August 1920 finds Sherlock Holmes filling out entry papers at Le Dieppe Clinique on the Normandy coast. England’s new Dangerous Drugs Act declares his cocaine use illegal and he aims to quit entirely. Though his psychiatrist, Pierre Joubert, has long admired Holmes, the detective proves an irascible patient. He correctly diagnoses his doctor’s own ailments and denies his professional assumptions. He demands quieter rooms, claims that clinic meals cramp him and rejects group therapy outright. No wonder the patient count dwindles, Holmes complains. His doctor is satisfied, however. Signs are good. It’s all part of a necessary adjustment. Holmes walks in the countryside—albeit after dark—and a fierce game of singles tennis seems to break the awful tedium that gnaws at him. Though he jokes that he can cheat the new Word Association test, he tries it, intrigued by its potential for criminal investigation. Hypnosis fascinates Holmes as well, until in one trance he regresses beyond vivid boyhood memories of his father’s French art collection to an ancestor’s disturbing experience in the French Revolution. Joubert adamantly counsels that these images are not history, only unique creations of the psyche. Perhaps they can put this exploration off until later? Holmes shakes his head, “Not today, or any day.”
Five weeks into his treatment, the detective’s eyesight weakens. His weight drops. A wheeled chair and an orderly prove necessary. Sleep eludes him, replaced by ominous hallucinations. Then his personal belongings go missing and reappear, strangely altered. Two of these tricks strike Holmes as childish. The last is different, though not the usual threat of violence. This is deeply personal, darker and even more troubling. Has he such an enemy in Dieppe?
So it is that Watson tears into another telegram from the detective, the first in years, and so it is that, convenient or not, he anxiously entrains at Victoria Station on his way to Holmes.
Susanne Dutton is a Philadelphian writing fiction and poetry. She’s the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips: Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling.
Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits.