It was 11:00 the next morning when an officer arrived at the door. Mr. Frankenstein was fetched although that was not who was asked for.
“What is this about?” he asked the officer. They remained standing in the hall.
“There was an incident last night, sir,” he explained. “An attack. The culprit is said to be your son, Victor Frankenstein.”
“My son!? What are you talking about man?”
“In the early hours of this morning, sir, a man was walking home…”
Mr. Frankenstein interrupted. “What man? I thought you said it was last night.”
“At about 2:00 this morning sir,” the officer said slowly and carefully, “a man, Mr.Anton Leclerc, was walking when he was attacked and beaten with a large stick, a walking stick the victim believes, and was very badly bruised and bloodied before getting away. He claims it was your son, Victor, that performed the deed.”
“Anton Leclerc? Mr. Patrick Leclerc’s son?” Mr. Frankenstein feigned astonishment.
“That would be him sir.”
“But the man must be a foot taller than my son!” exclaimed Mr. Frankenstein. “How could a man of my son’s slight frame batter and bloody a specimen such as Anton Leclerc? And what was the man doing out at such a time?”
“I cannot speak to why your son was out and about at that hour,” replied the officer, “but Mr Leclerc was simply walking home after a late evening with friends.”
“This all seems most suspicious to me,” grunted Mr. Frankenstein.
“Be that as it may, sir, Mr. Leclerc is quite clear that it was Mr. Victor Frankenstein that committed the act and I will have to speak with him.”
“Well you can’t speak to him. He is in bed. Ill. I do not wish to wake him.” He dare not allow access to his son until he first spoke to him.
“Can you speak to the whereabouts of your son at or around 2:00 this morning?” asked the officer.
“Well, obviously he was in bed. Which is where all respectable people should be at that hour.” He was indignant.
“Can you say that for certain?”
“Clearly, I cannot say for certain as I too was in my bed. But I can assure you that Frankensteins do not wander the streets of Geneva in the wee hours of the morning.”
“It is said that your son is often about at those hours, sir,” the officer informed him.
“Said by Mr. Anton Leclerc I assume,” Mr. Frankenstein snorted.
“By many people, sir.”
“Yes, well, as I said. Respectable people are in their beds at those hours. Those who find themselves about at that time I would think highly unreliable witnesses.”
“I will still need to speak with your son to clarify matters, sir,” the officer said in his most reasonable tone.
“We will attend you at your offices when he is well enough to leave his bed. Therese will show you out.”
The officer did not argue with the old man, but paused and turned when he reached the door. “I will need to speak to him.”
“I understand.” Mr. Frankenstein.
Elizabeth entered from the library after the officer had left. “I could not help but hear, father.”
“Don’t worry yourself, Elizabeth. There is obviously some misunderstanding.”
“But Victor did arrive home around two this morning covered in blood. Blood that was not his own,” explained Elizabeth. “I have yet to receive an adequate answer as to why.”
“Why was I not informed?”
“I didn’t wish to worry you and I did not know what happened,” she explained. “I was hoping that perhaps Victor would be able to clarify things after he had rested. He has been often walking late at night. Though, this is the first night I have been aware of anything untoward happening.”
“I see. Well, anything could happen to a person at that time. He may have been startled by someone, may have genuinely feared for his life. Who knows what manner of person you might meet at such a time.” Mr. Frankenstein stood a while thinking. “I am going out, my dear. I may not be back for lunch.”
Mr. Frankenstein walked to the Leclerc house deep in thought. Perhaps Elizabeth had been right in her objections to leaving Belrive. It was true that Victor’s soul thrived in more natural settings. But he had been truly fearful about his son’s wanderings there. The lake was too close, and he didn’t like the way Victor looked at it. No, Victor’s greatest problem was not that he was in Geneva. It was that Elizabeth was not performing her usual function. She who could be counted on to pull Victor out of his blackest moods and force him to focus on mores sensible things was failing as she struggled with her own despair. Worse, they each shared the same ridiculous conviction that Justine was wrongfully condemned, so rather than distract Victor from his foolishness, Elizabeth was feeding his belief that some black-hearted wretch was still lurking and Victor for his part was returning the favour and worsening Elizabeth’s own grief and fear. The two must be separated for a time.
He found himself at the Leclerc house and knocked on the door, feeling far happier than when he left his own home.