“Boy—” Duke started.
“I’m not a boy,” Dutch bit.
His temper wasn’t usually short, but these days, it could be.
This was why Duke blinked.
He then said, “Son—”
“I’m not your son either,” Dutch returned.
“Right then.” Duke’s voice was no longer a friendly rumble. It was tight. “First, my age can’t have escaped you, considerin’ all this gray hair and wrinkles, so you are a boy to me, and you will be until you’re sixty and I’m dead. And second, any man’s a man at all, a man that’s younger than him and obviously struggling is his son. A son he looks after.”
Christ, was he not hiding it?
“I’m not struggling,” he lied again.
“Brother, just ring me up so I can get on with my day,” Dutch demanded.
Duke was silent a beat.
He then finished ringing him up, and Dutch paid.
“No bag,” he grunted.
Duke slid the books over the counter toward Dutch.
Dutch had turned, avoiding Tex’s eyes as he did, and started heading toward the door when Duke called, “You know that door is always open, but the one to my cabin in Evergreen is too, man.”
Duke was good people and Dutch had acted like an asshole.
So he lifted a hand and flicked out a finger to indicate he’d heard Duke’s words before he walked out the door.
It was early November, and cold, and he’d had a trip planned to Fortnum’s on his agenda that day, so he was not on his bike.
He was in his truck.
And right then, he walked the five blocks to his vehicle huddling into his leather cut. A spot that even five blocks away was considered a score in an area that had grown popular over the years, to the point all the good shit was smushed in with all the trendy shit.
Trendy, like there was a fucking tiki bar, for fuck’s sake.
As the years had gone by and the new edged out some of the old, Fortnum’s had become the bastion of old-school cool on South Broadway in Denver.
And Dutch hoped like hell the millennials—of which he was one, but he wasn’t a fan of his membership—got bored with Broadway and returned it to the freaks and geeks and antiquers and gays and hip cats and hipper pussycats who knew true cool came from a vintage clothing shop, not a Free People catalog.
He climbed into his truck as his phone rang again.
He checked it.
It was Jagger.
He ignored the call, started up his truck, and embarked on the only other item on his agenda that day.
He headed to King’s Shelter, a safe place for runaway kids.
King’s provided food. A bed. TV. Some counseling if you took it. Some tutoring, if you took that too.
Mostly, it was a no-pressure place for kids who couldn’t hack home so they wouldn’t be on the streets. They could get a decent meal, sleep in a clean bed, take a shower and catch up on their reality programs.
Right, that wasn’t entirely accurate.
There was food, clean beds, and a huge TV.
But also, there was pressure.
That said, Juliet Crowe, the woman who ran the place, made an art of making pressure seem like no pressure.
If there was a way to reconcile shit at home, she’d find it, and reconcile that shit.
If there was no way, she’d figure out an alternate avenue for a kid that didn’t include hanging downtown, falling into dealing, using, or whoring.
It was just she was a dab hand at finessing that shit.
He parked at the shelter, got out, grabbed one of the books, and headed in.
Chances were probably seventy-thirty the kid wouldn’t be there.
Dutch’s day looked up when he saw him there.
He didn’t hesitate moving right to the guy who was not at one of the couches around the big sixty-incher, watching some show where three bitches were wearing skintight mini-dresses and four-inch heels, shouting at each other and pulling each other’s hair.
He was sitting at a table on the outskirts.
That was Carlyle.
Even at a shelter for runaway kids.
“The wig’s gonna go, wait and see,” he declared as Dutch made the table.
Dutch turned his head and looked at the TV.
Carlyle was right. One of the women was shrieking because another one had pulled off her wig.
Dutch sighed and looked back to a boy who was really no longer a boy.
The kid was six nine if he was an inch. Three hundred pounds if he was an ounce. Dark skin. Brown eyes hard as marbles.
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