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Baker Street Wiki

"The Adventure of the Willow Basket" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by Lyndsay Faye. It was first published in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, Volume II, and later included in her collection The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. In it, Holmes must navigate a strained relationship with Inspector Lestrade while he investigates a corpse found mysteriously drained of blood.


At Simpson's Restaurant, Holmes amuses Watson during breakfast by deducing the professions of passers-by. Their meal is interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Lestrade, who immediately reveals an unusual hostile towards Holmes. After a curt greeting, he informs them that a Mr John Wiltshire has been found dead earlier that morning. No method of death was apparently, but shockingly, his body had been entirely drained of blood. The deceased had last been seen the previous evening, and had dined with his wife and a friend before retiring to take a bath. In spite of Lestrade's overt antipathy, Holmes agrees to take the case.

The three travel to Wiltshire's home in Battersea. They find the dead man in the bathtub where he was found, which remains full of water. Watson immediately notices the unnatural, bloodless whiteness of his skin. The coroner states that no wounds were found on the body, which Holmes confirms on examining the corpse. Indications on the body also show that the man had been killed in the bathtub; however, the water remains entirely clear. Lestrade informs them that Wiltshire had worked as a banker in the city for six years, and lived an unremarkable life with his wife, Helen. Holmes interrupts him and leaves to question the wife. Watson, however, holds back and gently questions Lestrade about his surly behavior. Lestrade expresses irritation with Holmes, but marches downstairs without revealing much to Watson.

In the parlor, the group meets Mrs Wiltshire, who seems obviously distressed. Holmes begins by noting that Mrs Wiltshire is of Scottish birth, which she confirms. From her hem he also notes that she has been out walking by the Thames, and Mrs Wiltshire explains that she had taken a morning stroll, which was why it had taken so long to discover her husband was dead. She tells him that they had dined the previous night with an old friend, the noted explorer Horatio Swann, who had recently returned from a lengthy stay in Siam. Holmes admits he has heard of the man. After dinner, Mr Wiltshire had seemed fatigued, so Mrs Wiltshire had ordered her husband a bath. However, at this point in her story Mrs Wiltshire runs out of the room in distress. Watson suggests finding Horatio Swann to determine if he was involved. Holmes agrees, but wonders why anyone would choose to walk somewhere as foul as the Thames.

Before leaving, Holmes summons the housekeeper, Mrs Stubbs, for questioning. She tells him that she had worked for the Wiltshires since they first moved to Battersea six years ago. Mr Wiltshire had been a good provider, and he and his wife seemed to have a good relationship and never argued. When Lestrade asks if she had seen any sign of intruders, Mrs Stubbs tells them that a wicker basket has disappeared, which piques Holmes' interest. She also confirms that Mr Wiltshire had been morose after the departure of his guest. After the housekeep exits, Lestrade turns on Holmes in a rage, and accuses him of not taking the case seriously. Holmes seems shaken, but informs Watson that he cannot solve Lestrade's problem; however, he has already solved the case, so they go to speak to Horatio Swann.

The following morning, the three arrive at Swann's house with a couple of constables. They are admitted to Swann's study, where Watson admires his laboratory equipment. When their host enters, Holmes stuns the assembled party by introducing him as Charles Cutmore, the mastermind behind the infamous Drummonds Bank robbery in Scotland. Cutmore immediately tries to run, but is quickly detained by the constables and thrown into the waiting police cab. Cutmore had been a rising biologist at the time of the theft, researching aquatic creatures, and his photo had been in the papers, allowing Holmes to recognize him. Holmes then takes from a shelf a jar containing a Siamese red leech, and shows it to Watson and Lestrade. He explains that it is a particularly foul specimen, capable of draining the blood from a man; though small, it could bloat to immense size when satiated with blood.

Holmes explains that Wiltshire was actually a Scottish banker named Michael Crosby, who had been Cutmore's accomplice in the heist. Although the two had been known to be responsible for the incident, they were able to escape from the police, along with Cutmore's fiancée, Helen Ainsley - the present Mrs Wiltshire. Cutmore evidently fled to Siam, while Crosby and Ainsley hid in London and eventually married - though likely out of convenience. Admitting that the motive remains mere conjecture, Holmes hypothesizes that Cutmore and Mrs Wiltshire remained somewhat attached, and had planned the murder of Crosby to remove an obstacle to their marriage. In fact, Holmes suspects that Mrs Wiltshire had been the one to introduce the leech into her husband's bath, noting that Cutmore could hardly have gone upstairs without arousing Crosby's suspicions. She also disposed of the leech after the crime by placing it in the missing basket and throwing it into the Thames, explaining the mud on her hem.

Lestrade's temper once again flares up, and he chastises Holmes for not telling him sooner. When Holmes confronts him about his animosity, Lestrade angrily criticizes Holmes' treatment of his friends and the police after his final confrontation with Professor Moriarty; first, allowing them all to think he was dead, and then giving the evidence of Moriarty's guilt to Inspector Patterson, whom he hardly knew, rather than Lestrade. Holmes explains that he gave the evidence to an officer he hardly knew precisely because he believed it could put Lestrade in danger; furthermore, Watson's willingness to sacrifice himself for Holmes was precisely why he couldn't know that Holmes had survived. He then stalks out the room, leaving Lestrade somewhat contrite. Watson goes to reassure Holmes, and the two confirm their friendship before returning to London. In closing, Watson affirms that Holmes and Lestrade's relationship was repaired and that the two would go on to work together for many years.