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.
“I hope you’re right, sir,” said Smythe coming over to Knowles’s desk,”I’ve just received the reports regarding the guests at the hotel and there is some very interesting facts that we should take into account.”
“Oh, I don’t like the sounds of that,” said Knowles, “let’s go into the Peel meeting room and make a few notes.”
“Which one’s Peel,” asked Barnes, “have they changed the names? I preferred rooms 1, 2, and 3.”
“Peel is Room 1, Barnesy,” replied Knowles, “it’s to keep us in touch with the history of the police in this country.”
“Oh, that’s right, because policing hasn’t changed in the last 190 years, has it?” said Barnes.
“It is similar in many ways, Barnesy, although we don’t need hard hats so we can stand on them to see who’s cowering on the side of a wall.”
“That would actually be quite useful on occasions,” said Smythe, “in fact it would’ve been useful last week when I apprehended that man who was stealing clothes from people’s backyards, he hid behind walls.”
“You still caught him, Linda,” Knowles pointed out.
“Only because he thought I’d gone and he ran into me armed with all the evidence I could ever need to convict him. The mobile phone came in useful too.”
“Which is something constables in Peel’s time didn’t have, of course,” said Barnes.
“Right, anyway let’s go into Room 1 and see who we have up at the Frisby Hill Hotel,” suggested Knowles, keen to find out who he was going to be dealing with later in the day.
PC Smythe stood at the head of the table and put lots of papers on to the table. Knowles and Barnes sat opposite each other and waited for Smythe to begin.
“Starting with the owners, Andrew Croft and Annette Verdun. Both are legitimate business owners and previously owned a hotel in Herefordshire, before moving up here four years ago; advertise the hotel nationally as a good place to “get away from it all” and a place “where social media will not be available.”
“What does that mean?” asked Barnes.
“It means they only have Internet access in their private office behind reception via a landline; guests won’t find an Internet signal via wi-fi as the hotel is in an area where there’s no coverage, although if you walk to the top of the road or over the stile you soon obtain coverage.”
“So ‘isolated’ is the attraction, then?” said Barnes.
“Yes, it is, so next I will cover the hotel staff. Mathilde and Angelique Ventris, been at the hotel as long as the owners, came from a restaurant in Evesham, which they sold at quite a considerable profit, hence their happiness with their lot at the hotel. Monsieur Ventris, is French, and was divorced shortly before their move here. He reportedly went back to La Rochelle, where he and Mathilde married and where Angelique was born. Another sister went with her father back to France.”
“The restaurant in Evesham was family run until the divorce and then there was an even split of the family between here and La Rochelle?” asked Knowles.
“Apparently, sir,” replied Smythe.
“That is something to ask Mathilde, I think,” said Knowles, “I wonder how often she sees her other daughter?” He made a note to ask her, perhaps after she’d cooked dinner.
“Wendy Hoxton – maid and general factotum – has a previous conviction for removing items from hotel rooms without owner’s consent, although this was six years ago – appears to have been given a ‘last chance’ by Andrew and Annette and hasn’t apparently re-offended. But, that might be because she hasn’t been caught.”
“Indeed,” said Knowles, scribbling in his notebook, “this helps with whatever is going on in Room 8, as I wonder whether she has taken anything or passed something on to someone else.”
“More questions,” said Barnes.
“Roger Scott,” continued Smythe, “professional bartender; local lad who has been in trouble with the police for affray, although not in the last four years. Has been at the hotel for the last three years, was previously at the Eagle and Child in Frisby Magna, and knows the area like the back of his hand. Bikes everywhere even in this weather.”
“And was out in the snow collecting wood from the pile, last night, not on his bike and not wearing wellies,” said Knowles, “he’s a hardy sort alright.”
“And now to the guests,” said Smythe, “in no particular order. Robert Wooster is registered as living in Ludlow, but the terminal he used to confirm the booking via email is somewhere in Birmingham.”
“Right, Barnesy, get that address from Linda now and go and ask the Shropshire boys in blue to find his place and see whether they can locate him. He is a missing person so perhaps they could let themselves into his place and see when he was last there.”
Smythe handed Barnes the address and then continued her report as the Detective Sergeant left the room.
“Clifford and Margaret Benson – from Doncaster in Yorkshire; avid walkers whose daughter was married to an Egyptian man who took their children, one boy and one girl, back to Aswan in 2013 and neglected to bring them back. Daughter has attempted to repatriate her kids but is unable to get them past the customs, so has resorted to smuggling, which didn’t work either.”
“Please find out where the daughter is as soon as you have finished with this list, Linda. I wonder whether she could get her hands on a boat. The river is navigable from the open sea up until two miles from Frisby Magna, but that’s close enough when you’ve come all the way from Egypt.”
“Will do, sir, next are Benny Scott and Cloda Holmes, whose address is a PO Box in Bristol and we haven’t been able to find any record of them, so you might like to ask them what their business is in these parts.”
“Noted,” said Knowles, jotting down the question.
“On the other hand, Wanda Bowles and Anne Martin appear to be a normal same-sex couple from Coventry; Wanda is an Exec at the theatre and Anne works for the local bus company as a route planner.”
“That’s someone’s job? Planning bus routes? Still I suppose someone has to do it, otherwise there’d be a massive traffic jam in the city,” said Knowles.
“Miss Baxter works in Cardiff for the museums overseeing the displays and co-ordinating visiting exhibitions. She lives in St Fagans.”
“Near the National History Museum of Wales? Good for her, she can take her work home.”
“Aneurin James is a retired librarian from Herefordshire. He retired four years ago after serving for forty-three years. His wife died three years ago and they had three children.”
“What’s he hiding, do you reckon?” asked Knowles.
“Need he be hiding anything?” asked Smythe.
“Yes, check his children to make sure they’re all law-abiding citizens,” replied Knowles.
“OK, will do – Mr and Mrs Smith are from Castle Bromwich, but Mrs Smith left the country last Wednesday on a flight to Antigua and her name is Sam, not Candy.”