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.

======================

“I have indeed, as much as you ever can with a kitty cat,” replied Knowles trying not to look too interested in the boots, which were one of the pairs that had been in the airing cupboard the previous evening. Clifford Benson came past Knowles and smiled. He was carrying his boots too – another pair from the airing cupboard.

 

“Where are you heading to today, Clifford?” asked Knowles.

 

“We’re having a bit of a forced march towards the weir at Morton Catchpole,” replied Clifford, “and then head towards Rushton Mallory.”

 

“All along the river again? Of course, the river is navigable to the sea from Morton Catchpole, although it’s not that deep, but a small trawler could make it there as long as it stuck to the middle of the river.”

 

“Right, time for breakfast,” said Margaret Benson, “I shall order your standard breakfast, Clifford.”

 

“Thank you, Margaret, I would like two rounds of the brown bread for my toast.”

 

“Yes, the bread here is superb,” said Knowles glancing at Albert who yawned and closed his eyes, “you know if you’re going to Morton Catchpole, it would be quicker to go via Clarke’s farm, it would cut twenty minutes from the time, just follow the signs for Manton Rempville and then Morton will be signposted to the left after about 15 minutes.”

 

“Yes, I think that’s the way Margaret thought we should go too,” replied Clifford, “I will tell her that local knowledge proves her theory correct, she will be so pleased with herself.”

 

“Only too obliged to help,” said Knowles smiling inwardly as Clifford Benson hurried off to tell his wife the good news. He went into the boot room and checked the Benson’s walking boots.

 

That’s two of the pairs of walking boots that were in the airing cupboard last night,” thought Knowles, “I wonder who the other pair belonged to?”

 

He looked around and saw that someone, almost certainly Andrew, had placed the wellingtons into a neat row, going from smallest to biggest, right to left. Knowles sat down and pondered an idea.

 

It’s almost like a work of art,” thought Knowles, “but it might have a useful purpose, if I can let it be known I saw that pair of boots in the airing cupboard.”

 

Barnes came walking into the boot room looking refreshed. He was carrying Knowles’s wellingtons and his own running shoes.

 

“I’ve brought your wellies as I figured you’d be wearing them outside?” said Barnes.

“Thanks Barnesy, you look all eager, which is good; I will introduce you to the guests in the dining room right now and also mention a pair of walking boots in the airing cupboard – can you let me know if anyone reacts to my words?”

 

“Will do,” replied Barnes, “I have done this sort of thing before with more people, if you remember, so let’s try it. I presume you think those boots belonged to the person who hit you over the head?”

 

“It’s a hunch,” said Knowles, “that’s all.”

 

They walked to the dining room doors and Knowles opened them both at the same time, just for a slight dramatic effect. All the guests, apart from Penny Baxter, were present. Knowles waited for people to notice him.

 

“Good morning, everyone, I just popped in to introduce you to my Detective Sergeant, Rod Barnes, who has joined me for this investigation. He will be around the hotel today. I just wanted to ask something – there were three pairs of walking boots in the airing cupboard last night – I know that two of the pairs belonged to Margaret and Clifford,” Knowles gestured towards the Bensons, “but I was wondering who owns the third pair, a pair that is no longer there, and not in the boot room either.”

 

There was silence for a few seconds.

 

“We don’t have any walking boots, just wellingtons,” said Anne Martin. Wanda Bowles nodded.

 

“Same here,” said Cloda Holmes.

 

“Anyone else?” asked Knowles.

 

“What time was this?” asked Stan Smith.

 

“About 9 p.m.”

 

“They weren’t ours,” said Candy, “because we put the boots into the cupboard together and took them out together, so we wouldn’t have had a single pair in there, if you see what I mean?”

 

“I do,” said Knowles.

 

“Perhaps they belong to a member of staff,” said Mrs Bird, “perhaps you should interrogate them as well as us?”

 

Aneurin James smiled and nodded.