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.
“Thank you, well it wasn’t Mr James that went out of that window, last night, it was someone else.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, from what he said it sounds like he might have been drugged last night.”
“Really, who would have done such a thing?”
“If the snow continues to fall we’ll have plenty of time to find out.”
“Well another oddity is that the spare set of keys to the rooms went missing, yesterday, from the laundry room, and now those keys are back in place.”
“All present and correct?” asked Knowles.
“They are all there,” said Andrew, “and Wendy has confirmed that.”
“OK, so someone is planning ahead here; these are not spur of the moment decisions.”
PC Smythe walked up and handed Knowles her map.
“It’s as accurate as I can make it, sir, though it’s not really to scale – I think the tracks were made two hours ago, approximately 7 a.m. I would say. But that wouldn’t hold up in court, as it’s almost a complete guess based on how quickly the tracks have been covered up in the last few minutes.”
“Thanks, Linda,” Knowles took her to one side – “can you find out the names of the guests and the staff and then run a background check on them all – there’s something odd going on here.”
“Right sir, will do, I will try and get a signal from the top of the hill on the road.”
“Yes, you might need to go slightly further than that, but make sure you get through to them before we leave. Find out the forecast whilst you’re able as well. Thanks, Linda, and take care on the road.”
“Will do, Inspector.”
Knowles turned back to the hotel owners and followed them upstairs to see Room 8. The door was locked and when it was opened he peered inside, before putting on some evidence gloves. The bed had been overturned and leant against the wall. The legs had been taken off. The drawers had been taken out and piled neatly on top of one another. There was no damage, presumably because the perpetrator hadn’t wished to wake up anyone in the rooms around.
“Who was in here, this morning?”
“Wendy opened up the room to air it around 8:45 and saw the mess, but she said she didn’t touch anything.”
“Right, let’s keep it that way – the chairs and the table were originally there?” asked Knowles, pointing to the only furniture that didn’t appear to have been moved.
“They are meant to be over by the window, Inspector, so they’ve been dragged across the carpet.”
“So who’s in the room below, Room 4?”
“Who is currently missing, and in the room above?”
“It would have been Roger Scott, who stayed overnight rather than going back to Frisby Maltravers, where he lives. He’s got a mountain bike and keeps it in the shed when he’s working here.”
“Whoever was in here was obviously looking for something, but didn’t want to cause too much noise, either that or they weren’t expecting Roger to be in the room above and they heard him moving about and decided to abort their mission.”
“They wouldn’t have put the keys back though, would they?” asked Annette.
“Well, I tend to think they would when they heard you call the police as they would imagine the boys in blue might search everyone and the keys would turn up, incriminating them rather.”
“Oh I see, I hadn’t thought of it like that,” replied Andrew.
“Which is why you’re running a hotel and not running a criminal organisation like the thief or thieves you have in your midst.”
“What do we do then, Inspector?” asked Annette.
“I am not rightly sure – I am tempted to get the fingerprint people up here to dust the keys and Room 8 for dabs, because what happened in there seemed very strange. It was very clinical and quite well planned, and I am not sure what they could possibly be looking for, given that the room was booked by someone else.”
“You don’t think Mr Wooster’s non-appearance is connected with this, do you?” queried Andrew.