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.
“Well, I can take your order,” said Croft, “what would you like?”
“I’d like the sole,” said Knowles winking at Penny, “with the potatoes and country vegetables.”
“And can I have the penne with potatoes and country vegetables,” said Penny, “and another bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon, please and a bottle of sparkling mineral water.”
Andrew Croft nodded, smiled, and walked over to the kitchen doors.
“What is it you do at the museums in Cardiff?” asked Knowles.
“Well, I am the person who organises the rotation of the collections, so that items can be made available for exhibitions at other museums as part of a particular event. I also organise tours of the museum by visiting scholars, from both here and abroad, who require access to particular items for their research, mainly scholars interested in the Romans and how they lived in Britain.”
“How do they start that process?” asked Knowles.
“Official letter, proving who they are and their area of expertise and then an overview of the reasons why they need access to a particular item.”
“I couldn’t just turn up and demand access to a certain exhibit?” said Knowles.
“No, Inspector, it takes a lot longer than that.”
“How did you start in that area?”
“Well, I had an archaeology degree and I applied for the job. I then displayed a certain flair for organisation and I was offered another, more senior role.”
“I see, well you obviously enjoy your job, ah talking of enjoyment here’s your wine and the water.”
Roger Scott uncorked the wine and opened the water for Penny.
“Thank you,” said Penny, emptying the other bottle into her glass, “are you sure you won’t join me, Inspector?”
“I’m perfectly sure,” said Knowles, smiling at her enthusiasm, “oh I see Wendy is trying to attract my attention, I won’t be a moment.” With that Knowles put down his napkin and walked to the door of the dining room, before following Wendy Hoxton out into the corridor.”
“I’m sorry to bother you,” said Wendy, “but I just checked in the airing cupboard and the boots have all gone; I only had my back turned for a couple of minutes and they’d gone.”
“That was how many minutes ago?”
“About 5 minutes, Inspector,” replied Wendy.
“Has anyone gone back into the dining room since your back was turned?”
“No one has, I’m sure of it.”
“Well that narrows it down, as only one couple has left the restaurant in that time, thank you, Wendy.”
Knowles took out his notebook, which had been zipped inside his jacket pocket during his adventure outside, and made a careful note of who had been in the restaurant when he arrived.
Knowles went back to his table, where Penny Baxter was already tucking into her penne.
“Your meal’s being kept warm,” she said between munches and gestured to the kitchen.
Annette saw Knowles and brought out his sole, vegetables, and potatoes. Knowles only realised how hungry he was when he started to eat the fish. The food disappeared quickly and it was only afterwards Knowles wondered whether he’d eaten the food faster than his cat, Freddie, ate his food. Perhaps Freddie was genuinely famished when he ate, perhaps Knowles didn’t feed him enough after all? Penny Baxter was certainly impressed.
“Inspector, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone enjoy a meal so much in my entire life, you looked as though you enjoyed every mouthful, every morsel of food.”
“I did, it was all delightful, although I must admit I could, and should, have savoured it far more than I did. I was just thinking that I could have been lying out in that field, cold and unconscious, but instead I was inside, in the warm, and eating a memorable meal.”
“Any more ideas on who dunnit?” asked Penny finishing off the water.
“I think so,” said Knowles, “but I can’t say anything, can I?”
“I suppose not,” replied Penny, “all I know is that I was in The Lounge and that nice female couple, The Smiths, and The Jones were in there the whole time.”
“How was your penne?” asked Knowles.
“It was slightly spicier than I was expecting and that was a wonderful surprise,” said Penny, “you were right about the English palate.”
“Well, the chefs are French, although they have been in England for a few years, so it’s good you were surprised, it would be boring to live without surprises.”
“Indeed it would, Inspector, indeed it would, here’s to more surprises,” and she downed the last of her wine with gusto.
Knowles held up his empty glass in agreements with Penny’s sentiments.
“How was everything?” asked Annette.
“It was truly wonderful,” replied Knowles and Penny concurred.
“Could I interest you in a liqueur, Inspector, or you Mademoiselle Penny?”
“I would like a Cassis,” said Knowles, “what about you Penny?”
“I will have a Cassis too,” said Penny, “that sounds just the trick.”