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.
The snow fell out of the sky as though it was impatient to build a barrier between the Frisby Hill Hotel and the outside world. During the previous three hours around a foot of snow had fallen on the flat asphalt roofs of the garage and shed. The wood pile for the hotel lounge’s open fire was disappearing behind a sheet of white. The four cars in the car park were becoming less recognisable by the minute; the 10-year old Skoda and the brand-new BMW would look the same in the morning. Albert, the hotel cat, surveyed the scene from his warm spot in the shed and knew that little animals left tracks in the white stuff and so he might have a successful hunting trip later, if he felt like it.
The snow coated the conifers in the woods and dampened the footfalls of Clifford and Margaret Benson as they climbed over the stile and headed for the welcoming light over the back door of the hotel. They’d been walking all day. The final leg of their walk had been from Frisby Magna, where they’d had a quick, fortifying brandy in the Eagle and Child Pub, knowing the last part of their hike would be uphill through falling snow with many slippery roots on the way. The exertion would be worth it though as it appeared the snow would continue to fall for the next 48 hours although not always at the current volume. They might be snowed in for a day or two.
Roger Scott rubbed a pint glass absent-mindedly as he looked around his rather crowded bar. His boss, the hotel owner Andrew Croft, certainly knew how to pull in the punters in a notoriously slow time of year, playing on the possibility of being snowed in with little chance of obtaining a good phone signal with their mobile phones. All the rooms were booked through the week, with just rooms 7 and 8 still to arrive this evening. With the snow piling up, the customers in the bar were a happy crowd and some were certainly hoping to be cut off for several days. Mr Jones, from Room 1, placed another log on the fire and shouted across to Roger that they would need some more wood soon.
Roger acknowledged the remark with a thumbs-up and wondered, for a fleeting instant, whether Jones was really the man’s surname. He’d come across many Jones’s who were probably faking it and he wondered whether this was another one. The man’s “wife” was playing the part well and was a similar age to her husband, so they might just be the genuine article. The “Smiths” from Room 2 were definitely not. He was overweight and had a hairpiece, a good one mind you, but still fake. She was around 20 years younger and had a large cleavage. There was no prize for knowing what the attraction was – a large cleavage on one hand, a Bentley in the car park and a large bottle of Champagne on the other.
Roger’s reveries were interrupted by the doorbell ringing from the back.
“I will get that,” said Andrew Croft bustling through the lounge from reception, “it’s either Robert Wooster or the Bensons, my money is on the Bensons. What do you reckon Rog?”
“The Bensons it will be – Robert Wooster sounds like someone who would come in through the front door.”
“It does, you’re right as usual,” said Croft, taking his time to clean his glasses before peering through the panes of glass in the back door, “oh yes there’s two of them, so you are correct.”
Croft opened the door slowly and peered into the darkness to see two people backlit by the bulb dangling down from the sloping roof. The light illuminated the seating area where people could put on and take off their outdoor shoes. Croft kept six pairs of wellingtons here at this time of year, so people could take some outdoor exercise during their stay.
“Mister and Mrs Benson? Do come inside, you must be soaked.”
“We’ve got good waterproofs,” replied Margaret Benson, “but I am looking forward to a lovely, hot shower and getting all my clothes out of this rucksack.”
“Me too,” said her husband Clifford, “can we dry our boots anywhere?”
“Of course, just give them to me, and I will put them in the airing cupboard by the kitchen,” replied Croft.
The boots were given to Croft and he hurried off to start the drying out process. The Bensons came into the bar slightly apologetically, but were quickly put at their ease.
“Would you like a whiskey or a brandy, on the house?” said Roger Scott, “seeing you’ve been walking around in the snow, you must need warming up.”
“Oh that’s lovely” said Margaret, “I’d like a Courvoisier Cognac”.
“And I’ll have a Singleton, please, I see you’ve got some on the go,” continued Clifford.
“We certainly do, great choice,” replied Scott.
Andrew Croft came into the bar with the key for Room 7 – “here’s your key, your room is at the top of the stairs and then second on the right. There’s only eight rooms in the hotel, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. You can take your drinks with you, if you wish. Dinner starts at 8pm and we’d ask you to be in the restaurant by 9:30pm at the latest. The restaurant is through the double doors just before the stairs on the right hand side – you’ll also see the airing cupboard.”
“Excellent, thank you so much,” said Margaret and took the key from the owner of the hotel, ”we’ll be down well before 9:30pm”.
With that she walked off towards the staircase carrying her pack and drink with her. Clifford downed his whiskey and swished the liquid around his mouth.