DISCLAIMER: Karen Sisco and its all characters are property of Jersey Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A special thanks to Debbie for always being there.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Set-Up
By Ann


Karen stepped into the conference room and pulled the door closed. "Sorry I'm late, Amos. I was on the phone with Washington concerning my last case."

Amos nodded. "No problem, Karen, we haven't begun yet." He waited until the marshal had taken her seat before laying out the problem. "Okay, here's what we've got; the Miami Dade Police contacted our office just a few minutes ago. They're requesting our help in tracking down a local fugitive."

"Why can't they track the guy down themselves?" Phil stopped his doodling long enough to voice the question that was on everyone else's mind. The U. S. Marshal's office wasn't at the beck and call of local law enforcement.

"They're in need of our resources. It's one of their own they're tracking."

Phil leaned back in his chair. "You're kidding; what did the guy do? Shake down some illegal." Phil chuckled at his own joke. As usual, the others just ignored him.

"Murder isn't exactly a laughing matter, Phil." Amos turned his gaze to the rest of his team. Phil just focused on the floor. Once again, he'd stuck his foot in his mouth.

"Okay, here's the situation; at approximately 10:00 a.m. this morning, a Miami Dade detective opened fire in a known drug trafficking area, killing two patrolmen. The captain believes the detective had been offering protection to the drug lord for the past year." Amos slid into his chair and reached for the folder, lying on the table.

"Here's the latest photo of the detective." Amos passed half the photos to the left and the other half to the right.

Phil's eyes widened when he got his first glimpse of the rogue detective. "Holy shit, it's Marley."

Karen's breath left her body, and she grabbed the photo from Phil's hand. "There's got to be some mistake."

"No mistake, one of the other detectives was an eyewitness. He said Detective Novak walked right up to the two patrolmen and shot them in the head, point blank, and then she shot the drug dealer. According to the detective, she calmly turned, climbed into her car, and drove away."

"And this guy just stood there, doing nothing? C'mon, Amos, this sounds very fishy to me." Karen was surprised she was able to remain so calm. What she really wanted to do was run from the room and go search for Marley.

Amos nodded in agreement. "Sounds that way to me, too, Karen. I mean, if this guy saw the whole thing why didn't he try to stop her or arrest her for that matter?"

"He was probably too scared; Marley can be quite intimidating when she wants to." Phil chimed in. "But, it is kind of weird that he didn't follow her or give chase."

"I agree and that's precisely why I've offered our services. It sounds suspiciously like a setup. Marley Novak has been very helpful to our office in the past, and if she's being setup, I'd like to be able to help."

Karen swallowed the lump that had formed. "So, what do you want us to do?"

"Well," Amos blew out a breath, "I say we try to find her before the police do. With two deceased officers, I'm afraid they'll fire first and ask questions later."

"So, we split up and take to the streets?" Phil pushed to his feet, ready to do anything to find Marley. He couldn't help but be excited at the prospect of her finally accepting a date even if it would only be in gratitude.

"That's precisely what I'd like."

The group of marshals stood and started for the door, all except for Karen who was positive that her shaking legs wouldn't be able to support her.

Amos called out his last request before his officers left the room. "Oh, and one more thing; if you find her, bring her here. I'd like to talk to her first. We'll offer her a safe house if it turns out that someone is setting her up to take the fall."

Everyone to a man nodded in understanding as they turned to leave. Karen placed her shaky hands on the tabletop for support as she slowly stood.

"Karen, we really need to find Marley before the police."

"I understand, Amos. I fully intend to get to her first."

Without another word, Karen turned and walked from the room.

The interior of the cabin was pitch black when Karen stepped onto the front porch and peered inside the front window, looking for any signs of life. Disappointed not to find any sign of movement, she placed the key in the lock and turned the knob. She froze at the feel of a gun barrel pressed against her temple when she stepped across the threshold.

"Marley?" Karen was unable to keep the fear out of her voice.

