Irina ran around the hall like a madwoman, following the instructions of the senior manager, along with other women. Although she was just a dishwasher in this restaurant, but today was a special day, a meeting of important guests, and all the staff were attracted to the decoration and serving of the hall. After all, the most influential and wealthy businessman of the city will come to dinner with his deputy.
Everyone knew that Oleg Yuryevich Kholodov was a criminal authority in the past and had a very cool temper. Everyone was afraid of him. And the deputy, Stas Krakow, he was an upstart, young and early, he didn’t put people in anything at all, he could easily be rude, even his look was as if he considered everyone around him inferior. In general, the guests are still those, the director of the restaurant for the thousandth time did a dressing down and told everyone to just nod and smile, and fulfill any, even the most ridiculous requests of important visitors. He wanted to show that his restaurant is the most prestigious, and the service here is at the highest level, as well as the menu.
Ira was just running past the back door when she saw a boy she knew in the window. He looked at her imploringly and waited for her, as usual, to let him warm up and feed him. It was cold outside, there was a strong wind, and the baby was very cold, he was just shaking from the cracking frost. Now, of course, was not the best moment, but the girl’s heart sank. She imagined how Eugene was cold and wanted to eat. There’s no one else to help him! She looked around, like no one was around, and quietly turned the key in the lock. She motioned for him to follow her. In the back room, she sat on sacks of flour, and brought a plate with potatoes and a chop. I put a cup of hot tea and a fresh, crispy bun next to it. She chattered quickly:
— Eugene, as soon as you sing, leave immediately, but quietly. Don’t let anyone notice you. Today, Kholodov himself is coming to the restaurant, a terrible commotion, not up to you now. It’s better not to hang around here once again. Wait for me in the park, I’ll take out different food for you after the shift, there will be a lot of delicacies. Well, that’s it, my good one, I ran! And then they’ll scold!
She patted the boy’s long, uncut hair, and ran on, because from the hall she could already hear:
— Irina, where have you disappeared? You are only to be sent for death! Did you fall asleep in the kitchen or something? And so time is running out!
The girl had been working in the restaurant for a year. All this time she secretly fed Eugene. The boy was only nine years old. It was not the first time he had run away from the shelter, and hung around cafes and restaurants, begging. Irina felt terribly sorry for the boy. The mother is an alcoholic, the stepfather was beaten to bruises, so he was taken away from the family. And there was no sugar in the shelter either. The boy told how he was locked in the pantry, bullied, and forced to drink burnt alcohol to have fun. And then he vomited for three days, almost died, severe poisoning happened. I spent the night on the heating main with the homeless. They smelled bad, but they didn’t offend. So he ran away. Ira would have adopted him a long time ago and taken him to her, she was very attached to the baby, but there was nowhere! After all, she lived in a rented cramped room. And the hostess was so harmful that she went with checks several times a month, thinking that the young girl would take the guys there. Here Ira also fed Eugene. She quietly let them in from the back room, allowed them to eat and warm up there, and once a week she let them go to her house, swim and sleep off normally. She often bought him clothes and shoes. After all, it’s the beginning of winter, and the boy has neither boots nor a warm jacket!
And finally the X-hour has come, important guests have arrived. A whole motorcade of expensive cars lined up near the restaurant. The waiters ran and fussed like crazy, serving the rich, who lounged impressively, slowly drank and ate delicacies. Irina did not have time to cope with mountains of dishes. Two dishwashers were working, and she was still washing with her hands. The parking was terrible. Suddenly she heard a terrible commotion in the hall. Shouts, swearing, and Eugene’s familiar voice:
— It’s not me! I didn’t steal anything! Let me go! You are welcome!
Ira’s heart sank into her heels, she dropped a beautiful salad bowl on the floor and looked out into the hall. All the waiters stood in front of the guests and turned out bags and pockets. Eugene was held by the ear, risking to tear it off altogether. He was howling in pain and crying. Ira, not remembering herself, ran up to the boy, and pressed him to her, asking an important man:
— What happened? Why do you offend him. It’s just a poor hungry boy, he’s not a thief. I know for sure. Let go, it’s just a kid!
The man looked at her contemptuously, as if she were an empty place, and barked:
— I lost my wallet, there was something very important for me besides money and business cards! Everyone saw how at the very beginning of the evening this homeless guy was here! Maybe he stole it! And who are you and why are you standing up for a beggar?
Ira blushed all over and chattered:
— I’m Irina. I’ve been working here as a dishwasher for a year now. Don’t touch the boy, he would never take someone else’s! And she pushed the baby, whispering to him: — Run! Otherwise we’ll both be in trouble!
There was no need to repeat it twice, and Eugene was blown out of the restaurant in a second! But Ira got the full, cursed, shook up all her things, and kicked out with a wolf ticket for nothing! The director was yelling so hard that the veins were already swollen:
— What are you doing here, trash? A homeless shelter? Who are you, anyway? Get out, so I don’t see you here anymore! Disgraced the whole wide world! Who is this ragamuffin to you? Come on, admit it! You did it with him, didn’t you?
