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Holden leapt back involuntarily, horrified at the reality of what he was seeing.

“Fascinating, isn’t it?” Smiley said, his grin growing even wider. “Most people interested in human anatomy will study corpses, which is all well and fine, but I find that things are so much more informative if you keep the patient alive. Harry here has been such a good sport. I’ve learned so, so much from him.” Smiley reached over and picked up the detached arm, and began to manipulate the fingers and wrist, posing it as he spoke.

“With enough practice, you can get very good at removing parts of the body without actually killing the patient. It’s excruciating, to be sure, but in the early stages, studying the psychological effects of, say, removing the kidneys, can be very enlightening. There is still so much that we do not understand. Many patients die after only a few days, but I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to advance my skills. Harry has been with me for a good three weeks now.” Smiley took a good, long look at Holden, but at this point, he really couldn’t bring himself to care. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the tortured face staring at him from the table.

“You seem troubled. No matter, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. It is so nice when you can share your hobbies with your colleagues, wouldn’t you agree? But that’s not really why I brought you in here. As I was saying, I have a reputation to maintain, as a business man. I am simply very lucky to have a hobby that aligns so well with my career. Serendipity, you might say. You see, every so often someone will come to me, much as you have today, looking for money. I’m a nice man, a friendly man, and I have plenty of money, so I like to help out where I can. But a business man can’t simply give money away, no. There are rules that must be followed, procedures, or the businessman would quickly be out of money and unable to help anyone else. So he makes loans, and the people he helps out agree to return the money, with some extra for the trouble.”

Holden managed to pull his eyes away from Harry for a moment to stare at Smiley and his unwavering grin. He could barely think, and the man was throwing this gibberish at him?

“But what do you do when they don’t follow through on their agreements?” Smiley continued. “Surely a savvy businessman can’t allow for that sort of thing. That would just be bad business. No, a debtor must pay their debts. If they are unwilling or unable to do so through the normal means, well, perhaps they can pay the businessman back in other ways. So a good businessman offers alternate forms of payment. Harry here, for example, is paying his debt to me by furthering the cause of modern medicine and assisting in my research, a very valuable service indeed. Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to continue collecting on his debt. I will be seeing you again, Holden. Do make sure that it is under pleasant circumstances.”

Holden stared back at the table. The message was coming across loud and clear. He took his leave as fast as was polite, just as Smiley contentedly began to  peel back another layer of Harry’s skin.


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