Working as a medic for the army special forces, Dan G. Wilson and his team came upon a troop of their own men, well behind enemy lines in a ‘safe zone’ all with symptoms of being exposed to poison gas. When Dan’s team reported their findings to their commanding officers, nothing was done about it, and the group remained baffled as to how US military troops were exposed and died if the gas did not come from the enemy. Once his tour of duty was over, Dan did not reenlist, and neither did the men from his unit. Back in civilian life, struggling from PTSD as well as a head injury Dan cannot function and is placed on disability. When he tries to contact the other members of his unit, he finds one by one, each of the men has died from ‘accidents’. Panicked he will be next, Dan changes his name to ‘Rudy Apollo’, leaves his home state of Indiana, and moves to New York City, where he hopes to blend in with the large population, and vanish from sight. Darius Benson is a New York City firefighter/paramedic, who had lost his parents in the terrorist attack on 9/11. One evening before his shift ends, he is called to the scene of an accident, where a car drove on a city sidewalk and hit one man. Darius and his partner rush the man to the emergency room. On the way, Darius holds the man’s hand, trying to give him comfort, and Darius can tell something else is going on with this handsome victim of a mysterious hit and run. Off shift, Darius stays in the hospital until the man is out of surgery to see if he survives, only to witness two men in suits, also waiting for the victim. When Darius realizes their intention is to inject this man with a syringe since he was not killed from the hit from a car, Darius intervenes and prevents the men from coming near the victim. Terrified to leave this man alone, Darius, with the help of his paramedic partner, move the man to Darius’ apartment in the Bronx. It’s then, as the man recovers with Darius’ care, that his story begins to reveal itself. And now, both men’s lives are in the balance because of a cover-up that began on the battlefields in Afghanistan; a cover-up which has now become a fight to stay alive and find someone to trust in the Big Apple. Both men know it is up to Rudy, the last surviving witness, to expose the incident to the media… But in reality, it’s one man’s word against the war machine. …And Then There Was…One One lone medic from a squad of heroes trying to bring justice to murderers. And with the faith and love of a devoted fireman named Darius, Rudy realizes, anything is possible.
Rudy felt as if he was coming around from a deep slumber and a bad dream. Once his senses returned, he realized he was being transported in the back of a medic truck, and pain began to grow in his chest.
As he shifted, someone beside him said, “Hang in there. Just a little more.”
Rudy forced his eyes to focus and he tried to sit up. He was touched to lie still by a fireman who was beside him. “Who…who are you?” His throat felt sore.
“I’m Darius Benson. I work for the fire department. I was the paramedic who brought you to the hospital.”
Rudy tried to look around and held his chest. An intravenous needle was in his arm and he panicked and yanked it out.
“No! Don’t do that. That bag has essential fluids and your painkillers. I’m a good guy! I swear!”
“Where are you taking me? To the hospital?” Confused, Rudy tried to sit up, but the truck was obviously moving in traffic and weaving lanes.
“You have just come from the hospital. I’m taking you to my place where you’ll be safe.”
“Your place?” Rudy gripped the young man’s uniform shirt. “Who do you work for? Tell me the truth!”
“The New York City Fire Department.” Darius removed his wallet and showed his ID. “Swear!” Darius held up his right hand.
Rudy grabbed the ID, and through his pain and dizziness scrutinized it.
Darius said softly, “Look, I know this sounds crazy, and I will lose my job if someone finds out I did this…”
Rudy looked at Darius, still holding his wallet with the ID card.
“…but… I think there were a couple of men in the hospital who wanted to kill you. Not the staff. Outsiders.”
Rudy dropped the wallet on his body and grabbed Darius by his shirt, snarling. “How do you know?”
Darius held up his hands to show he was not going to defend himself and replied, “I saw two men wearing dark suits. I overheard them planning to kill you. They had a syringe. I swear. I was not going to leave you there. The officer investigating the incident who I spoke to had no idea who they were.”
Slowly Rudy lay back on the gurney and tried to breathe. “What the fuck happened to me?”
Darius held up the intravenous needle. “If you’re in pain this is gonna help…and it’s got antibiotics in it.”
Rudy held out his arm and Darius replaced the needle. Rudy balled his fist at the sting and began to perspire from stress and most likely his injuries.
Darius, as he reattached the bag of fluids, said, “A car drove up on the sidewalk, hitting you. I was one of the paramedics that responded. One of your ribs punctured a lung. You were in surgery for three hours. I waited to see if you made it. I was going to make sure you lived and then leave.”
“Why?” Rudy touched his throat and felt a gauze bandage.
“Don’t know.” Darius’ cheeks flushed and he turned away. “But I wasn’t going to let some goons kill you.”
Rudy looked around the back of the medic unit. “So, you snuck me out of the hospital? In this?”
“Yeah. I told ya. I’m dead meat if someone finds out. I was afraid to tell the cops too much info. I have no idea who those fuckers were. Do you?”
Rudy did. He reached for Darius’ arm and said, “Thanks.”
Darius looked down at the contact. He touched Rudy’s hand gently. “You’re pretty messed up. But the attending nurse in surgery said it looked like you’ve been injured previously, so, is this, like, just another day at the office for you?”
