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Redemption

By:Amy Miles

Prologue

A dark shadow of a man perches high above the streets of London, his gaze focused intently on the front doors of the Fortune Theatre. The deserted path below is lit with a golden glow, the light spilling out from the closed glass doors. A marquee above the theatre’s awning announces another nightly performance of A Woman in Black is under way.

He shifts not out of discomfort or necessity but out of sheer eagerness.

This is the first attack. The first of many to come.

His fingers curl around the rooftop ledge as he leans forward, checking once more to make sure the bodies have been positioned perfectly. A single drop of saliva drips from the corner of his mouth, evidence of his rising excitement.

The victim’s eyes stare up at him, glazed and vacant. The flesh of their throats has been sliced open, carved from ear to ear. Not a single drop of blood will be found along the wounds or the pavement below. He made sure of that.

Clean cuts, he smiles, stroking the sharpened blade at his side.

The three college-aged girls below never saw their attacker. He had kept to the shadows, stalking them as they rushed to meet up with a group of friends. Only the blonde sensed his presence. She had cast several cautious glances back over her shoulder, her brown eyes widening with alarm when she saw him swoop down upon her. Her gurgled screams were masked by the honking of taxis as they raced down the streets. The other two didn’t have a chance to put up a fight.

A slow grin stretches across his face as he imagines the frustration of the waiting party. How long did they linger before they took their seats? Were angry texts later followed by frantic pleas to respond?

He had watched a group of girls emerge during intermission, searching both sides of the street. They seemed agitated to be sure but not nearly enough. That is why he chose this location for the big reveal. Soon the theatre doors will open and the real show will begin.

The victims’ arms are spread wide, hands clutching hands as they stretch across the narrow paved street. Long blonde hair is knotted into ginger curls and then into shiny brunette strands, adjoining the three girls in death.

Their abdomens have been torn open, as if mauled by a bear right in the heart of London. He flexes his fingers, noting the scent of blood that still clings to his claws. This final wound had been an afterthought, a nice touch for the front page of the Sun newspaper tomorrow morning.

He looks down Russell Street, toward the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden. At this time of night, it is usually packed with shoppers, tourists and street performers. The screams should draw a nice crowd.

Looking back down at the girls, he smiles at his handiwork. Their skin is abnormally pale, their veins absent from sight. Investigators will not find a single drop of blood in their bodies, nor fingerprints to tie anyone to the crime. The only clue will be the bite marks along the girls’ forearms and wrists.

The creak of opening doors draws his attention. He crouches low, eager for the show to begin.

The first to emerge is an older couple, the woman draped in furs and jewels. Her salt and pepper hair is elegantly coifed at the back of her head. She is on the arm of a man who wears a fitted suit, his shoes shined and his steps careful. Neither of them peers into the darkness of the street as they pass.

The murderer frowns, annoyed that his masterpiece has gone unnoticed under the veil of night. The streetlamp flickered and died nearly an hour before, leaving much of the road cast in shadow, but youthful eyes will easily be able to see the hand that stretches toward the gutter.

A pair of younger couples emerge next, the women clutching their chests as they discuss the final scene of the play. The tall man on the left notices the lifeless hand first, his muddy brown eyes widening in shock behind gold-rimmed glasses.

He yanks his wife back, wrapping his arm around her shoulders to draw her away. Her screams beckon a flood of people from within the theatre. Mouths gape wide as pallid faces stare in horror at the macabre scene before them.

The shadowy monster rubs his hands together, grinning. He rises up slightly as the group of girls he has been waiting for emerge. They rise onto their toes, craning to see over the crowd. As murmurs float through the cluster of theatregoers, one girl’s shriek pierces the night.

She struggles through the crowd, her petite hands trembling as she tries to push people aside. Her hands cover her lips as she stares down at the beautiful brunette sprawled at her feet. Their likeness is uncanny.

Her friends cluster around, trying to console her, as she doubles over and yanks on her hair. Her screams turn to mournful wails as she sinks to the ground, arms outstretched toward her sister.

The concealed man closes his eyes, relishing the sounds of pounding footsteps drawing near. The scent of blood lingers in his nostrils. He breathes deep, savoring the heady scent of death. He licks his lips, capturing a lingering droplet of blood from the corner of his mouth as people speak frantically into mobile phones, some calling for help, others dialing family and friends to give a first-hand account of the gruesome scene.

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