She had only been a kid.
Fourteen at most, though the clothes and makeup had been designed to say something different. And maybe it had worked. The bloodsuckers generally stayed away from kids; they drew too much attention. Child disappearances had national news written all over them. They'd have to kill ten adults to get the kind of coverage one kid would give them.
But the short skirt and the home-cropped t-shirt that had probably looked quite respectable when her mom had bought it for her, the carefully but inexpertly applied makeup and the body that was just beginning to show signs of the woman she would have eventually become had done what she had no doubt hoped. She had fooled someone, and the wrong someone.
Or maybe the vamp had just been into kids.
The body now lay cooling on a slab in the morgue. At least, he hoped it did. They couldn't exactly call it in themselves, not without attracting the wrong kind of attention. All they could do was run, and hope that someone would come along and find it soon. Some poor unsuspecting soul who had left their home with no idea of the horrible thing they were about to witness. Another life potentially damaged by his failure.
He couldn't stop seeing her laying dead in a heap on the ground.
He had wanted to do something. Even if it had been too late to save her, at least he could lay her straight, pull down her skirt a little so that her little girl underwear wasn't on display for the whole world to see, maybe even cover her face with something. When someone found her, this was going to be a crime scene. Photographs would be taken and she would be captured for all eternity, like this. Discarded in an ally like some piece of trash.
He had tried to go to her, and Alan had held him back. He had tried to explain what he meant to do, struggling hard not to let his emotions show. Alan had shaken his head; told him they couldn't change anything, they couldn't risk leaving any hint that they had been there.
He had been right of course. Alan always could think more clearly in a crisis. But now, every time he closed his eyes, Edgar can see her laying in the dirt, blood drying in her long brown hair and underwear on display. Just like she would be in those photographs, the ones that her family would eventually see.
The hinges of the bedroom door creek as it opens and Alan walks inside. He strolls across the room and drops a newspaper on the bed in front of Edgar. It is open and folded to a page near the middle. It takes Edgar a moment to find what he is supposed to be looking at. A tiny article, little more than a footnote at the bottom of the page. Child's body found in city alley.
“Told you someone'd find her,” Alan says. He turns away, leaving the paper on the bed.
Edgar scans the rest of the brief article. There are no details and certainly nothing he didn't already know. Not even a name, she is still unidentified. He looks up just as Alan steps out of the door. “If we'd been five minutes sooner,” he says.
Alan turns to look at him expectantly, waiting for the second half of whatever he's about to say, but Edgar falters. He doesn't know that. If they had been five minutes earlier, maybe she would have still died, maybe they would too.
“We've just never lost anyone like that before,” he says.
Alan nods. “It won't be the first time,” he says. “Might as well get used to it now. You can't win them all.”
Edgar pushes the newspaper to one side, turning it over to hide the insignificant little headline from his sight. “How do you do that?” he asks. “How do you act like it doesn't matter?”
Alan frowns, leaning against the door frame, arms folded loosely across his chest, and he shrugs. “The truth?” he asks.
Still sitting on the bed, trying not to make eye contact with the back of the newspaper, Edgar nods. A hunter needs to be able to keep his emotions in check.
“It doesn't,” Alan says quietly.
“What doesn't what?” Edgar asks.
“Matter,” he tells him. “It's not an act. We tried, we failed.” He shrugs in a 'win some, lose some' kind of way, and Edgar feels something twist inside him.
With that, Alan turns again and leaves. Edgar listens to his footsteps down the stairs, and can't help but stare into the empty space he has left by the door.
After several moments, he forces himself to move again. Carefully, almost reverentially, he turns over the newspaper and gently rips around the edge of the article. When it is free of the newspaper, he reaches for a book, one of their few slaying references not in comic book format, and slides the piece of paper between the final page and the back cover. He closes the book carefully and places it back on the bookshelf.
“It matters,” he whispers, not sure whether he is speaking to himself, to Alan or the ghost of the girl in the alley. “It matters to me.”