At the irony, Rudy smiled and then laughed, but his laughter made him cringe in pain. He held his chest. “You have no idea.”
Darius smiled, and when he did, Rudy spotted adorable dimples. “Why do you care? I mean, I get being on the department, you help people for a living, but what made you decide to watch over me and risk your job? And you waited three fucking hours?”
Darius’ smile vanished and he didn’t look Rudy in the eye. “I was off shift. Can I take my wallet back now?”
Darius stuffed it into his pocket. “I can give you the basic care at my place. Unless you have a better location to go to.”
“No. Not at the moment.” Rudy wondered how they had found him. But of course, the DOJ could track anyone. He was surprised he wasn’t shot by a drone or sniper, but it had to look like an accident. All the others did.
“So…” Darius leaned closer to speak confidentially, even though it appeared to Rudy the driver was the only other individual with them. “Why does someone want you dead?”
Rudy clammed up. No one needed to know that. “Who’s driving?” Rudy asked.
“Buster Parker, a paramedic and a buddy. I trust him.” Darius put his finger to his lips and said, “Shh. He’ll never tell a soul.”
Rudy settled down slightly, resting as the truck rumbled under him. He touched his neck again. “Did something happen to my throat?”
“Yeah. You stopped breathing en route to the ER. We had to do a tracheotomy. It’s a small hole. It’ll heal quickly.”
“I was that close to death?”
When Darius touched Rudy gently, he said, “You had great care. The ER docs in this city are top notch.”
“And you too? You helped?”
Looking modest, Darius nodded. “Me and Parker kept ya going until we hit the hospital.”
“I’m trying to remember.” Rudy rubbed his head.
“Shock does that. It kicks in to protect you. You may recall it after a while.”
Rudy thought it through. “A car drove up on a New York City sidewalk and ran me down.”
“Only me? I can’t imagine being the only one hit.”
“You were. They timed it right. Lucky for others, not lucky for you.” Darius looked up. “We’re stopping.”
“Where do you live?”
“I have an apartment in the Bronx. It ain’t much. And…I have to carry you.”
“Fuck no. I can walk.”
“No, my friend. You can’t.” Darius looked back as the double-doors of the medic truck opened.
“How’s he doing?”
“Okay. Talking to me.”
Rudy watched another man climb into the truck.
“That’s Buster. He’s cool.”
Rudy had no idea who was ‘cool’ or not, but he wasn’t going to argue with two firemen who had saved his life, twice.
Both firemen worked on making sure the intravenous bag was secured to Rudy so it would not pull on the needle when he was moved. They dragged the gurney as close to the back of the truck as they could.
Darius handed Buster keys. “I’ll pick him up. You open the doors.”
“Pick me up?” Rudy asked, “Do you know how much I weigh?”
Darius shrugged. “One-ninety?”
Rudy was impressed. “Okay, fireman. Do your thing.” Holding his sore chest, Rudy was helped to sit up. Buster kept track of the tubes and bag of fluid while Darius reached for Rudy. Rudy was hoisted to rest over Darius’ shoulder, gently, slowly.
“Fucking ribs.” Rudy winced.
“I know. Lean on your left side.”
“How?” Rudy was struggling.
Buster helped move Rudy so he was not resting on his injured rib. “Better, dude?”
“Yes. But not for long. Fuck.” Rudy held onto Darius, feeling how big and powerful he was.
Darius stepped out of the back of the medic rig and waited as Buster shut the truck doors. The two men made their way to a towering tenement house, and Buster rushed to get the lobby door opened.
Rudy looked up from over Darius’ shoulder for anyone who may be spying this act. Not even a car was driving by at the moment and Rudy sensed it had to be the wee hours of morning.
Once Darius had Rudy inside the lobby, he said, “You remember which apartment it is, Parker? Up one floor. Number B-twenty-five. Go, and then get the fucking truck out of here.”
“Got it.” Buster took the stairs two at a time.
Darius carried Rudy, trying not to jar him.
“No. The building is really old. Sorry. How much pain are you in?”
How could Rudy complain? “I’m okay.”
Buster flew back down the stairs, holding keys. “The door is open. Let me grab the supplies from the truck and I’ll be out of here.”
“You’re the best, Parker.”
“Anyone finds out, we’re dead.” Buster sprinted out.
Rudy thought about that comment. “He’s right. But it won’t be from your supervisors. You do realize you’re involving yourself in a fucking mess.”
“Don’t care.” Darius kept moving Rudy up the stairs, laboring but doing his duty.
Buster rushed past with an armload of medical supplies and Rudy began to feel spent and out of it. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek on Darius’ neck. The man’s scent was of sweat and aftershave. Intoxicating.
Buster, catching his breath said, “Stuff is in your room. Anything else before I get out of here?”
“No. Thanks, man, I owe ya.”
“I gotta get the rig back. Good luck.”
Rudy heard the pounding of feet on the stairs as Buster left and then he and Darius headed through a door, into an apartment.
Now Rudy was at the mercy of a big bruiser of a fireman. He had seen his ID, yes. But trust was not one of Rudy’s strong points.