Home > Built (Saints of Denver #1)(8)

Built (Saints of Denver #1)(8)
Author: Jay Crownover

“You’re right. You don’t know me, and it’s very possible you don’t remember Halloran because you only spent one night with her. Do you remember a bar called Jack and Jill’s?” When I just stared at the woman blankly she pulled on her lower lip and puckered her eyebrows in a little frown. “Maybe if you think about the day you got out of prison, that will help jog your memory.”

I jerked my head back at those words and narrowed my eyes. Five years ago I had been released from prison after serving two and a half years on an aggravated-assault charge. I refused to let my mom or my sister, Beryl, meet me on the day I got out; in fact I hadn’t even told my family what my release day was.

At the time I was angry, bitter, and had so much resentment and hostility still pent up over the reasons behind my arrest and the subsequent changes in my life, that I knew I needed to blow off some steam and get my head on straight before I saw anyone that loved me. I needed a few days to get back to the man they knew and not the one prison and life on the inside had turned me into.

I might not remember the name of the bar, but I did recall that I had walked aimlessly for a few blocks once the bus dropped me off at the first stop in Denver. The state prison was miles and miles away in Canon City and I swore to this day that the bus ride back home took days instead of a few hours.

“I might recall finding a bar that day but still don’t know anyone named Halloran.”

I had a bad feeling about where this conversation was headed. I didn’t hide my past but it wasn’t exactly my favorite topic of conversation either. It was unnerving that this stranger seemed to know so much about me.

That day was far from one of my finest.

Sure, I was free and it felt good to be out, but the girl I was in love with when I got locked up had moved on, left me not even six months after I went away. Meanwhile the bastard that I had nearly killed with my bare hands was still free and unchecked, allowed to do whatever he pleased even if that included using his fists on unsuspecting women. The injustice of it all festered inside me, making me a ticking time bomb ready to go off again. My fuse was always primed and just looking for an igniter. To tame the explosive fury that was still churning inside of me and to kill the craving that two years of no booze and no women had left burning in my guts, I figured the best place to scrounge up both would be the first seedy bar I could stumble into. I would get my fix of whiskey and a willing woman and then face both Beryl and my mom feeling somewhat like my old self.

“She was about this tall.” The woman held her hand up a few inches over her own head. “She was blond, blue-eyed, really pretty, and, like I said, supersweet.”

I didn’t miss her past-tense use of the word “was.” It was the second time she had referred to her friend that way. “Was?”

The tears started up again and the woman wrapped her arms around herself like she was giving herself a hug.

“Like I said, Halloran had terrible habits and terrible taste in men. Both of those things caught up with her last weekend. She was shot and killed over a drug deal gone wrong on East Colfax. Her new boyfriend was a drug dealer and thought it was perfectly safe to take her along on a pickup. Halloran should’ve known better, but she never thought things like that through. They were attacked by a rival dealer and his crew. Halloran was shot eleven times, the boyfriend was hit more than twenty.”

The woman could barely get the words out, and I couldn’t stand idly by any longer while she sobbed all over my jobsite. I walked over to her and pulled her into a tight hug even though she was a stranger and not making any sense. She needed someone to comfort her and I was the only one around to do it.

“I’m sorry about your friend.”

She didn’t hug me back, but she did nod her head where it was pressed against my chest. She took another steadying breath and moved away from me while wiping her cheeks off with the back of her hand.

“You might not remember her, she did tell me the night she met you that you were very drunk, very angry, and also kind of sad. She was in the bar because her boyfriend at the time had just kicked her out after knocking her around and she didn’t have anywhere else to go. She said the two of you started trading horror stories; you told her all about the guy that hit your sister and how you went to jail because you stopped him. She was smitten. You were brave, stood up for someone that couldn’t stand up for themselves, and well . . . look at you.” She waved a hand in my general direction as bits and pieces of that day started to pepper my brain with memories.

I’d always had a thing for blondes. Add some tragedy and whiskey to the mix and there was a very good chance I had gone all in on the booze and sex and just couldn’t remember any of it. I vaguely recalled sitting at the bar while someone that smelled sweet and gazed up at me with sad blue eyes took up the stool next to mine. I remembered heavy words and solemn kisses. I remembered gentle touches and liquor-fueled decisions. I even remembered the itchy comforter from the no-tell motel that I had woken up in, facedown and hungover like a motherfucker. I couldn’t remember the girl, her name, what she looked like, but
I remembered that she made me feel better for just a moment
and that I wanted to hurt the person who had made her so sad.

“Are you trying to tell me I hooked up with your friend?” I wouldn’t deny that it was a strong possibility and any reason this woman had for tracking me down now after all this time was making me break out in a cold sweat. I could clearly follow the trail she was leading me down without bread crumbs. The destination simply didn’t seem possible.

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