Libby Drew
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Paying The Piper - 34. Chapter 34

The world could go to hell in thirty minutes, but could just as easily be righted in the same time span. This was another fact that Quent had come to appreciate. Thirty minutes ago, Mullen had burst through his front door. Now, he was on his way out again. A little worse for wear perhaps, but still all in one piece. All the fight had gone out of the lad after Marcus snapped the cuffs on and he had stayed unusually quiet while Quent called Rob to come fetch him.

Now, as Rob led Steve away, Quent turned to Drew. "I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I would like you to go to the station and make sure," he waved in Steve’s direction, "the situation is taken care of properly."

Drew nodded. "I was planning on it." As he watched, Quent wobbled on his feet and leaned back against the wall by the front door. He frowned and stepped forward.

"Don’t you dare," Quent snapped when Drew reached out tentatively to help him. "I don’t need your tender loving care. Save that for Cale. If you want to do me a favor, get over to the station and make sure Rob doesn’t fuck up."

Drew sighed deeply, but pulled back. "You know, Quent, at some point you’re going to have to admit that you like me."

Quent snorted. He shoved off the wall and limped toward the couch. "I think I can safely say that will never happen. Go." He waved Drew out. "Get this done so you can concentrate your efforts where you desire."

Cale, who was standing close by, flushed red, but Drew merely arched an eyebrow. "Did you just make a solicitous gesture?"

"Hardly," Quent replied, his voice bored. "I merely want some peace and quiet."

"Peace and quiet," Drew scoffed. "Would you prefer a glass with your peace and quiet? Or are you going to enjoy it right out of the bottle?"

Cale snorted, then cleared his throat and turned away when Quent snarled at him.

"Get out, the two of you. I would say call me if you need something, but frankly, I don’t plan on answering the phone, so save your quarter."

Drew rolled his eyes and turned to go, dragging Cale behind him.

"Bye, Quent," Cale called. Quent waved noncommittally with one hand while he struggled to his feet. As soon as the front door closed, he ambled over and locked it. Only then did he go in search for a glass to go with his bottle.

***********

Rob frowned when Drew walked into the station. When Cale appeared behind him, the frown deepened. "This isn’t the time or place for this," he said as he stood up.

Cale gave him a funny look. "For what?" he asked.

Rob faltered for a moment. "You know," he said.

"Are you insinuating something needs to be clarified between us?" Cale asked in a soft, but firm voice.

Rob stared at him, blinking slowly. Drew bit back a smile as he brushed by. "Smaller words," he whispered to Cale. He kept his voice deliberately soft, but Cale had little doubt he meant for Rob to hear what he’d said.

"I'm not an idiot," Rob snapped as his cheeks reddened. "I know what he meant! And where are you going?"

Drew threw a glance over his shoulder. "To see this Steve fellow. We’ve never met."

"Think he’s going to fall in love with you like everyone else?" Rob asked snidely. He was turned toward Drew, and so missed Cale’s choked gasp. Drew heard it, though. His eyes softened and turned speculative. "No, I doubt it," he replied, his eyes never leaving Cale. He smiled softly at him before turning around and continuing down the hall.

"Who said you could go in there?" Rob yelled.

Drew’s voice drifted back. "Quent."

Rob’s mouth snapped shut. With a low growl, he swung back around. He took a deep breath and faced Cale. "All right," he burst out. "Let’s get this over with."

Cale held up a hand. "No, I’d rather not right now, if it’s all the same to you."

"You really are a coward," Rob spat. He had been planning this confrontation in his head for months, and he knew exactly what he’d say to Cale if given the chance. He wasn’t about to be cheated.

Cale’s eyes grew dark. He took three measured steps across the room. When he was face to face with Rob, he lifted his palm, placed it on Rob’s chest and pushed. Rob, shocked by Cale’s unexpected move, stumbled backward into the desk.

"I don’t think you should speak of things you couldn’t possibly comprehend," Cale began. "You think because you carry that ridiculous badge and that pitiful little gun that you’re brave? You have no idea what bravery is." Cale stepped forward again. Rob leaned further back against the desk. "Sneaking around with a married woman doesn’t make you strong or smart. And it sure as hell doesn’t make you brave. You’re pathetic," Cale spat, "and you have no right to call me a coward."

A silent standoff ensued for several seconds before Cale stepped back. He sighed deeply. "But as it turns out, you’re right," he said quietly. "I am a coward. I only just realized it, too. You see, I used to think I was strong." He smiled wanly. "Turns out, I was just naïve."

