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.
“Yes, I think they all were, but those tracks could have been made about half-an-hour earlier.”
“You were there between 6 and 7; did anyone leave or come back during that time?”
“I think most people arrived during that time, apart from Miss Baxter who was there the whole time as she had about six drinks, roughly one every ten minutes. Mr James left and came back as did The Jones and The Smiths, but I can’t be sure how long they were absent for.”
“Were the curtains on the window closed or open during that time?” Knowles stared intently at Scott, who furrowed his brow slightly.
“They were open as I think the guests wanted to see the snow falling.”
“You’d expect someone to see another person walking outside in that case, wouldn’t you, see them through the window.”
“You would, but maybe the outside light wasn’t on, which would make it more difficult to spot someone.”
“And where is the switch for that light?” asked Knowles.
“Out in the seating area, where the boots are,” replied Scott.
“Well, in that case, if the light wasn’t on, people wouldn’t see the snow falling, so perhaps the person switched off the light, had a walk around outside for some reason, and then came back inside, switching on the light, before having a drink in The Lounge.”
“That’s a lot to pull off in a few minutes,” said Scott, “but it is possible, so who went into the boot room around 6:30 ish? Wait a minute, I think The Smiths did, because they were looking for some jigsaw puzzles and Mr James did as he was wondering where he could put his walking boots.”
“Jigsaw puzzles?” asked Knowles.
“The Smiths were looking for jigsaw puzzles because they were putting them together and then looking on the back to see whether they could be numbered by a machine. They have this idea of people putting their holiday snaps on to jigsaws and then assembling them, but having the pieces numbered so that they’re easier to put together.”
“He’s a toy manufacturer, so although that sounds really odd, it might be correct. The more suspicious side of me thinks they might be looking for secret messages.”
“That’s what we jokingly said,” indicated Scott, “he didn’t seem too amused.”
“Right, well I will ask him too,” said Knowles,” last night, you slept above Room 8, didn’t you?”
“I did, but I didn’t hear anything being moved; I did wake up around 3 a.m. for the loo, but I went back to sleep almost straightaway. Wait though, I do remember thinking the wind was blowing hard and causing the window to rattle, but that noise might have been someone moving something, couldn’t it?”
“It could, what time was this?”
“It was just after 3 a.m.; I had the alarm set on my phone, so it was easy to see the time.”
“Modern technology is so useful – what time does your phone show now?”
Scott pulled out the phone and showed Knowles the time.
“Oh good, that’s the time I have, so no one has been tampering with your phone,” said the Inspector.
“You have to think of everything, don’t you?” said Scott.
“I like to try,” replied Knowles, “but I don’t have all the facts at my disposal yet, so I may have to ask more questions later. That’s all for now, could you send in Clifford and Margaret Benson from Room 7, please? Thank you, Roger.”
Knowles scribbled in his notebook for a minute or so and then became aware of a presence. He looked up. Margaret Benson was peering down on him. Her husband was three yards behind her, waiting for something to happen.
“Inspector, you wish to see us, we were summoned here by the barman?” Margaret Benson looked displeased.
“You are extremely light-footed, both of you, I didn’t hear you come in,” replied Knowles, “anyway I do wish to see you, I wish to see all the guests, one of the other guests had their wallet stolen from their room, another one of the rooms was searched overnight, and someone has been walking around outside and we don’t know who was doing this nor why they were doing it. Please do sit down.”
Mrs Benson sat down and then her husband sat beside her.
“Do you suspect we had anything to do with the wallet being taken?” asked Margaret Benson with her head tilted to one side.
“Perhaps you could tell me your movements last night, starting with your arrival,” replied Knowles.