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, yes, something is not quite right, but I am not sure what.”

 

“What about those kitties of yours?”

“I will go home and feed them first; I must get my priorities right, Linda, I wouldn’t hear the last of it.”

 

“I can imagine it – a miaowathon.”

 

“That’s right and no purring this side of Christmas. Things like that are never forgotten, let me assure you.”

 

Smythe nodded her approval. “Look sir, there’s two walkers heading along the path by the river, I wonder if that’s the couple from the hotel?”

 

Knowles pulled over and watched them. “I think you’re right, Linda, she’s in the lead and he is following her not so closely behind. They’re both wearing walking boots and their footprints are almost certainly the ones we saw in the snow and they weren’t walking side by side even then. They were the ones who’d left by the time we arrived, the ones that the owners knew had left, as opposed to Miss Baxter.”

 

“Do we circulate a description of her, sir?”

 

“Not quite yet, Linda, she may well turn up.”

 

“Alive, hopefully.”

 

“Yes, Linda, that is what I meant.”

 

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When Knowles and Smythe arrived back in the office, Barnes was busy writing his report on the visit he’d made to the jeweller in Scoresby, a jeweller who swore blind that he’d not realised all the items a well known thief had passed him were all stolen. ‘I don’t read the newspapers as they’re always full of bad news’, ‘I have a bad memory when it comes to faces’, and ‘I don’t remember how many grandmothers my customers have’ were some of the pathetic excuses the jeweller gave. Barnes had charged the man with knowingly handling stolen goods, but wanted to charge him with giving the worst defence of charges he’d ever heard. There was no chance of the jury believing him, so Barnes guessed the man’s lawyer would make a bargain, a year in prison with a further year suspended, in exchange for a better memory of other illegal transactions from the past two years.

 

“‘Allo, Barnesy, you look deep in thought, trying to spell a complicated word?”

 

“I am trying to think of words that mean pathetic, as I have used that word five times already and I feel I need to use another word otherwise I will be seen to be repetitive.”

 

“How about crummy, woeful, woebegone, feeble,” replied Knowles.

 

“…Sad, lamentable, miserable, pitiable” continued Smythe.

“Useless, uninteresting, contemptible” said Knowles.

 

Barnes put up his hands – “that’s enough, more than enough, he’s not that pathetic, just a little pathetic.”

 

“Heart-rending, deplorable,” said Smythe.

 

“All good words, Sergeant Barnes, and I hope you can use them all in the fullness of time,” continued Knowles.

 

“I will use them all,” said Barnes, “how is the weather outside, is it miserable?”

 

“It is, Barnesy, but you’ll get back home tonight as they’ve gritted the road by the river, so even your low-slung flying machine should make it.”

 

“Oh good, it’s deplorable sometimes the state of the roads, and the council’s attempts to keep snow off the road are contemptible – anyway how was your trip up The Black Hill, I hope it wasn’t useless?”

 

“It wasn’t uninteresting, was it Linda?”

 

“Definitely not, although there’s a number of odd things going on that I don’t understand.”

 

Barnes listened as Knowles and Smythe explained what they’d found at the Frisby Hill Hotel. Afterwards he was glad he’d just spoken to a pathetic jeweller with an apparently bad memory.

 

“Barnesy, I am going up there later this afternoon around 6 p.m.; if I don’t phone you by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, I want you to run up to the hotel and check in with me, because I will probably need your help.”

 

“That’s my running day, so that’s not a problem, in fact I can have a bit of a lie in for once. It’s almost my normal route. Are you expecting something to go wrong, sir?”

 

“I am not 100% sure what’s going on – I will be taking the satellite phone and I should be able to contact you, if I can use it.”

 

“Right, well that sounds like a sort of plan, and what happens if we need some other people, some backup personal?”

 

“Well, Sergeant, I feel sure police vehicles will be able to reach the hotel without too much trouble, but I am hopeful they will not be needed.”