As a youngster many a demented evildoer has admired the head collections (shrunken, mummified, pickled, or natural) of other homicidal fiends, knowing that that kind of grand spread is as far out of his or her reach as the reign of terror which made it possible. With time and dogged persistence, however, the young aspirant starts to establish a reputation for ruthlessness and a notoriety for bloodlust and rediscovers that the old yearning is still there. Still, the commercial market in these grisly artifacts is still strong even in these times, too rich as it turns out to build up an impressive arsenal of specimens, so the youngster must learn to do so the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, with sufficient pluck and resourcefulness, this need not be an insurmountable obstacle for the struggling monstrosity.
- Recycling. Get to know the the chippy-chop guys in those realms surrounding your base of operations. They are not by all means the strict law and order types you might guess they would be based on their role in enforcing the capital cases, and might not be adverse to let you get your hands on one or more of the less celebrated of the condemned ones if you make the proper pitch.
- Partner. Your local tyrant may have a few subjects in mind that would be better off relieved of what is on their shoulders (according to the ruler). Let it be known that you would be only too happy to make your services available, for the usual going rate plus a takeaway clause.
- Barter. Ideally, you know an evil head-fancier who has fallen upon hard times and could stand to lose a portion of an top-heavy collection for a consideration that you could provide. Is it safe passage? A death ray? A small dish of porridge?
- Reuse. So the good guys win and bring down the big baddie at long last. It would be a good opportunity to point out to the victors what little use they are likely to have for such grisly trophies, and would they not rather that the whole unpleasant display be taken away before it can upset their young children and other impressionable sorts? Free of charge? If you have a sufficiently ingratiating manner, you can come into possession of some fine masterpieces of the embalmer's art that you would be hard pressed to score any other way.
Strokes of genius
- Placeholders. It can be maddening to have a good fat portion of a series but have one or two slots missing. You can fill in those unsightly gaps with items not intended to mislead — perhaps the visage of the brother of the fellow you are after might do, or a life-size hologram (particularly effective if the head you want is still alive and attached to its owner).
- Restoration. Oftentimes the heads you are able to acquire are in rough condition, not ready for immediate display, and you lack the funds to take the piece in to a professional taxidermist. You can in fact do some minor repairs on your own, using such things as a good quality polyester resin and a fistful of dyed horsehair. Other times, if the damage is extensive, it is more aesthetically pleasing to go in the other direction and exaggerate the rough patches for a colorfully garish effect.
Traps for mere fools
- Fakes. If the minion of your rival comes up one day with something in a sack that he represents as a collector's item too good to be believed, you might be well advised to be skeptical. Enlist the eyes and other senses of an impartial expert in such matters, one not likely to be swayed by greed.
- Spoiled goods. Be careful not to jeopardize your entire horde with one dodgy and improperly cured bargain. If you have even the slimmest of doubts, a strict quarantine is in order, or take the piece down the bare-bones route instead.
Precious and needful
- Embalming fluid. And a few mothballs scattered around cannot hurt much.
- Diamond whetstone.
- Track lighting. Good presentation can make up for a multitude of deficiencies.
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- Image credit Madame Tussauds - French Revolution Death Masks by DanieVDM
- Image credit The Executioner's School by shallowend
- Image credit Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen (Marie Antoinette) by kevindooley