back of his vehicle and put on his banana-coloured wellingtons. Smythe covered up her eyes against the imaginary glare.
“Very good, Linda, very funny, just for that you can find the way to the front door.”
“What? Why? That’s not fair, you’re taller than me. ”
“Not by much – don’t worry, I was joking, I will go first with my thumbstick, but first of all can you see any tracks in the snow?”
Smythe looked around gradually getting closer to the cars in their snowy graves.
“There’s a set of tracks here, sir, heading from up the road towards the left-hand side of the hotel.”
“Can’t see any, sir,” replied Smythe.
“Right, let’s get to the front door, now and make sure no one leaves the hotel.”
Knowles made a track through the two-feet high snow to the front door. Smythe put her boots into his existing tracks and had an easier time of it. Knowles knocked on the front door. The door was opened by the receptionist.
“Mr Wooster?” she asked.
“I am DI Knowles from Scoresby CID and this is PC Smythe. Can I speak to the owner please?” Knowles and Smythe both showed their ID to Wendy Hoxton.
By this time, Annette Verdun had arrived at the door.