Ira sobbed and swore:
— No one! Just a poor hungry kid! Do you have children? I just feel sorry for him! He’s not a thief! I didn’t arrange anything. Don’t kick me out, please. My father is ill, I need money!
But the director was adamant. He needed this sacrifice for show in order to make amends and hush up the unpleasant scandal with the loss of the wallet…
Ira cried and trudged home, not noticing either the cold or the piercing wind. Suddenly Eugene ran up to meet her. He looked into her eyes, and swore:
— Ira, I didn’t take anything! Honestly. If you want, I’ll swear by my health. Do you believe me? I’m not some kind of thief! Well, I’m a fool for not listening to you. I really should have stayed away. But I thought, on the contrary, the rich would take pity, they would give good alms. And here it is…
Ira just waved her hand, and said through sobs:
— What difference does it make now! I’m already unemployed! They kicked me out, Eugene! Such are the things! I know you’re not a thief, but that doesn’t change anything!
When she got home, Ira fell on the sofa and sobbed again. I began to remember my whole life…
Ira grew up in the village. My mother was an ordinary milkmaid, my father was a combine harvester. Everything is like everyone else. At home there is a vegetable garden, a farm, an ordinary village life. Ira grew up quiet, calm, helped her parents. That’s just had a very sharp sense of justice. She hated lies and deception. Hard work, early rises and weeding of a huge vegetable garden for many years of life have severely undermined the health of my mother. And my father often liked to drink, scandals in the house were not uncommon. But in the village this is the norm, no one pays attention to this. The poor woman suffered a lot, and when Irina was fourteen years old, her mother died, right in the garden – a stroke! The girl grieved so much, sobbed so much, blamed her father for not helping them enough and spoiling their lives! The man closed himself after the death of his wife, withdrew into himself, but he began to drink more than ever. I tried to drown out that terrible pain in my soul and my guilt. He crawled home almost on all fours, and Irina had to pull off his clothes and persuade him not to get rowdy, but to go to bed. And in the morning, his father was blacker than a cloud and demanded to give him money again for another bottle. My daughter did not give them, hid them, and they were swearing at the top of their lungs. She begged her father to stop, begged, told him how bad and hard it was for her alone, but he didn’t seem to hear her. And six months later I got into an accident on a drunken case, crashed into a grain truck on a country road with a combine harvester. Ivan was permanently confined to a wheelchair! Only now did he fully realize what he had done! What did you doom yourself and your underage daughter to!
Ira has grown up for this terrible year by ten years! Of course, she didn’t leave her father. I got up at the crack of dawn, managed the garden and the household, then took care of my father, and ran to school. In class, I just fell asleep on the desk. The teachers felt sorry for the poor thing, realizing what an unbearable burden had fallen on the girl! But Ira never forgave her father! She spoke coldly and through her teeth, did not look into her eyes! She sincerely believed that if he hadn’t been drinking, all this horror wouldn’t have happened!
Immediately after graduation, Ira decided to go to the city to work. My father needed an operation, otherwise the doctors from the village said that he could completely come down and not get out of bed. And where to get the money from? Therefore, Ira asked Aunt Masha to look after Dad, and she went to the capital to work.
It’s clear that a young girl without education and experience was not taken anywhere, so she miraculously managed to get a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant. The work was very hard, on my feet, for twelve hours, but they paid generously, did not offend. The room was rented by Ira on the outskirts, small but clean. The hostess really got unbearable, she tried to control everything.
Several months have passed.
Ira saved most of her salary for an operation for her father. I left myself only a minimum for life. I must say that the girl’s appearance was non-standard. Beautiful oriental brown deep eyes with long, curled eyelashes, dark skin, and a chic long shock of hair to the waist. Almost all the men turned around after the beauty and drooled.
One day on a day off, Ira was walking in the park, and some reckless driver turned around in a cool car, right on the sidewalk, almost knocked down a young girl! She became indignant and jumped aside, looking around in fright. A young major jumped out of the car, too, and began to justify himself:
— Girl, I’m sorry, for God’s sake! Dad recently gave me a car, there is no driving experience yet! Let me buy you a coffee? There is a good place nearby.
Ira looked at the stranger: good-looking, her age, well-built, and agreed. So they had a whirlwind romance with Vitalik! Naive Ira fell in love, forgetting about everything in the world: restaurants, armfuls of flowers and hot nights completely turned her head! She was very offended when the groom disappeared, then appeared again, but she forgave him absolutely everything!
Corny as it may seem, but a couple of months later, Ira became pregnant. The naive girl immediately happily informed Vitalik about this. He rushed ten minutes later to their favorite place in the square, where they met, and shouted angrily:
— Are you completely stupid? Couldn’t you have been more careful? There are a lot of pills for all this! Generally so! Here’s the money for an abortion, and let’s forget about everything!
Ira was sobbing:
— Vitalik, why are you doing this? I love you. I thought we’d get married, I’d give you a son or a daughter. What’s wrong?
