The Men in Black Cloaks

London, England, 1890

The smog from the workhouses made Lily cough. She had never liked this part of the city, always so filthy and unsafe. But she thanked God for the small alleyways as she ran down them. Anything that could keep them from chasing her.

As she ran past the vagabonds and tramps that sleep on the street, she prayed and prayed. "Please Mother," she whispered, "please look down on me and protect me." She wished that her mother was there with her right now, running alongside her.

As she turned down the next alleyway, she stopped dead. There was a man blocking the end of the alley. A tall, imposing man, wearing a black cloak and hood. From his neck dangled a necklace, the shape of which made Lily's heart turn cold with fear. It was a skull, with vicious fangs and goat horns. The skull of The Devil. The red rubies in its eyes held her gaze, as if hypnotizing her.

The man in question chuckled. "Honestly, girl. Did you really think you could get away with want you did? In our city?" Lily turned to flee, but there were more men. All of them wearing the cloaks and pendants. "Please," she cried, on the verge of tears, "I didn't mean to..." "...To steal our scripture?" the man in front of her roared. From his cloak, he unsheathed a dagger, its black blade ornamented with blood-red demonic symbols.

He drew closer, and Lily could see the featureless mask under the hood. Blood red steel, adorned with but a single mark; the demon skull. "Don't try to garner my mercy, you wretch!" the man roared again. "Planning to go to the coppers, were you? Be a little hero?" And with that, he raised his arm, and brought the dagger down into the girl's chest.

Lily utter a strangled scream, then fell, stone dead. The other men gathered around the fallen girl. Blood seeped from the wound, pooling around it, but it did not run. They watched as the dagger, still lodged in the wound, sucked up the pool of blood. The blood curled around the intricate patterns of the blade, filling the clear glass handle. Within minutes, the girl was sucked dry.

The man who had done the damage retrieved his weapon. "I assume I'm to be scorned for this, Brother Holt?" A tall man stepped out from the crowd of cloaks. "You didn't have to kill her, Brother Kritch. She could have been put to work. And know we have a dead body in the middle of London." Kritch waved his hand. " Bah! She would have found some way to escape again, no doubt. Besides," he grinned, " the police can't pursue a murder when they can't identify the corpse." He motioned to the crowd. "Sister Fairchild."

Another person stepped out from the crowd. Sister Fairchild pointed her arms at the body, and snapped her fingers.

FWOOSH! The cadaver burst into a raging fire. In mere minutes, what was once the body of an orphan was little more than a pile of black bones.

"There", Kritch stated, "not much to go on, you see?" Holt snorted. "The remains of a body are just as incriminating as a body in its whole. But, I do see the point you make." He turned to the crowd behind him. "Let us blend in with the shadows. Morning is coming, and I don't wish to be seen with you lot in broad daylight."

And with that, the crowd began to leave, melding with the shadows in the alley until no one was left but the blackened skeleton.

In the morning, the bones would be found by a man, on his way to the local workhouse. The police would come, and cart away the remains, not knowing what a terrible sign it was. Murders like this had been turning up all around London, and they thought it merely as the work of a psychotic. It wasn't. The city was in danger, and it could only get worse...