Even after five years without any news, Henry didn’t hesitate on looking for Victor when he was called out to meet him. The reason for it seemed urgent, but he would go there anyway because only the note received, written in trembling, desperate scrawls already seemed enough of an excuse, despite the apparent hidden agenda. Henry didn’t care. He wanted to see him again, know how he was doing, and his old mate wished the same at the end of the day.
Victor knew him too well; both knew each other too well. The passing of time and physical separation didn’t cut out the thread of loneliness and isolation that had united them during college; the odd spell that made them circle one another like prey and predator that can’t break eye contact certainly hadn’t been broken.
That was the hope that made him look for that tiny flat in a dirty boarding house full of sick and strange people. It was also the yearning for Victor that made him get out of his house, aside from the lack of letters from his friend, to walk with his head held up high down the suburban grey streets specially crowded with racist and ignorant people and that helped him restrain himself not to tackle and choke the woman who huffed him from the window of that same building.
Victor’s silence could’ve made Henry hate him, but it didn’t happen. The eagerness to get at least a piece of that relationship back was what guided his legs on that afternoon.
Henry felt glad to know that Victor needed him and would do anything to help him. He also needed Dr. Frankenstein in his own way, for being with the latter made him believe he was more than all the loathing for himself and the world that he carried within for the care he had for the lad. He was anxious to tell Victor the plans he had and show him his experiment, although it hadn’t yet achieved the expected and even necessary success.
The old habits and perhaps even the time apart didn’t allow them to abandon the old formalities when the door was opened and he was given way into the cubicle, but Henry liked to notice that despite the environment as decadent as the man who inhabited it, still remained in Victor the tender side that acknoledged him as someone intimate and trustworthy for the things known by both; which was demonstrated in the tea Henry didn’t refuse even with the only visible table in the flat being full of books, syringes with needles, dusted glass bottles and tubes with strange content and the china having its saucers cracked and its cups with wings and edges broken.
Henry knew Victor wasn’t much of a capricious housekeeper due to his sloth and obssesion with his own work (all that since medical school) and assumed he earned doctoring just enough to have a roof over his head and not to starve, but undoubtedly it hurt him to find out that a doctor with such talent let himself live that way and that the status was visibly critical.
Regardless of what else Victor wanted from him, the stubble several days dated, the dirty, scruffy clothes, the swollen eyes, the shaking hands, the meagerness, the crooked voice and arms patched with bruises and holes indicated that the young doctor beside him was in serious trouble. It was commom from time to time due to his lack of force of will, but this time it was different, it was worse. And Dr. Jekyll would be there. As a colleague in medicine and mostly as a friend. It was the least that could be done; both as a retribution and necessity as well as because Henry simply wanted to.
Even with the sarcasm in his speech while releasing his friend’s arm, Henry knew Victor would notice the concern in his voice for the pattern repeating itself once more... If the use of narcotics had to do with both love and work, Henry’s mind would deduce that Victor had failed in his researches and been rejected by a young woman, all at the same time, which could only create a catastrophy as big as that. The pain from disappointment or impotence creates physical pain which makes him appeal to the chemicals to ease both. The beast was out again.
Henry couldn’t help the surprise as to know that F. hadn’t let go of his dreams of beating back death with the help of knowledge in anatomy and galvanism, which was not less mad or impossible to achieve, but even more so with the word that it had worked. Victor has been much more successful than him; this made him feel a mix of pride and envy that left him speechless for a moment. If Victor wanted to, he could present the reanimated people as evidence to the RSM and receive the proper recognition for it.
The same acknoledgement and glorious flourish which his friend referred to as one day they dreamed of conquering working together as well as on their own fields. Oh, good times were those.
According to Victor’s narrative, his medical genius had charged a high price: the conquering of death that had created monsters. It was then that Henry started to understand with his presence there, or at least he thought he had. Henry knew monsters. One has lived within him since forever. Apparently, the people that were reanimated came back less human and it scared their creator, so Jekyll knew where his mate was coming from. He felt honored for the confidence held on him with such big secret. Now the burden would belong to the two of them, just like in the past.
The research over the human body in clandestine mortuaries combined with further studies on the principles and applications of galvanism led him to try the ressucitation processes, with the renewal of damaged organs and use of electricity to make them work again... The first try caused him repudiation for the sudden, noisy and bloody way it happened. Not to mention that then he couldn’t yet make the stitches more delicate and less visible. It was reduced on the second shot, added to a learning and recovery of memories process much faster, which was abruptedly interrupted by his death.
Henry noticed that Victor went particularly nervous when he spoke of the second subject, lest he thought best not to ask any questions over the circunstances of the second death. When he began to talk about the woman, Lily, that once was Brona, Henry saw a spark of excitement in his friend’s eyes that mostly showed up when the latter compared the concepts of life and death presented by science to the beautiful, serene metaphores in the lines of Tennyson, Wordsworth and Byron, to cite only a few.
She was pretty, smart and perfect. Victor had done what he could to keep it a secret and at the same time reintroduce her into society as a country girl that slowly learns the cruel, demanding manners of the city; the lady in high heels and corset, fair-haired as an angel, that would take care of him as did his mother lost in childhood and desire him as the wife the circunstances never gave him. He would give her a better life than she has had as inn whore and that place would have the female touch it was lacking.
Despite all of it, the knowledge of it, please him deep inside because he was lending his ears and giving away his affection to a lonely friend in a rough situation for thinking too big and not being able to deal with the consequences and frustration of expectancies, it was only after he went to the basement where Victor’s lab was set that Henry fully understood the main goal to his summoning there.
Killing someone was not something he wanted to do, even wanting his father’s death with every fiber of his being and his past so well-remembered by Victor in a slightly scornful tone and - Henry would never know whether they were intentional or not, although his affection and loyalty made him look the other way as much as he could - occasional racist references that made him wither inside and feel less of a man, less of a person.
Just like his anger, that he’s been trying to keep at bay and redirect.
The ironic thing is that along with the debauchery came the flatters that would massage anyone’s ego, but he knew his own skills and his friend’s intentions enough not to let himself to be deluded. He knew that Victor’s helpless romantic heart wanted his aid mainly to try to make Lily to be gentle again and came to love him. Henry has always had the right ways to get to the bottom of Victor’s ideas, the fantasizing behind them.
The more he spoke and grabbed the truth out of Frankenstein through his whispers, the more Henry could see that he still had a great influence over that boy who was in love, as well as F. over Henry himself; the old chemistry was still there and it was clear that both fed on it. Frankenstein looked like a dried plant that relived when it drank from the water of his words, just because he was there, but mostly because Henry was aware that Victor desired chemistry to get a hold on Lily’s depravaty.
Henry was jealous of someone he had never met and of the delusional obsession Victor had for her, but loved him way too much not to help him in his quest, despite from having no idea whether or not it would work. Only the knowledge that he held so much of Victor’s soul in his hands gave him the delicious feeling of having the other back and that at the right time together they would shut the mouths of all those who laughed at Victor for finding him a lunatic and of Henry basically because he was a man of color trying to stand his ground on the medical community.
There was the old Frankenstein, the old Victor, whose name slipped from Henry’s lips as easily as cold water down one’s throat in a warm day. The same sad but grateful glance that stared at him deep in his wistful brown eyes. The same needy little child that would never walk away from his touch and care, which for Henry was almost instinctive, despite all.
Anyhow, the first thing Henry would do before taking him to his lab the following day was to make any resemblance related to morfine vanish and talk Victor into having a bath, wear clean, tidy clothes and eat properly. What won’t we do for love?