He laughed in her face:
— Who do you think you are? I’m the son of a prosecutor, and who are you? Just a cute dishwasher! Yes, everyone will laugh at me! Well, we relaxed, frolicked a little and that’s it! And this money is enough for you to sort out your stomach and erase my number, do you understand?
And he left without even saying goodbye. And Ira sobbed on the bench until late at night, unable to move! It was so disgusting and disgusting in my soul! It was as if she had been trampled and thrown into a landfill!
She was angry: «How could he do this? You bastard! And I’m good, a village fool! She thinks she’s a princess! And what should I do now? At least hang yourself! I fell in love like an idiot, but the girls from the restaurant warned me! You are not a couple! You’re no match for him!»
On a nervous basis, Irina had a miscarriage a week later. She walked out of the hospital like a robot. Something died inside, broke off, she didn’t care what was happening around her. And she swore to herself that she would close her heart with a hundred locks and not let anyone hurt her anymore.
The only little man for whom she had tender and warm feelings was Eugene. She felt terribly sorry for this poor hungry boy. He reached out to her, looked into her eyes, and everything in her soul turned upside down from that look!
After being fired, Ira began to frantically look for a new job. But so far, no suitable vacancies with the salary she needed have turned up. The girl was already starting to panic! Soon to pay for a room, there’s a ball in the refrigerator, and I haven’t postponed a penny to my father this month!
One day the doorbell rang. Ira opened it and froze on the threshold! In front of her stood the very oligarch Kholodov, because of whom she was kicked out of the restaurant! Ira was scared to death, swallowed and pressed herself against the wall.
«If he found me at home, nothing good is definitely in sight!»
But to her surprise, the man walked into the room in a masterly manner, pushing Ira aside like a feather, sat down on a chair and said:
— Irina… I beg your pardon! There was an unfortunate misunderstanding. You really had nothing to do with the theft of my purse in the restaurant, and neither did that boy. We later watched the surveillance footage in the hall. It turned out that it was my smart deputy who stole the wallet. Can you imagine that? I warmed him up, and it turns out he worked for competitors, such an abomination! I knew that a valuable flash drive with information was stored in my wallet. I always carry it with me. So everything turned out, I threw this scoundrel out like a dog! Now he won’t even get a job as a janitor anywhere!
— Yes, I do. You can do that. So, what do you want from me, I don’t understand in any way?
The man cleared his throat and answered:
— I understand that it is because of me that you are out of work. But I will not reinstate you in office. It is not for me, the owner of the city, to bow before the director of the restaurant. But I want to offer you a place as a maid with accommodation in my country mansion. You will be allocated a separate house on the territory. The salary is good, you will not be left out. So, do you agree? I don’t make such offers twice!
Irina understood that such a person could not be denied in any way, it would be more expensive for herself, and she really needed a job, there was no money at all, and she nodded:
— When to start? I agree. Only I have only one condition, so that no harassment.
The man replied matter — of — factly:
— Get ready. Let’s go right now. Why pull? Don’t worry, I can buy any woman if I want, believe me, I don’t need it, and you’re old enough to be my daughter.
So Ira began working for the oligarch Kholodov in the house.
He lived there with his son Artem. The guy was incredibly attractive, charismatic, pumped up, couldn’t take his eyes off. But the behavior did not please anyone at all. A typical arrogant major! He liked to walk until morning, played at the casino, and squandered his father’s fortune. Formally, Artem was listed as a leading senior manager at Kholodov’s firm, but, in fact, he almost never appeared there. I only received a salary. Oleg Yuryevich, of course, was very upset because of his son’s antics, tried to reason with him, but everything was in vain.
Ira liked the job, although it was a little hard to get used to, the house is huge. But in a month she was completely involved and coped with her duties perfectly. Ira did not forget about Eugene. On weekends, I brought him a lot of food and things to the heating main. She took him to her room, bathed him, and changed his clothes. The boy was always happily waiting for her, huddled up to her, and looked so! This look literally begged: «Take me away from here!»
Every time after such meetings, Ira cried for a long time from despair! She wanted to hug Eugene to her and finally say such cherished and most important words:
— I’m your mom and I won’t give you to anyone else!..
One day in the evening, Kholodov became ill, the pressure jumped to two hundred. The terrified cook Zina, together with Ira, called an ambulance. The oligarch was given first aid, and they wrote how to take care of him. The women took turns at his bedside. Thank God, by morning the crisis was over. As soon as Oleg Yurievich fell asleep, Artyom stumbled into the mansion from the club tipsy, and began to shout:
— Zinka! Get some coffee! With cream! Yes, hurry up!
Ira approached the guy quietly and reproachfully asked:
— Artem, my father is ill, he had an attack, he just fell asleep. Don’t shout, please, and don’t spoil your health with your behavior. Dad gets upset…
The young major suddenly jumped up and jumped up:
— And who are you to teach me life? You’re just a maid! So know your place, clean up and mine in silence! And I’ll deal with my father somehow! Understand?
Ira blushed, lowered her head and said:
— Sorry, it won’t happen again.
