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.
“We arrived at 7 p.m. as planned,” said Mrs Benson – her husband nodded his assent – “and then we showered, had dinner, had an after-dinner drink, and planned our route for the following day along by the river. Lights out by 11 p.m. I didn’t hear anything overnight, what about you Clifford?”
“Well,” said Clifford Benson, “I did wake up at one point because I thought something bumped the wall, the internal wall…”
“Which internal wall?” asked Knowles.
“…between ourselves and Room 6; it might have been the room door closing.”
“What time was this?” asked Margaret.
“Yes, that’s a good question to ask,” agreed Knowles.
“It was about 2:30 a.m. – I remember looking at my alarm clock and wondering who was about at that time.”
“Did you hear any activity in the corridor or in Room 8 next door to you on the other side?” asked Knowles.
“Didn’t hear a thing,” said Clifford, “I suppose the people could have been coming to bed at that time?”
“The bar closes at one o’clock,” said Margaret matter-of-factly, “but one of the things I like about this hotel is that the floor coverings do seem to absorb people’s footfalls, so you can’t hear people moving about much.”
“On your walk today, were you looking out for any boats on the river?”
“No, just admiring the scenery,” said Margaret, “and tomorrow we will be admiring the scenery along the river, but in the other direction this time. The river is easier to walk along on this side; the other side is very reed-infested and there’s no proper pathway.”
“You know the river very well,” said Knowles.
“We’re getting older, Inspector, and appreciate the flat more than we used to,” replied Margaret.
“You walked up that hill pretty quickly from Frisby Magna last night, in the dark, in the snow,” said Knowles smiling, “left the Eagle and Child around 6:35 p.m., arrived here at 7 p.m. – that’s pretty good going.”
“We’re experienced walkers, Inspector Knowles, and we were fortified with brandy from the pub, and we had our destination in sight, so we made good progress,” explained Clifford.
“Was the light on when you arrived at the back door last night?” asked Knowles.
“Yes, it was on,” replied Margaret.
“Did you see any footprints in the snow, near the back door?”
“I think there were quite a few going in both directions near the back door, but on the stile I think the prints were only made by someone heading away from the hotel; I shone my torch on the steps to make sure they weren’t icy,” said Clifford, “and I noticed that there was only one set.”
“You didn’t see which way they went after leaving the stile?”
“I didn’t,” said Margaret, “did you Clifford?”
“I didn’t either,” said Clifford, “but I tell you what, there were prints coming the other way in the woods, I was playing my torch on the ground in places, due to all the exposed roots – didn’t want to trip up. I first noticed the prints about 50 paces from the stile in Frisby Magna.”
“And there was snow on the ground in the woods?” asked Knowles.
“In some less protected places, there was around two inches, enough for a print to be made, and they’d last longer in the woods because they wouldn’t be covered up as quickly,” said Clifford.
“Were there any prints heading your way in the woods?” said Knowles.
“I think there were eventually,” said Clifford, “someone must have turned around and gone back the way they’d come.”
Knowles put a big tick against an item in his notebook.
“One final question, for you both, did you notice odd last night or this morning?”
“That single girl drinks like a fish,” said Clifford.
“And she was pretending to read her book, but was more concerned about the snow falling outside,” continued Margaret.
“How do you know she was pretending?” asked Knowles.