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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“So the secretary, or Executive Assistant, is pretending to be his wife and they are having it away in the hotel for a few days,” said Knowles and smiled.

 

“It would appear that way – he owns an import/export business and also manufactures toys. He has been investigated in the past for tax evasion and for being mixed up in people smuggling, but nothing was ever proved.”

 

“He might be interested in the river too,” said Knowles wondering how someone could be suspected of people smuggling without the proof i.e. the people being present.

 

“Finally, Mr and Mrs Jones, they are from Edgbaston although it would seem the couple who are here aren’t the same age as the people at the address they gave.”

 

“How do you know, Linda?” asked Knowles.

 

“The people at the Edgbaston address are in their late forties, whereas the people at the hotel are obviously older than that.”

 

“Perhaps they’ve had a hard life and aged conspicuously compared to the norm?” suggested Knowles, writing down the apparent difference in ages.

 

Smythe smiled at Knowles and realised that he’d be asking the Jones’s about their hard life that had prematurely aged them.  

 

Barnes returned – “Ludlow will be going round to the Wooster address straightaway as it’s a possible missing person investigation, so we need to know whether he’s still there or not.”

 

“Makes sense to me,” said Knowles, “anyway I should finish of my paperwork for that traffic accident case last week, where the man seems to have deliberately driven his van into the turf accountant’s shop. Once that’s done, I can concentrate on this case at the hotel.”

 

“Nothing has happened yet, sir,” Barnes reminded him.

 

“Yet being the operative word, Barnesy, I think something will be happening soon. Indeed, something might already have happened, but is hidden under the snow. I have this feeling things are about to get interesting.”

 

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Three hours later Knowles pulled out of his drive at home and headed for the Frisby Hill Hotel. The snow was falling heavily as he negotiated his local lane without a problem. The council would never grit this small road, so only vehicles such as his could drive along it in these conditions in relative safety.

 

Freddie and Gemma had been asleep when he left. He’d made sure they had some wet food and about three day’s worth of dry, placed in a dispenser. This contraption was cat-operated; the cat had to tap a certain lever and a small amount of kibbles fell into a bowl. Thankfully, Gemma had worked out how to operate the lever and Freddie hadn’t, otherwise the kibbles wouldn’t have lasted twenty minutes as Freddie would have tried to eat them all and would have made himself sick. Gemma also knew not to operate the lever when Freddie was around – smart cat.

 

Before leaving Knowles had phoned the hotel and the number was not available. He checked the satellite phone and made sure it worked. He also packed a few spare items into a small bag, just in case something odd happened.

 

He was heading along the road by the river towards Frisby Magna when his phone rang.

 

“‘Allo Barnesy, how are things?” said Knowles keeping both hands on the wheel as he rounded a bend and saw the river in front of him. It appeared to be flowing out of the sky such was the lack of definition in the landscape.

 

“I’ve just had a call from Ludlow,” said Barnes, “it would seem Mr Wooster left his house a couple of days ago, with a suitcase. He left alone and everything seemed normal.”

 

“Right, so he left, but never arrived,” mused Knowles, “was he driving or talking public transport?”

 

“He bought a return ticket yesterday, Ludlow – Leicester, using his credit card, and that’s the last we know of his movements. He should have arrived around 3 p.m. at Leicester from Birmingham New Street.”

 

“Do we have a picture of our Mr Wooster? If we do, ask the British Transport Police at Leicester to check their platform cameras to see if he arrived at Leicester and at what time. The closer to here he gets, the more ominous it looks.”

 

“You think he’s been kidnapped, sir?”

 

“Probably not, but he might be under a bank of snow somewhere, or locked in an outhouse. I will phone you in two hours, so at 6 p.m. hopefully you will have an answer.”

 

“I will do my best, sir, good luck up there,” said Barnes and rang off.

 

Knowles passed through Frisby Magna and looked up to the left. The hotel was up there somewhere. Farmer Clarke’s farm was a black rectangle against the snowy fields. Clarke’s bulls were still moving around although they were keeping close to the wall of the barn, which offered them some protection from the wind, if not the snow.