And she ran away to her room. There she burst into tears. She felt so hurt! In fact, she liked Artem a lot! Intellectually, she understood that he was a major, and she was a maid, and nothing but a banal affair was shining for her. But I couldn’t help myself! And the guy, though often rude, but looked at her so frankly, as if assessing and examining! And now he humiliated her so much! Like a slap in the face! Ira was angry:
«Well, to hell with him! Let him continue to roll down, if he likes to live so much! Too much for me, the king has been found! I won’t say another word! And I won’t look in his direction!»
A couple of days later, Oleg Yurievich felt better, but he still could not stay on his feet for a long time. Therefore, the millionaire instructed Artem to go by car to important negotiations instead of himself. The young man left and disappeared!
A hundred kilometers from their city, Artem’s car was found burned to the ground, but the body was never found! Oleg Yuryevich tore and raged, he hired the best detectives to find his son, but everything was in vain.
A month has passed.
In the mansion of Kholodov, the situation was heated to the limit. The oligarch almost fell down from worries about his son! I was taking pills all the time, my blood pressure was off the scale. Ira was also sad. She really missed this obnoxious and impudent guy! I scolded myself for what the light is worth:
«What a fool! The second time on the same rake! Forget him! You are not a couple with him! He’s not even looking at you! And you howl after him at night! Well, how to get him out of my head and heart! I just remember his squinting look, and my heart jumps out of my chest!»
One night, Irina had a strange dream: Artem was sitting at the bottom of some pit, and whispered with cracked lips:
«Help! Save me! I’m in the Capercaillie!»
Ira woke up in a cold sweat, she was pounding! She turned on the light, drank water, Artyom, and stood before her eyes, so real was the dream! Ira opened the map on the Internet. Indeed, such a village existed in reality, but very far from the place where Artem’s car was found. The girl barely waited for the morning and the moment when Kholodov would go down to the kitchen to have breakfast. She began to explain everything to him haltingly:
— Oleg Yuryevich, you have to listen to me! I had a dream about Artem today. He’s alive, but in trouble! He is sitting in some kind of pit, in the village of Capercaillie. I looked at the map, there is such a thing. True, it is very far from the road where Artem’s car was found, but still. What if the dream is prophetic? Maybe let’s double-check?
The man looked at her skeptically:
— Ira, you are not a bad girl, but, in my opinion, you have reviewed the series! I don’t believe in any prophetic dreams! The best detectives of the city are looking for Artem. Get on with your work and don’t fill my head with any nonsense…
Ira sighed and silently left, upset that the oligarch only laughed at her and did not believe a single word!
But the stubborn girl was not going to give up the trip. She felt in her heart that Artem was there! Ira has developed a whole plan for the weekend. I packed a backpack with everything I needed: matches, a rope, a knife, a gas canister, a blanket, crackers, sandwiches and drinking water. And she rushed to Eugene. She simply had no one else to turn to for help:
— Zhenechka, baby, I need your help. Do you have a loyal friend, preferably older and stronger than you? So that you don’t ask about anything, but just help? I need to go to a place on the weekend. Man, my master’s son is in trouble. I have to find out everything and help him! Will you come with me?
The boy replied matter — of — factly:
«I’ll do anything for you. I’ll take the Bear! He’s sixteen, but he’s as healthy as an ox, and dumb! So he definitely won’t tell anyone anything. But I communicate well with him with gestures. But he needs to be paid, he just won’t go!
Irina agreed, hired a taxi, since no bus would have reached such a remote place, took the kids, and set off. She spent a huge amount on a taxi, but it didn’t stop her. Ira was like an obsessive, for some reason she firmly believed that it was there, in the Capercaillie, that she would find Artyom!
We drove for a long time, over potholes and off-road, finally the driver, cursing, dropped off the passengers and immediately left. And the trio went in search of a young businessman. The boys were extremely excited, it was a real adventure for them, but Ira was very worried, and already reproached herself for dragging the children into such an adventure. After all, she herself did not know what was waiting for her, and then there were the children. Right on the field, several local kids were frolicking and throwing apples at each other. Eugene came up to them, talked busily about something, then they shook hands. The boy happily informed Ira:
— I know where to look. We need an abandoned house on the outskirts, right under the swamp. It seems to us there.
Ira was stunned:
— And where did this information come from? How did you manage to get them? Well, you give!
— Well, I’m not used to it, I said that we were looking for a folder, and my older brother was even speechless with grief. They say they stole it, probably. I asked if they had noticed any strangers here in their village. So they sympathized and said that on the outskirts, in an abandoned house, someone clearly lives. Sometimes a cool car arrives, then leaves. And they seemed to hear some voices.
Ira patted the baby on the head:
— Well done, Zhenya! Thanks. I wouldn’t have thought of that! Well, let’s go then.