"Karen?" Marley dropped her gun and grabbed her lover, pulling her inside. She quickly pushed the door to and pulled Karen into her arms. "Oh God, Karen; I'm so screwed."

Karen leaned away and tried to focus on her lover; however, the darkness kept her from seeing the one thing she desperately needed to see, Marley's expressive, blue eyes.

"Why didn't you call me?" Disappointment was etched in her words.

Marley slid her hand down to Karen's and took hold. Silently, she guided Karen into the bedroom and closed the door. The harsh glow of the light temporarily blinded both women when the switch was thrown, but at the sight of the other, the two women fell into each other's arms; the windowless room providing shelter from possible prying eyes.

"I couldn't take the risk of the call being traced."

Karen led her lover to the bed and took a seat on its edge, tugging Marley down beside her. She reached up and pushed a stray strand of red hair behind her lover's ear.

"What happened?"

Marley resisted the urge to pace and grabbed onto Karen's hand more tightly. "Johnson set me up."

Karen frowned. "Johnson, he's a detective, right?"

"He's a fucking criminal!" Marley leapt from the bed and walked the length of the room. "I got a tip about a possible drug transaction going down this morning, and I thought I'd check it out before I called for backup. I saw Johnson walking towards a couple of patrolmen and figured my source had screwed up. I was almost upon them when he patted one of the guys on the back and then pulled a pistol from his pocket. He blew them both away before they could react. I reached for my gun, but he saw me. He got off a couple of shots and then another couple of guys started firing, I jumped behind the car."

Marley's eyes filled with tears. "He killed them in cold blood, Karen. He was laughing with them, and then he just killed them."

Karen crossed the room, stopping short of the distraught detective and eased her tone to calm her lover. "There was no way you could have known, Marley."

"I know that, Karen." Marley ran her hand through her hair. "It's just that one of the guys got married last week. How could Johnson just end someone's life so casually?"

"Like you said, Marley, he's a criminal. Now, come sit back down and tell me how this thing turned completely around to make it look like you were the shooter."

Marley nodded and followed her lover back to the bed's edge. "I was able to crawl into my car and reach for the radio, but I couldn't get a clear channel because of the static. One of the bullets must've hit it when they were firing at me. Anyway, I panicked and just took off. I was almost to the station when my radio came to life; it was crystal clear when I heard my name coming over the waves. Johnson was almost hysterical, shouting that I'd killed two cops. I took every back street I could find until I got to the highway. I headed straight for here. My car's locked in the garage."

"You did the right thing, Marley. No one knows about this place, so we're safe for the time being." Karen smiled sadly. "Now, it's late, and we're both exhausted. Let's get some sleep, and we'll figure out what to do in the morning."

In reply, Marley leaned over and kissed her lover soundly. Karen lay back and allowed her lover free rein. Sleep could wait.

The ringing of a cell had both Marley and Karen bolting upright.

Karen reached for the nightstand and grabbed the annoyance. "Sisco."

She rested her hand calmly on Marley's back when she heard the reassuring voice of her father. Hopefully, their late night chat would bring Marley some welcome news.

"Karen, it's Dad; I checked out that detective that you asked me about, and I came up with nothing but dirt."

"I kind of figured that." Karen reached for Marley's hand and smiled reassuringly.

"Yeah, well, I haven't told you the best part yet. I found out there's a huge deal going down tomorrow night. With the entire force on the lookout for Detective Novak, the son of a bitch has made plans to deliver the goods over at an abandoned warehouse on 6th Street."

Karen smiled. "That's great news, Dad. I can fill in the chief, and Marley will be cleared."

"Wait a minute there, honey. You can't tell the chief until late tomorrow. You don't want to tip Johnson off. The hunt for Detective Novak has to go on, but don't worry, she's pretty savvy, I imagine she's holed up somewhere safe."

"Yeah, I'm sure she is." Karen squeezed her lover's hand. "Okay, Dad, I'll just call Amos and fill him in. It'd probably pull more weight if he were the one to call the chief."

"Sounds like a plan then. Call me and let me know if I can do anything else."

