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"The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by Lyndsay Faye, first published in The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. In it, Holmes investigates the murder of a former foe found dead in the middle of an underwater rail tunnel.

Plot[]

Holmes and Watson are resting after successfully breaking up a criminal ring when they receive a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. Hopkins informs that Forrester Hyde, a thief whom Holmes had personally helped put behind bars six years ago, had been murdered the previous night. Hyde had used his dashing good looks to romance women, whom he would then rob to fund his leisurely lifestyle while pursing a career as a theater critic. Holmes had captured Hyde with the assistance of his last victim, but apart from her sapphires Holmes had found no trace of the other women's property. Hopkins informs Holmes that Hyde had been released just two days ago.

Most curiously, it appears that Hyde was killed in the middle of the Thames Tunnel, an underwater railway tunnel connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. Hyde was shot at close range in the heart sometime after midnight, and managed to crawl a few feet before expiring. Someone had pulled the emergency brake on a train passing through the tunnel at 12:14; however, there was no blood on the train. Furthermore, while the footprints in the mud on the tunnel floor begin just feet from the body, there are no indications that anyone was pushed from the train. Finally, Hyde did not have a train ticket; there was nothing relevant in his pockets but a notebook with the addresses of three foremen and a key. Holmes, intrigued, agrees to take the case.

At the morgue, Holmes and Watson investigate Hyde's body. Hyde's fingers are shockingly mangled; Watson compares them to the hands he had seen on victims of a building collapse who had attempted to claw out of the rubble. Holmes concludes that Hyde was imprisoned or trapped shortly after his release; he must therefore either have been followed after leaving prison, or betrayed by a close associate who knew of his new lodgings. Holmes asks Hopkins to learn whether Hyde received any correspondence in prison. Holmes admits a distinct dislike for Hyde, recalling how he spat at his last victim, the ballerina Elizabeth Gayle, at his trial.

The three next enter the Thames Tunnel with a company of several constables. Hopkins points out where the footmarks begin, suggesting that Hyde may have entered walking on the railway ties, or else jumped down from the train. He then indicates the signs of a struggle, followed by marks of crawling and finally the bloody puddle where he expired. Holmes points out that the marks indicate an unusual balance of weight, which Hopkins takes to mean the victim was reeling and unsteady from being pushed from the train. Holmes asks Hopkins to photograph the tracks, and requests the addresses of the foremen in Hyde's notebook. As he and Watson leave the tunnel, he confides that incredibly, the only solution to the strange tracks is that the victim emerged from the tunnel wall. Holmes parts ways with Watson to go to Scotland Yard.

Holmes returns to Baker Street, and reveals an important piece of evidence: the three men in Hyde's notebook had all worked as engineers on the Thames Tunnel when it was converted from a pedestrian walkway to a rail line twenty years earlier. Hyde had contacted the three men as soon as he was released from prison. Holmes points out that he had never found Hyde's hoard, and Watson realizes that Hyde must have built a secret chamber in the tunnel to store his valuables, which Holmes suggests has another entrance in one of the stations. Holmes posits that Hyde entered the tunnel from the station to retrieve his treasure. However, the killer laid a trap that forced Hyde to flee to the tunnel-side exit. The door had stuck over the years, and Hyde hurt his hands as he forced it open. He was then shot by whoever pulled the breaks on the train. However, Holmes admits that he does not know if the motive was robbery or murder - or who the responsible party is, though the engineers seem most probable. It is a telegram from Hopkins that provides the final breakthrough: Hyde's only correspondent in prison was his last victim, Elizabeth Gayle.

Holmes and Watson immediately pay Miss Gayle a visit at her modest room, and surprise her in the middle of packing. She requests that Holmes allow her to make a full statement. To their great surprise, she reveals that legally she is Mrs Forrester Hyde - he had charmed her years ago, and married her in secret. She tells them her husband actively hated women, and that when she discovered his adultery and criminal ways, he merely boasted about his cleverness and how she could never divorce him. To preserve her ballet career, she pretended to go along with and love him. However, she secretly contacted Holmes in the hope that he would be able to bring Hyde to justice, going so far as to plant her own sapphires on her husband to allow a conviction. Outraged over her betrayal, Hyde had penned a scathing review of her performance before going to prison, seriously damaging her career. She wrote to him in prison to convince him that she still loved her, while secretly planning her revenge. Knowing her husband's obsession over his treasure, she planned to take it from them - however, only he knew the location of the key. She therefore wrote to the engineers and convinced them to trail her husband. Meanwhile, knowing of the other exit, she had stopped the train in the tunnel, where she caught Hyde in the tunnel, shot him, and retrieved the treasure. She tells Holmes that she has already returned the jewels to their owners, then pulls a gun on him and Watson, which she uses to escape.

Somewhat stunned, the two debate whether to attempt to stop her; they finally decide to inform Hopkins, who is regrettably unable to capture the erstwhile Miss Gayle. After all the excitement, Holmes finally faints as they return to Baker Street, not having eaten since the previous day.

Trivia[]

  • Holmes' habit of not eating during period of exertion is referenced in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder", where Watson notes "it was one of his peculiarities that in his more intense moments he would permit himself no food, and I have known him presume upon his iron strength until he has fainted from pure inanition."
  • This story bears some similarities to "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", where the body of suspected thief found without a ticket on a rail line is likewise presumed to have been dropped from a train until Holmes reveals the correct solution.
  • Holmes complains about Hopkins' inability to read footprints, specifically mentioning "the business of Black Peter and that matter over the Russian woman's pince-nez." These are two canon stories featuring Hopkins.
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