They walked around the village for a long time, Irina asked the local old ladies, just in case, where the district police officer lives. It turned out that even in the neighboring village it was bigger. Finally, when the street began to turn gray, they found the house they were looking for. The estate was quite large, surrounded by a high fence, it was impossible to get close. Ira tried both ways — nothing! The boards were carefully nailed to each other. Zhenya, watching her suffer, only grinned. Mishka deftly threw the boy on his shoulder, and threw him over the fence, and after a couple of minutes Zhenya opened the gate from the other side, and they entered the territory. There were no cars or people in the yard, but still they made their way very quietly, you never know what. The door of the house was closed with a large padlock. Eugene examined him busily and made a conclusion:
— There was definitely no one living in the house. The lock is rusty, it has not been used for a long time. Let’s move on. Maybe there is a shed or a basement. The local boys said that they saw strangers from the back of the yard. So let’s go around and see.
They walked around the back of the house. Indeed, there were many outbuildings there, apparently, some farmer used to live here. Ira and the guys looked into each shed in turn, and nothing! A complete fiasco! Everyone was already tired, exhausted, and Ira sat down right on the bare bricks:
— Oh, guys! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have started all this. And you also need to get home somehow! There is no one here! And then suddenly, from somewhere under the ground, a very faint moan was clearly heard!
Eugene put his finger to his lips, everyone fell silent, and he began to shout with all his might:
— Are you here, Artyom? Respond! We can’t find you!
— Artem! It’s Ira, the maid! I want to save you! Shout harder if you can!
After a couple of minutes, the moaning really intensified. Eugene ran to the last shed, from which they had recently left, then gestured to the others:
— That’s it! What fools we are! There’s a basement under the hay. Mishka, how about you push it, otherwise I don’t have enough strength!
He explained to the guy with gestures what they wanted from him. A strong guy pushed on the heavy door leading to the dungeon, and it gave way with a creak. There was a terrible stench and dampness. Ira strictly ordered his wife and Misha:
— I’m going there alone! Wait here. You never know what’s out there. I’m already worried about you. If I’m gone for a long time, run and look for a precinct officer.
The girl crossed herself, exhaled, and on stiff legs began to descend the earthen steps with a lantern. When she finally found a flat surface under her feet, she looked around and began to shine around. In the farthest corner, right on a pile of half-rotted hay, Artem was lying! He was tied with ropes to a post. It was a terrible sight! The guy was simply unrecognizable! Skin and bones! Black, dried up, emaciated. There was a bottle of water nearby, in which there was liquid at the very bottom, and dried crackers, eaten by mice, were lying around. Ira even screamed in shock, and reached into her backpack. I took out the water, and the first thing I did was go to Artyom, and tried to get him drunk. The man regained consciousness, then lost it. He was on fire! With dry, cracked lips, he greedily drank a sip of water and begged:
— Save me! It’s all Stas Krakow! Dad’s deputy, he stole me, just like that, out of revenge, to make my father more painful! I do not know how much time has passed, and I no longer hoped that they would find me! I just prayed and waited for death to come for me at last!
And the man lost consciousness again. Ira took out a knife and began to cut the ropes, then shouted to her Wife:
— I found Artem. He’s unconscious. I need Misha to help me get him out! Meanwhile, Zhen, run and find out from the neighbors where the paramedic station is and how to get there.
Misha went down, and together with Ira, they could barely lift Artyom’s body to the surface. The hole was deep and narrow, and the three of them could not turn around there in any way! Meanwhile, Eugene returned. He was out of breath, caught his breath, and chattered:
— There is no point here, there are only a couple of people here! But a healer, Claudia Matveyevna, lives at the other end of the village. They say everyone is being treated by her. So you’ll have to drag your fiance there!
Ira blushed from head to toe:
— He’s not my fiance, you’ll tell me too! Just the son of the owner, and that’s it!
— Even though I’m small, I’m not a fool! Would you just save the owner’s son! Fell in love, say so! Okay, let’s think about how to carry it. And there is no cover!
Artyom could barely stand on his feet, Irina and Misha supporting him from both sides, somehow led him out of the territory of the abandoned estate. They were in a hurry, and suddenly the kidnappers would appear!? They will kill everyone, they will not spare anyone! Irina’s heart froze at this thought, she was not afraid for herself, but she was terribly afraid for Artem and the children, almost to the point of fainting.
With great difficulty, they still hobbled to the outskirts of the village, found the medicine woman’s house and began to knock. A small, hunched old woman came out on the porch and asked sternly:
— Who are they? From where? What happened?
Ira rattled off:
— We’re from the city. You see, I work as a maid. A month ago, my master’s son, Artyom, was kidnapped and he disappeared. And then I had a dream that he was alive and calling for help, and the name of the village of Capercaillie says. So I asked the boys of my friends to help and went to look for him. And found it! Only Artem is unconscious, delirious, all hot. Apparently, he got cold on the damp ground! Will you help him? And, to be honest, we have nowhere to spend the night! Shelter? Don’t drive us away, please. I’m so scared that the kidnappers might come back and find us.
The old lady mumbled:
— Well, come on in, since you fell on my head. Take him to the bath. I’m going to heat it, and I’m going to wash it, and steam it. And then we’ll see. And why didn’t the father go after his son, the money probably doesn’t bite the chickens?
Ira lowered her head:
— He didn’t believe me, he laughed. I decided that prophetic dreams are nonsense! And I knew that I would find Artyom and I believed, you know?
