Dannemora, New York - Once a psycho, always a psycho. Even before Peter Braunstein walked into a visiting room in this drum-tight maximum-security prison and opened his mouth to speak, it was obvious that nothing had changed.

Inmate number 07A3578, aka The Fiend, had dark brown scorch marks on his thumb from smoking cigarettes right down to the nub.

Whether it was a symptom of his mental condition or the drugs used to treat it, he didn't feel the pain because of the lack of sensation in his fingers.

Of course, Braunstein lacks sensation in every atom of his being.

The man who posed as a firefighter on Halloween night 2005, terrorizing a Manhattan woman for 13 hours in her apartment, appears incapable of empathy, logic, perspective or remorse.

Why else would he brush off the horror of his crime? He claimed, if it were a movie, he would give it an "R rating." Or wonder if it provided an "epiphany" for his victim, who should now live each day as if it were her last.

"I want her to live a long and fulfilling life," he said, in a bizarre, rambling interview at the Clinton Correctional Facility.

He'd written to me and later agreed to see me.

I went, though I really don't care what he has to say. I went because he's this Hannibal Lechter-style creep you just have to see - and stare at in the way we look at car accidents we pass on the highway.

Braunstein - dressed in a green uniform with unkempt hair and noticeably thinner than at his trial 2-1/2 years ago - is serving an 18-to-life sentence for kidnap and sexual assault.

It's giving him plenty of time to think - but not in the way a parole board might hope.

"She [the victim] wakes up and goes about her day - and it could be a good day, a bad day, a forgettable day - but she wouldn't be having any kind of day at all if I'd killed her," he mused. Stopping short of saying he did her a favor by holding a gun to her head, drugging her, stripping her naked and tying her to the bed, he actually said he believes she is "grateful."

"All I can go by is the way she behaved toward me at the trial," he reflected, his voice ranging from highly excitable and giggly to a flat, bored tone.

"She was so nice to me and said some flattering things. It baffled me for a very long time."

Well, Braunstein, who admits he was a "medded-out zombie" at his trial, no longer needs to be baffled. The victim said no such things.

He's also got no compassion for any of his other victims.

"Do they wake up screaming in the middle of the night, in a state of trauma?" Braunstein spat. "That's how I feel every time I think about Jane Larkworthy."

Larkworthy, a former lover of his who testified against him, is a constant target of his bitter rants. Mention her name and he goes ballistic.

Chillingly, he boasted that he didn't go through with his original plan to kill Larkworthy because he would have denied himself the satisfaction of watching her suffer.

"I've realized that it's possible to hate someone so much that killing them wouldn't satisfy you," he said, agitated and speaking loudly.

In Braunstein's sick and twisted world, I guess that makes sense.

To the rest of us, living outside the special protection unit he shares with pedophiles, killers and other high-profile felons, thank God it does not.