Rob swallowed noisily. "I—"

"That’s not true," a voice said from across the room. Cale turned to see Drew watching them. He was staring at Cale intently. "Don’t say such things," Drew said in a low voice.

They stared at each other until Rob interrupted. "What the hell are you two talking about?" he wheezed.

Drew stepped forward and tossed a folder onto the desk. "I forgot to give you this. It’s from Quent. He wants you to contact the hospital about a psychological evaluation for Steve Mullen." Rob stared at the folder dumbly.

Drew stepped forward. "Cale, could you give me a hand?" He jerked his head toward the hall. After one last look at Rob, Cale followed Drew down the hall toward the back of the building. Drew glanced back once, only to see Cale’s lips pressed together in a tight line.

"I don’t need you to fight my battles for me," Cale said as they walked.

Drew didn’t answer until they reached the large door that led to the two small holding cells. "What if I want to?" he asked when Cale caught up with him.

Cale took a deep breath, but before he could answer, Drew turned abruptly and stepped close. "I like fighting your battles," he said gruffly. "It ranks up there among some other things I like to do for you."

Despite himself, Cale felt himself responding. Without thinking, he circled his arms around Drew’s back and clutched his shirt. Drew did the same.

"However," Drew continued, "I don’t like finding your car at the top of a cliff, or seeing you get shot, or watching you charge like a bull at an armed and dangerous criminal." His grip tightened and he pressed his body closer. "So why not humor me and let me have what I want," he whispered harshly.

Cale decided against a wordy reply. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed Drew. Drew responded in turn. Their attraction was still a novelty and soon they were moaning into each other’s mouths, lost to anything but one another. Drew pressed forward, rubbing their hips together in tight circles. Cale ripped his mouth away and groaned before gasping a breath before diving back in. Drew was seriously contemplating looking for a room with a lock when they heard a crash from the door behind them.

Cale jumped away. When it became clear the noise was merely Steve venting his frustration in the cell next door, he blushed and dropped his eyes. "Sorry," he said.

Drew smiled and took a deep calming breath. "It’s okay."

"I’m still not…" Cale sighed. "I don’t know what to say."

Drew stepped toward the door and dug Quent’s keys out of his pocket. "Say you’ll finish it later."

Cale smiled and dropped his head back against the door. "I will," he promised.

Drew nodded and swung the door wide. "Shall we?"

**********

Steve looked even worse than before. He glared at his two visitors. "What do you want?" he snapped.

Drew shrugged and leaned back against the wall. He thrust his hands into his pockets. "Just wanted to see you."

"Well, I don’t want to see you. I know who you are." Steve swiveled and walked to the opposite end of the very small room.

Cale took a position by the door and stood quietly, watching. Drew waited a minute before responding to Steve’s statement.

"Yes, you do. And how is that? We’ve never met."

"Oh, please," Steve said as he spun back around. "The famous Drew Marcus. Everyone’s hero. Don’t think I—"

"You know," Drew interrupted, "I wish you’d stop that. It does grow tiresome."

"Oh, I’m sure it does," Steve said sarcastically. "Everyone mooning over you all the time must be horrible."

"Actually, I was referring to the way you ramble on forever without actually saying anything," Drew said with a straight face.

Steve’s face grew red. "Fuck you," he yelled.

"I need to ask you a question," Drew continued as though Steve hadn’t spoken. "Why did you change your mind about who you thought killed Cynthia?"

Steve’s mouth dropped open. He gaped at Drew. "What?"

"Well, you see, Sarah told me that the morning after the murder you were spouting about all over town that I killed your sister. You changed your mind rather quickly. Now you’ve got another suspect? Pray tell, who’s offended you now?"

Drew’s tone was mild, but there was no mistaking the reproof in his tone. Still, even though Cale had only known Drew a short time, he sensed a distinct staging of the conversation. Drew was leading Steve somewhere. Cale just didn’t know where.

"It’s not like that," Steve shouted. "I just thought...well, you were there and it seemed logical. Oh, never mind." Steve dropped into a chair and put his head in his hands. Drew waited him out. When Steve looked back up, he said, "I’ve known for years that he would kill her eventually. That’s why I was trying to look out for her. It’s in his nature, you know? He’s not right. He never has been. He obsesses about so many things." Steve wagged a finger at Drew. "But Cynthia, she was his ultimate obsession. Always."

Drew cocked his head at Steve. "Who are you talking about?"

"Stuart Cobb."

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