— I understand. Give me your hand, I’ll take a look. It was love that brought you to him. By fate, he is for you! He won’t die, don’t be afraid. You’ll give him another baby. You’ll see! So, undress your knight for now, and I’ll brew medicinal herbs. And let your friends eat potatoes and go to bed in the hall. We don’t need helpers here with you.
Eugene and Mishka fell asleep without hind legs after dinner. After all, they washed up decently, and Ira and Claudia Matveevna did not close their eyes until morning, conjuring over Artyom. They watered him with medicinal decoctions, steamed with a broom, then moved him into the house, and took turns changing his vinegar compress.
In the morning, he seemed to feel a little better, and the temperature dropped. Early in the morning, Ira told her Wife to find a connection somewhere, because the Internet did not catch here at all and there was no connection either! The boy showed ingenuity here, and climbed a tall pine tree, and he managed to call Oleg Yuryevich and tell him that Ira had found Artem and they were in the village of Capercaillie at the witch doctor baba Klava! And the phone went off.
Artyom gradually got better. He drank some chicken broth. The guy came to his senses and began to tell the details of his abduction:
— I was just on my way to a meeting, on behalf of my father, and a jeep is rushing right across me. I braked sharply, where to go. I thought maybe some drunk reckless driver got caught. And three brothers jumped out of the car, I didn’t even have time to come to my senses, as they pushed me into their car, put a gag in my mouth and blindfolded me so that I couldn’t see the road. I woke up already in that very cellar. This Krakow, my father’s former deputy, is standing over me, grinning. Says: «You are now my prisoner forever! Your daddy behaved badly and threw me out like a dog, now you’re going to pay for it! You’re going to sit like a dog on a chain until I get bored. And I will be happy and watch from afar how your dad is twitching and nervous! For me, this is a heavenly delight!» I’ve already lost count of the days, they fed me only occasionally, once a week they threw crackers and soup in a jar into the pit, and a few bottles of water, and that’s it! You won’t believe it, I’ve rethought my whole life in this damn pit! I think he behaved like a fool, he burned his life for nothing, but he had to do at least something good to people, to tell his father at least once how much I love him!
Ira even got emotional:
— Well, nothing, the main thing is that we found you, and you survived. And it’s never too late to fix something in life.
Artyom grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly, he was crying:
— Thank you, Irochka, darling! I am now your eternal debtor! And to the guys, and to you, Claudia Matveevna! To everyone who saved me! I do not know how to thank you all! I thought I was going to rot in this fucking pit! I still don’t believe it’s over!
And there were tears in the guy’s eyes. The girl blushed from head to toe:
— It’s just that I was so worried about you for some reason, and I had a dream that you were alive, and you are in the Capercaillie. I told your dad, but he didn’t believe me, he thought I was making it up. Then I asked the kids, street kids, to help. These definitely won’t refuse. They have a kind, sympathetic heart. Zhenya is generally like a son to me. I wish I could adopt him and raise him. So that he does not starve and does not muck around the streets. I was so attached to him, even when I worked in a restaurant! Yes, but who will give it to me. There is no home of her own, she is not married. So I’m helping him in any way I can. And I love him like a son! If it wasn’t for the guys, I wouldn’t have found you alone. It was Zhenya who heard your weak moan from under the ground! Oh, I think your father has come for us.
The hum of a car was heard outside the yard. Ira looked out the window. She thought it was Oleg Yurievich who arrived, and the same nasty deputy, Stas, was standing near the gate, and two more thugs were next to him! The girl turned pale and closed the curtain. She whispered to the old lady:
— It’s the kidnappers! They’re looking for us, don’t give us away, Claudia Matveyevna, I beg you! Hide it somewhere!
The old lady pointed to the attic with her eyes, and Ira helped Artyom to climb there, the nimble Eugene and Misha took off in the blink of an eye. Everyone was quiet, and sat like mice! We tried not to make a sound. Artyom involuntarily clung to Ira, and a huge wave of tenderness and warmth swept between them.
Claudia Matveyevna went out and opened the gate:
— Who are they? What is needed? What happened?
— We’re looking for people here, we’re missing, man.. he was so young, thin, there could have been other fellow travelers with him. Haven’t you had them? Maybe they asked for help?
The old lady replied:
— No, I didn’t see anyone. Go away. Strangers rarely come to us, the village is dying out. Neighbors only go for help if it’s bad for someone.
But Stas felt that the grandmother was clearly not telling him something! Well, there was nowhere else for Artyom to go, he was very ill, he would not have gone anywhere! And he brazenly pushed Granny away and went into the house with one thug. He began to look into the vestibule, rooms, no one. And then, as a sin, Artem sneezed! He put his hand over his mouth and held on as best he could, but it still turned out noisy. One of the bandits started up:
«Who’s there?» And pointed to the attic.
Granny didn’t move a muscle:
Seeing how the kidnapper’s face stretched, she added:
— Yes, I’m kidding, the cat, Muska, likes to sit there with kittens, on the hay. And what?
