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"The Thirteen Watches" is the third episode of Series 3 of the BBC Radio 4 series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, written by Bert Coules. It was first broadcast on January 9, 2009. In it, Sherlock Holmes must solve how two people disappeared from a nonstop express train - and how a third person appeared dead in their place.

Plot

Holmes and Watson receive a visit from Sir Gregory Backwater, the chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company. Sir Gregory tells them that he has a perplexing problem; two days ago, a couple disappeared from a nonstop train heading from London to Rugby. In their place was the corpse of an unknown man, with no ticket or identification, who had been shot through the heart at close range. Oddly, the dead man was also found to have thirteen watches in his possession. A search for the bodies of the couple has been unsuccessful, and a preliminary search has shown there was no way the third man could have hidden in the compartment. Sir Gregory tells them that given the importance of the case, he demanded a Scotland Yard agent be assigned to the case: Inspector Athelney Jones.

The three travel to Rugby, where they meet Inspector Jones. He points them to the carriage, which he has preserved for Holmes. The detective first investigates the compartment adjacent to the crime scene, which had been occupied by another passenger. The couple had rejected being seated there, allegedly because they preferred a non-smoking compartment. Holmes asks if the man in the compartment had been questioned about whether he heard anything; however, the guard replies that he left before he could be questioned. Holmes then goes to the crime scene. He calls Watson over to show him the evidence he's discovered. The bloodstains can be clearly read; the dead man fell back against the seat then slumped to the floor, after which point two people walked through the pool of blood. However, there is no indication as to how he got into the carriage. The man was clearly not strong enough to have jumped up to the carriage from the tracks. As Holmes and Watson leave the crime scene Inspector Jones asks them to come with him, as another body has been discovered outside of town.

The body is located at the bottom of a hill, beneath the rail line into town. The man had also been killed by a close-ranged shot to the chest about two days ago, and his pockets were also empty. A clear trail indicates that he had tumbled down the embankment from the train tracks. Jones concludes that the man came from the train, and must be the man from the missing couple. Holmes climbs up the embankment and finds two sets of footprints. Jones takes the evidence as proof of his own hypothesis. He proposes that the young man had been on a train that passed by the express, and that he had seen the woman, to whom he presumably had some previous romantic connection, on the other train. Presumably, the young man had been afflicted with some kind of mania, of which the watches were the symptom. Spurred by the sight of her, he had made the dangerous jump between the trains and entered her compartment, where her companion shot him. The couple then fled the scene of the crime, but the woman was so distraught over the young man's murder that she shot her companion and then ran away. Holmes is unimpressed by Jones' conclusions, but does not stop him from holding a press conference which he uses to appeal for help locating the missing woman. Sir Gregory is infuriated that the press has gotten ahold of the story, fearful of negative publicity for the railway.

Upon further investigation, Holmes finds the young man's home, and learns he was an American named Edward "Ted" Harkness. Harkness worked as a watch salesman, and his landlady makes it clear that he was carefully avoiding someone. Not long after a man arrives at the morgue to claim his body. He introduces himself as Edward's older brother, James, and reveals that he has been looking for Ted for some time. He traveled to London after Edward broke communication with the company that employed him. James says that he had only just learned of his brother's death from the papers.

Holmes, however, knows that James in lying, and compiles him to admit the truth; he had been there when Ted died. James reluctantly admits that Holmes is right, and to everyone's shock, explains there had never been a woman: "she" had been Ted in disguise. He explains that Ted had been involved with a petty criminal named Sam Forrest back in the states. James had managed to bail him out, and got him a job overseas to get him away from Forrest in the hopes of reforming him. However, Sam followed Ted to London. Reunited, they returned to a life of crime, cheating their way through London's card clubs under a variety of disguises.

When Ted learned that James was in London looking for him, he tried to hide from his brother. With the city police also closing in on them, Sam suggested they move their scam to Rugby. He was overheard by a barkeep, who passed this information on to James. James waited for the pair at the station, and when they finally arrived he was incensed to see his brother dressed as a woman. He confronted them in their cabin, and forced Ted to change back into men's clothing, throwing his dress out the window when he finished. An argument ensued, with James attacking Ted's life choices, and Ted insisting that he was happy with who he was. To Ted's dismay, Forrest pulled a gun on James, who then lunged at him. In the ensuing struggle, the gun discharged and killed Ted. Distraught, Forrest jumped from the train, with James following close behind him. Another brief fight followed. However, Sam is so upset over his responsibility for Ted's death that he chooses to kill himself rather than continue to live without him.

Inspector Jones takes James into custody on several misdemeanor offenses after hearing his confession. However, as Sir Gregory hushes up the story to avoid further scandal, the public continues to believe that the mysterious woman remains at large, saving both the Harknesses and Jones from embarrassment.

Cast

Trivia

  • The case was inspired by a reference in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor": Lord Robert St Simon tells Holmes that "'Lord Backwater tells me that I may place implicit reliance upon your judgement and discretion.'" At the beginning of the case Holmes mentions that Sir Gregory is soon to be elevated to the peerage, confirming they are meant to be the same character. The story is also inspired by Bert Coules' short story, "The Man with the Watches".
  • Athelney Jones asks Holmes if he remembers the case of the Sholto brothers. This is a reference to Thaddeus and Bartholomew Sholto from The Sign of the Four, the canon case where Jones appears.
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