I stowed the head in my satchel, taking extra care not to damage the top of the spinal column. Lucy shivered and wrapped her arms across her chest as she turned to Edward’s body.
“What about Edward? We can’t very well cut him into pieces to carry up to the laboratory.”
I clenched my jaw. If we were going to bring him back, it had to be tonight, while there was ample lightning. We needed someone’s help, but I didn’t dare go to Montgomery or Carlyle, and the female servants weren’t any stronger than Lucy or I.
At last, I let out a frustrated groan, knowing I only had once choice.
“Wait here,” I muttered, hating myself for what I was about to do. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
I hurried up the stairs into the main section of the house, staying close to the walls where the floorboards squeaked less. I knocked gently on the same door I had so recently left from.
Balthazar opened it, dressed now in his striped blue pajamas, with Sharkey wagging his tail at his heels.
I couldn’t bring myself to look into his eyes. I whispered, “You said you felt compelled to obey Elizabeth, because she was the law. Does that extend to me as well, as the doctor’s daughter?”
“Oh, yes, Miss,” he answered. “I’ve always striven to obey your law as well.”
I took a deep breath, hating myself even more. Balthazar deserved more respect than I was about to give him, and yet I was desperate. “Then come with me. I need your help with something. I fear you aren’t going to like it, and I’m sorry for making you do it. Regardless, you must keep it secret from everyone, even Montgomery.”
His face fell, and it nearly broke my heart. Father had been cruel, but I never had been. Not until that moment.
“I’m sorry, Balthazar,” I whispered. “But you really must come with me. It’s time for you to fill the role of Igor Zagoskin.”
THAT NIGHT, THE WORLD seemed bathed in blood.
With Balthazar’s help, we carried Edward’s body up the spiral stairs to Elizabeth’s laboratory. He said nothing as he carried Edward, and his silence tortured me with guilt all the more.
“Truly, Balthazar, I wouldn’t ask you to do this unless I had no choice.”
He laid out Edward’s body on the operating table and didn’t speak.
His sullen obedience gnawed at me like rat’s teeth. Of course Balthazar would feel like what we were doing was wrong. If Father had bothered with an ounce of kindness, used anesthesia, taken care with his patients, then Balthazar might feel entirely differently. He might have even supported his work wholeheartedly.
He whined low in his throat, the strongest objection his sense of loyalty would allow him to make.
I closed my eyes. “You can wait outside, Balthazar. You don’t have to watch.”
“But we might need him,” Lucy whispered.
I shook my head. “We’ve already asked too much of him. Balthazar, please just keep watch and let us know if anyone’s coming.”
He gave me one long forlorn look, but there was a flicker of devotion there, too. Even after everything I’d made him do, he still saw me as his beloved master. It only made my heart ache more.
As soon as Lucy and I were alone, I opened the gash in Edward’s chest cavity and began to suture together the severed veins and arteries of his heart.
“Victor Frankenstein first arrived at the idea of reanimation by watching lightning,” I told her as I worked. “Elizabeth told me the story once. A sheep had died in a bog, much like the night I was nearly drowned. It was storming at the time. Lightning struck a tree and carried an electric current through the bog water. The jolt restarted the sheep’s circulatory system. Victor witnessed the entire thing.”
I finished repairing Edward’s heart, then took out the vagrant’s severed head and placed it on the table. I picked up the bone saw.
“Victor was entranced,” I continued, trying to keep Lucy focused on anything other than the fact that I was sawing a stranger’s head in two. “He started to replicate the effect of the lightning on small animals using the lightning rod. Then he discovered he could combine reanimation with surgery and build a human from disparate body parts. That led him to master organ transplantation. That’s why Elizabeth is so good at it, from studying his notes.” With a final heave I sawed clean through the man’s skull to expose the delicate brain. I set down the bone saw and wiped my brow. “She’s transplanted nearly every organ and body part, but never a brain. She never had the chance, because it requires both bodies to be deceased and she’s bound by her oath. One can’t go severing spinal columns while one’s patient is still alive.”
“No.” Lucy grimaced. “I don’t suppose so.”
I inserted forceps into the skull cavity and stretched back the bone, then used a scalpel to carefully remove the posterior lobe, severing the blood vessels and connective tissue, and setting it carefully on the table.
“When you switch this portion of the brain out with Edward’s,” Lucy asked hesitantly, “it won’t change him, will it? His personality and his memories, I mean.”
I prodded the posterior lobe gently, measuring the connective tissues to ensure a proper transplant. “No, it won’t. Remember how Edward told us about the ‘reptile brain’? I did more research on it. They call the posterior lobe that because it controls our most animalistic instincts like impulse control and sexual drive and the voices that tell us we’re hungry or thirsty. It doesn’t store any memory or intelligence or personality; those reside in the front and center lobes of the brain, which will remain intact in Edward’s head. So the Edward we know should remain, but the Beast will be gone.”
She stared at the brain in morbid fascination.
I pointed to Edward. “I need you to help me prop his torso so I can access the back of his head.” Lightning crashed outside, shaking the windowpane. Lucy’s head whipped toward the windows. “We should hurry,” I added, “while there’s still a storm.”
We moved faster, propping his body up, as I marked off measurements on the back of his neck. I selected a scalpel and carefully cut into the base of his head. A spray of blood fanned out over my white apron as I hit an artery—Edward hadn’t been dead as long as the other cadavers. I didn’t bother to wipe it away. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. Would he truly sit up again? Sip tea and read Shakespeare and play backgammon as terribly as he always had?