Only Stas wanted to get up and check, when he heard the scream of his assistant, the screeching of brakes, and shooting outside the window. He realized that he was too late, and Kholodov himself came for his son and now he can’t get enough. Then Stas decided to run away with the vegetable gardens, ran out into the backyard, abandoning his comrades.
While everyone was in shock, Eugene opened the attic window, and thought of shooting a small pumpkin that was stored there at the fleeing Krakow! The bandit fell like a mowed-down pile of boards, and while he realized what was what, he was already overtaken by Oleg Yuryevich’s guards and later by the police! That was a laugh! The boy has detained the kidnapper!
Oleg Yuryevich, seeing his son, alive and unharmed, rushed to hug him, tightly, fatherly, and whispered to him:
— How glad I am that you are alive, son! Lord, the thin one, the relics alone!
Then he hugged Irina so that her bones crunched and shook her in a fit of emotion, like a rag doll:
— Thank you, Irochka! Thank you, dear! I will never forget! And I, a cynic, did not believe in your dreams, waved my hand, I think the girl is coming up with God knows what! And you took a chance, and still went to look for Artem! Clever, brave and brave girl of mine!
Then it was Eugene’s turn. The oligarch picked him up in his arms and shook his hand:
— Thank you! You’re a real man! Ask for what you want with a friend. If you want, I’ll give you money, if you want, I’ll buy anything!
Eugene suddenly became sad and lowered his head:
— I don’t need money. I want Ira to become my mom! And I don’t need anything else! Help, you can do everything, right? The whole city knows and respects you! And give Mishka some money. He’s deaf and dumb, he won’t tell you anyway.
Oleg Yurievich was amazed at what deep and adult desires this little stray boy has! He quietly replied seriously:
— I’ll try to help. Honestly. Well, everyone to the cars and go home!
Then he turned to Claudia Matveevna and tried to slip her a wad of money:
— Here, take it, Grandma, thank you for sheltering, helping Artyom, curing him!
The old lady wailed:
— Yes, take it away, why are you pushing your papers to everyone? Not everything, dear man, you can buy something! What do I need money for here? The products are delivered once every two weeks. And how much do I need, the old woman. Better help the boys with this. I watched the older boy, he has deafness not from birth. It’s just that no one has dealt with him, but if the operation is done, he will hear and understand. And I haven’t cured Artyom yet, you show him to the doctor, he has severe bronchitis, it will take a long time to heal. And take care of Ira, she loves your son like that! I went to some remote place, risked my life. As you say, I will give you money! Have a nice day! Good luck to you!
And the old lady waved goodbye to them. Oleg Yurievich thought about the words of the healer all the way. But she’s right.
«I’ve been chasing money all my life, I dreamed of getting rich! And why? I missed my son, because he hasn’t seen me for days. He didn’t even have normal friends, I didn’t allow him to communicate with ordinary guys. And what are these majors better than? The only masters that parents’ money to burn and hang around pubs and casinos! And take Eugene and Mishka. Fate is broken from birth, no one needs, hungry, cold. They should be angry at the whole white world, but they are not! Everyone is also rushing to help, just like that, because a good person asked! It’s worth a lot!»
Upon arrival in the city, Kholodov ordered:
— Everyone is coming to our mansion. No more heating mains for the guys. I won’t let you. Wash my hands, have dinner, and sleep. And tomorrow we’ll figure out what’s what. Artem and Misha are going to the hospital with me tomorrow. I will make inquiries about Eugene’s question. The boy is still living with us. Ira, you have three days off. He seems to have said everything.
Eugene and Misha enjoyed swimming in the Jacuzzi! The guys have never experienced such pleasure. They were given clean, fashionable clothes, and Zina, the cook, cut them both. She has been able to do this since childhood. The boys were immediately transformed and prettier. Ira was happy. Finally, Eugene does not spend the night on a dangerous heating main, and she is calm for him. The girl helped Zina cook a delicious dinner quickly for the whole horde, and everyone sat down to eat. Artyom was still unwell, and Ira took his dinner to bed. The guy needed to lie down and recover for a long time. She knocked on the door and quietly entered, holding steaming cheesecakes with jam and coffee on a tray. She sat down next to the guy and began to persuade him:
— Artemchik… We need to eat! You’re already thin. You loved cheesecakes so much. He could eat five at a time. Well, at least a couple of things?
The guy smiled:
— Okay, just for you!
And he ate everything with pleasure. And Ira sat and admired him: even if he was thin and emaciated, dark circles under his eyes, even if sometimes hard and sharp, but still so beloved! Artyom suddenly took her hand and said softly:
— Irishka, you know what? And marry me? After everything that happened to me, I began to look at life in a completely different way, you know? And I have no people closer to you and Eugene now! I. Of course, not a gift, I know. But I will love and cherish you and Zhenya. And when we get married, we will officially adopt Eugene. Do you agree? I only now realized that all these glamorous fifas are worthless! And you are such a sultry beauty, clever, you cook amazing, you love me. What is not the wife of an oligarch?
