"It is a symptom, I think," he said, his ancient eyes tired and reflective, "Of the nature of the crime. Some things are so ugly that they cannot be seen. Not because they are invisible, but because most people will not see. This unholy affliction of yours," he shook his head sadly, "Knows no cure. For there can be no cure for one's nature. How can the slinking serpent be cured of its insidious ways? How can the death adder be held from striking and devouring its unwary prey? It cannot. And so the only solution, the only method of avoiding the bite, is to cut off the offender's head. Do you see?"
Pathetically, the other nodded, his face terrified and glowing with a sheen of sweat in the stark illumination of the lone bulb that lit the basement. He nodded, though it was an affirmation of his own doom.
The older man smiled slightly. "I thought you might. Most do. In the end. In fact, I find that most are quite prepared for the end, and that some even long for it. All save for the very worst. But you are not among that number, are you?" Joshua Grimm let his teeth show, and relished the other man's terror. "No, of course not. You retain a shred of conscience. You still understand what it means to be decent, and so can yet see your indecency. You do see it, don't you? You do understand how your existence has become this vile, wretched thing stretched out before me, don't you?"
Again, the other nodded pathetically. He mumbled around the gag that bound his lips, and struggled to confess his crimes or perhaps beg forgiveness.
"Shhhh," admonished Joshua, placing a single finger to his own unbound lips. "There is no need to speak. There will be no last minute confessions or any sort of forgiveness to expunge your stained soul. You will meet eternity with everything you have done fresh on your mind and tongue. There you may tell your sordid tales, for there you shall find the sort of devils that should listen to such horrors. Here, you have had your last human breath. Here, you are all and done. This is what you are, and you will be no more."
Joshua reached for a pair of pliers, and fingered the grooved teeth of its crushing mouth with a thumb, leering as a butcher might over the keen edge of his sharpest knife. "And now the question becomes, how to make your passage a sort of payment for your miserable purchases on this earth."
The gagged wretch bound to the table before Joshua wriggled and squirmed. And shook his head, eyes wide.
"No, these are not for you," reassured the older man, moving around to the head of the table, out of the wretch's sight, who strained to see through the top of his head. "Though you richly deserve some form of agony, I am not a monster. Your death will be quick and painless, unlike the murders you have practiced on the most defenseless of our kind." He spoke as he worked with a stubborn bit of equipment fixed to the head of the table. "No, when I said you should pay, I was referring to something of more immediate concern to those you have wounded and left alive. I no longer care for you in any slightest regard, not even to the point that I could relish your howls of pain.
"No, what I require of you at this moment is direction. Exact direction." Joshua laid the pliers aside and swung the apparatus around to position it over his victim's head. Now he moved in a circle about the entire table, fixing the other man's elbows and wrists and knees and ankles to the table with a series of sturdy clamp-like devices. Back at the wretch's head, he bolted the final restraint into place, then screwed it down around the other's struggling skull until the man was entirely bolted into place. As a final measure, a belt was looped over the man's neck and fed through a wringer to one side of the platform.
"There, now we may begin." Joshua turned to a small desk that crouched in one corner of the stark room near the bed, and retrieved a control from one of its drawers. Flicking a button, the table upon which his victim lay rotated up and around until the man was almost vertical, facing his tormenter. "First, the rules. I will speak, you will listen. When given the opportunity to respond to my questions, you will answer straight and true. You will not add anything extra. You will not beg for your life. Do you understand?"
The other tried to nod, but could not move. Instead, he blinked his eyes slowly, and swallowed with difficulty beneath the belt that all but strangled him.
"Good." Joshua retrieved a shoe box from the desktop, and held this up against the light. "You recognize this, do you not?" Another slow blink. "And you know what's inside?" Again, yes. "Are they all in here?" Yes. "Excellent. This is better than I had hoped. You, at least, kept records of your crimes, which may redeem some of the damage you have done." Joshua opened the shoe box and returned the lid to the desktop.
His face paled and he shook his head leadenly. Sighing, he pulled the chair away from the desk and collapsed into it.
"My god," he breathed. "So many beautiful faces. So much pain." He rubbed his eyes with a deliberate thumb and forefinger, if only to keep from seeing into the horrifying past for a mere moment.
At last, with much anger and loathing in the tones of his speech, Mr. Grimm asked, "Did you leave them all in the same place?"