Murder Inn: A short story about a holiday stay in North Yorkshire
I once lived for a while in Guisborough, on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors. It was a pretty town with a lovely view of part of the moors, which my friends' children used to affectionately call 'raspberry topping'. We would sometimes drive over to Whitby, a very pretty little port town on the coast. Probably it's most famous inhabitant was James Cook who, among many of his great exploits, discovered the east coast of Australia. I was rather enchanted by its quaint harbour, small shops filled with crafts, curios and antiques and the fascinating architecture of its houses and the Parish Church of St. Mary, one of the finest Anglo Saxon Churches in England. Some years later I was inspired to write this (very) short story set in this favourite location of mine.
It was December 1958, and the snow drifts had already started building up and blocking some of the roads and lane ways around the coastal town of Whitby, in the north of the Yorkshire Moors.
Many people had already left the area to spend the holiday season in warmer parts of the world. There were always some tourists who preferred the cold, snow and at least five layers of woollen clothes, just like Michael. Michael Jacobs, who in fact loved the snow and had left his home in sunny Florida, USA and planned to spend his Christmas holiday in the isolated little town of Whitby, where he had once visited in the course of his work.
Michael was tall, had eyes as brown, and yet sparkling as you could ever imagine. He had dark brown hair, most of which was covered by his grey felt hat which he always wore. Over his grey flannel suit he wore a thick black wool trench coat with the collar turned up to protect him against the chill of the icy wind.
Michael was a detective with the Florida Police Department, and spent most of his time solving all sorts of crimes around the state.
As he checked into the Whitby Greystone Inn, he thought to himself how good it was to be away...a long way away...from work.
Miss Dodsworth, a pleasant enough lady in her late thirties was the weekend receptionist at the Inn. She handed Michael his key. Room 6 on the second floor to the right. Miss Dodsworth smiled at Michael. 'Your bags will be brought up shortly Sir by our porter, Arthur', she informed Michael.
Michael smiled politely and headed up the stairs to the second floor to his room. On his way he passed two ladies, one middle aged and the other obviously rather older.
'Good evening ladies', he said.
"Yes, and it certainly is chilly', they both replied.
Michael was exhausted from his long trip. He washed and climbed straight into bed under the warm fluffy dooner and drifted into a deep sleep.
In the morning Michael was woken early, jolted out of a deep sleep by loud persistent knocking on his door. He grabbed his gown and raced out of bed to open the door. It was Miss Dodsworth. She pushed past Michael into the room and slammed the door shut behind her.
'She's dead! It's must be murder!' she blurted out. 'Mr. Jacobs, we need you to help. We're snowed in. You've got to help! There is a murderer in this place!'
Michael took a deep breath.
'From the beginning please, Miss Dodsworth'. Michael sat riveted, his detective brain clicked in and went straight to work, tuned in for any clues.
Michael surveyed the scene and the sequence of events, He went over and over the facts, as he knew them, in his mind. For the next few hours he interviewed the guests and staff in the Inn, exploring every tiny detail, looking for...anything that would make some sense of this crime.
As far as he could make out, Margaret Froy, the middle aged lady he had interacted with on the stairs last night, had been killed during the night. Shot through the heart. Her room had been locked form the inside. The only person present at the time, and a potential witness, was her friend and roommate, Hillary Maple-smith, but she had slept through the whole episode. The last thing Hillary remembered was Arthur bringing her and Margaret their usual cup of hot cocoa at about 10 o'clock.