Ira understood that Artem had not told her the main words, the most cherished «I love you!», and decided to agree anyway. Such offers are not made every day! After all, she loves him, deeply and deeply. The banker was very happy when he heard the news that Artem and Ira want to get married and adopt Eugene. One could only dream of such a daughter-in-law!
The wedding was gorgeous, lots of important guests, reporters, the press. Everyone was gossiping about what a beautiful couple! Where did Artem find such an oriental beauty? They looked great together. Among the guests was Prosecutor Kupriyanov and his son Vitaly. When he saw Ira, he was simply speechless! She was so beautiful, attractive and very happy! Artyom looked after her beautifully and did not leave for a minute. Vitalik could not stand it, walked up to the newlyweds, and looking into Ira’s eyes, said:
— Congratulations on the wedding! Are you happy?
Artyom looked at Irina in perplexity:
— Dear, do you know Vitaly? From where?
Ira laughed and answered:
— No, what are you, a young man just made a mistake, right?
Vitaly felt so unpleasant and insulting! He even felt a pang of jealousy. Ira was now so alluring and inaccessible at the same time! But he himself, with his own hands, once destroyed his happiness. Pushed her away, humiliated her. He left, knowing that he was expecting his child. And what is the result? He got married by calculation to tolstoy Alina, who is also six years older than him. The father is happy, and he? No love, no joy in my soul, strangers with my wife in general! Vitalik bit his elbows and gnashed his teeth all evening, watching the newlyweds having fun! But alas, there was nothing to bring back. He looked at his obnoxious wife, sitting next to him and looking like a big frog, and grimaced.
Ira and Artem also settled everything with the shelter, having heard the name of Kholodov, there were no problems with the adoption of Eugene at all, all the documents were ready in two weeks. The boy was happy and satisfied! Now he’s with Mom Ira and Dad Artem! All the friends on the heating main were desperately jealous of him and Mishka. The deaf-mute guy had two operations in the best clinic, and now he heard with a hearing aid and learned to talk. After discharge, Kholodov planned to leave the boy in his mansion, at first just as a handyman, and when he grows up, he will make a driver. I put him up in a guest house. The guy is a good, executive. What’s he doing with the homeless?
Ira did not forget about her father either. She told her husband and father-in-law about him. They understood everything without words, and brought a man from the village. He was examined by the best neurosurgeon of the capital and operated on. It’s hard to believe, but as a result, the man got up from his wheelchair and began walking with a stick. An elderly man almost on his knees apologized to his daughter and thanked her:
— Irochka, daughter, you forgive me for everything! I know, if it wasn’t for the damn vodka, my whole life would have turned out differently! And so you didn’t have a childhood. But you are the best daughter, despite everything, you helped, you did not forget your father. Thank you, honey!
Ira hugged him and whispered:
— Folder! I still love you, no matter what you are! Just don’t drink any more, I beg you!
The man crossed himself:
— Here’s a cross for you. I quit a long time ago. A local woman, Nadia, kept coming to take care of me, so we kind of fell in love with each other. So now I’m no-no!
Life flowed on as usual.
Artyom took up his mind, and now he was making up for lost time in business, and threw himself into work. Ira was only happy about it. She had already forgotten when he smelled of alcohol. The young woman, as the hostess, was now in charge of the mansion in full. She watched both the house and the garden, and took up the upbringing of her son closely. It’s a shame to say, but such a smart Zhenya read with difficulty, and he could only count money, and even then if a little…
Ira was patient, but strict, she didn’t let go. They also had to catch up a lot to go straight to the third grade by the fall! Sometimes Eugene could not stand such an onslaught of tutors, his head was smoking, and he shouted:
— Mom, you tortured me! Here I’ll run back to the heating main!
Ira answered him seriously:
— You’re not a bum anymore, Zhenya! You are my son, you are Cold! So let’s overcome everything together, okay. I’m not holding you. If you want, go! But think about what awaits you there? Are you so eager to sniff glue, eat garbage and drink cheap vodka? You’ll sink to the bottom and die in some gutter at the age of twenty! Is this the future you want? Answer me? Why are you saying that and hurting me?
The boy hugged Ira and whispered:
— I’m sorry, I’m wrong. Well, let’s at least have a little break, okay?
Ira kissed him on the top of his head:
— That’s another conversation. Go, run around the yard, relax, and in half an hour back into battle!
Artem and Zhenya also got along well, they raced together like small children on a skateboard, and competed to see who would squeeze off the floor more times. A man has changed a lot after marriage. He finally came to his senses and settled down, stopped wandering around casinos and clubs with friends, began to appreciate and respect people close and dear to him. Oleg Yurievich was only glad of this. And mentally thanked Irina that she had found an approach to him and with her love for her son had awakened such changes in him. In fact, in such a short period of time, Ira was able to do what her father failed to achieve during all the years of Artem’s childhood!
Irina blossomed, from a thin, like a reed, girl turned into a statuesque and stylish lady. The newlyweds began to think about having a child together, Eugene was also not at all against a brother or sister, and why not? Now, every night, Ira heard those most cherished words from her husband: «I love you!» and her heart was trembling! She was sure now that it was mutual!