Baker Street Wiki
Advertisement
Baker Street Wiki

Edward "Ted" Harkness was an American card sharp and criminal. The mysterious appearance of his corpse on an express train forms the heart of "The Thirteen Watches", written by Bert Coules for The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

History[]

Ted grew up in New York state, and had an older brother named James. He eventually fell in with Sam Forrest, a petty criminal whom James blamed for turning Ted into a criminal. They developed a career as card cheats, successfully avoided detection for several years until a mistake led to Ted's arrest. James managed to make his legal troubles go away with bribery. Hoping to reform his brother and get him away from Forrest, he got him a job as a watch salesman for an American company in England.

In spite of James' efforts, Forrest followed Ted to England. They reunited and resumed their previous scam, cheating to win at cards with the use of a mechanical holdout. They would use costumes to hit the same clubs several times, with Ted frequently disguising himself as a woman. For this reason, when the authorities were alerted to their activity, they believed the enterprise to be a ring consisting of several people.

When Ted stopped communicating with his brother and employers, James feared that he was returning to his former ways and traveled to London to find him. Ted was anxious to prevent this when he learned of it, and took steps to cover his tracks, such as instructing his landlady to say that she had never heard of him before. As he and Forrest had also recently been caught cheating at the Charing Cross Hotel, Forrest came to believe that the city was becoming too hot for them, and suggested they move on to Rugby. Unfortunately, he was overheard by a barkeep, who passed this information on to James.

James waited for the pair at Euston Station, where he saw Forrest walking with Ted, who was dressed as a woman. When the pair saw that James was on their train, they tried to avoid him by moving to another car. Ted was visibly upset by his brother's presence, and Sam tried to calm him by suggesting they lose him at Rugby. James, however, crossed to their compartment and confronted them. He forced Ted to change out of his women's clothing, and threw it off the train. They then got into a heated argument over Ted's life choices. James didn't understand why Ted would throw away all the opportunities James had given him for respectability; Ted responded that he liked his life the way he was, and didn't appreciate James trying to change him. Forrest adds that James is the one who has a problem with it, and pulls a gun on him, though Ted tries to get him to put it away. Forrest then insults James, who lunges at him in rage, with Ted trying to intervene. In the ensuing struggle, Forrest accidentally shot Ted in the chest. Distraught, Forrest leapt from the train, with James following close behind him. He was quickly caught, but after a brief struggle with James he chose to shoot himself as well, presumably unwilling to live with what he'd done to Ted.

James eventually presented himself at Scotland Yard to ensure his brother got a proper burial, though he pretended to know nothing of the circumstances of Ted's death. However, Sherlock Holmes had deduced the truth of the incident, and compelled him to confess. The revelation of Ted's crossdressing disgusted and shocked several of the men present. Subsequently, Inspector Athelney Jones took James into custody on several misdemeanor offenses. However, to James' undoubted relief, the railway's chairman, Sir Gregory Backwater, had the story hushed up, sparing the family the scandal of the affair.

Description[]

Ted Harkness was about 25 at the time of his death. He had a slight, lithe frame, and jet-black hair which he kept well-groomed. His landlady describes him as "exceptionally handsome"; as Harkness easily passed for a woman, it can be assumed that his facial features were somewhat feminine. Though it is never outright stated, it is heavily implied that he and Sam Forrest were in a romantic relationship as well as being criminal partners, and that Ted enjoyed dressing as a woman. Compared to Forrest, he seems to have been more sensitive and nervous.

Trivia[]

  • Public crossdressing was considered a sensational scandal in Victorian Britain. Men dressed as women were generally assumed to have done so to solicit or to trick other men into sodomy, a punishable act at the time. They were therefore frequently prosecuted under related statutes, which was made easier after "gross indecency" was codified as a crime in 1885.
Advertisement