"I will, Dad, and thanks, I really appreciate it."

"No problem, hon. I'll talk to you later."

Karen flipped her phone closed and turned to an expectant Marley.

"Well, what did he have to say?"

"He said you're stuck here with me until tomorrow afternoon."

"Karen . . ." Marley reached out to tickle the truth out of her lover.

She squealed. "Okay, wait. I'll tell you. Just stop."

Wrestling Karen to the bed, Marley hovered over her lover. "Give."

And she did, the information, too.

On the far end of the warehouse, a black sedan sat behind two large metal containers. Karen held onto her passenger's hand.

"Thanks for letting me come, Karen."

Karen stared out the windshield. "I should be shot."

Marley chuckled. "If anyone asks, just tell them I held you at gunpoint."

"That's not funny." Karen squeezed Marley's hand hard.

"Sorry." Marley sobered quickly; her thoughts going out to the two policemen who had lost their lives to Johnson. "I wasn't thinking. It's just that two days ago, I thought my career was over, hell, maybe even my life, and then you found me at the cabin, and everything was right again. Despite the grave circumstances, these past two days with you have been the best two days of my life. It's the first time we've been able to just be without someone calling one of us away. I just kind of forgot about everything else."

"I know." Karen smiled. "Say, when this is all over, and that asshole is behind bars, what do you say we take a week off and go back to the cabin? Or, we could go somewhere else if you'd like."

"You've got a deal." Marley leaned over to seal their agreement with a kiss, but movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. "Someone's here."

Both women lifted their binoculars and set their sights on the lone car, rolling up to the doors of the warehouse. Johnson stepped from the driver's side and two burly-looking men crawled out from the back seat, guns in hand. Reflexively, Marley reached for the door handle.

"Don't even think about it." Karen never shifted her gaze from the three men, but she did tighten her grip on her lover's hand.

Marley nodded and continued to watch the proceedings. A few minutes later, a second and then a third car rolled beside Johnson and his cronies.

In total, eight men stood facing each other with Johnson and a tall Hispanic man appearing to do all the talking. Several nods were exchanged before Johnson moved to the trunk of his car. The other man gestured to the rear of his car as well, and one of his men left to retrieve two briefcases.

The two men met at the trunk of the third car to make the final exchange; however, the flashing lights of dozens of police cars had the men scurrying away. Johnson watched as the others were easily corralled by his police colleagues. Taking advantage of the attention the officers were placing on the fleeing men, he quickly ducked behind the nearest car and edged away from the scene. When he'd managed to move out of their range, he took off in a sprint, heading directly for the large metal containers on the far end of the warehouse.

Johnson smiled as he looked over his shoulder. No one had seen him; he was home free. All he had to do was show up at work later and claim that Marley had tried to set him up for turning her in. He rounded the corner and came face to face with the barrels of two guns aimed directly at his head.

"Hello, Johnson; how nice of you to drop in."

A hammock rocked back and forth between two sturdy oaks; its occupants staring up at the moonlit sky. Karen shivered, and Marley pulled her closer.

"It's getting kind of chilly; want to go in?"

Karen pressed against her lover. "Nah, I'll just use your body heat to warm up."

"Oh, so that's all I am, huh? Your personal hot water bottle."

"I wouldn't say that's all you are." Karen grinned and slid her hand under Marley's shirt.

Returning the favor, Marley pulled the shirt free from Karen's sweatpants and moved her hand to her lover's lower back.

"So, what else do you want from me?" Marley slid her leg over the top of Karen's.

"Hmm, let me think." Karen looked up at the sky, pretending to be in deep thought. After the proper amount of contemplation, she leaned even closer to her lover.

"Ever done it in a hammock?"

Marley almost chuckled aloud, but she caught sight of Karen's eyes, darkened with passion; she quickly swallowed the laugh before it could escape. Karen had been serious.

Closing the final distance between them, Marley put an end to their teasing banter.

The hooting of a nearby owl and the swaying of the hammock, to and fro, provided the only sounds of the otherwise quiet night.

The End

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