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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“I had the sole meuniere yesterday and it was absolutely gorgeous,” replied Penny, “and this evening I will be having the penne arrabiata.”

 

“You like spicy food?”

 

“I can do,” replied Penny, “this being England, I am sure it won’t be too spicy.”

 

“Don’t you believe it,” replied Knowles, “the influence of Indian cuisine has meant our tastes have been stretched in many ways in this country, so you might be in for a surprise.”

 

“I’m all for surprises,” said Penny knocking back her wine.

 

“How are you feeling, Inspector?” asked Andrew Croft who was doing his rounds of the tables in his capacity as host.

 

“I feel not so bad,” said Knowles, “almost like I have a slight hangover, so I should avoid alcohol this evening.”

 

“It was a nasty smack on the head, almost like you’d been hit by someone wielding a cricket bat,” said Croft.

 

“I am feeling somewhat hungry though,” said Knowles, “is the waitress taking orders?”

 

“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.