“Seen Ben and I are just colleagues. He’s a doctor, and I’m a doctor too. We were in the office, dressed with the door unlocked. What else do you need? You are sitting next to each other on the couch! Oh my God, we were just reviewing our patients’ medical histories, yes, on the couch. And what’s the big deal? Did you have to hit him for that? I didn’t hit him. Then what do you call it? Well, I punched him once because he put his hand on your knee, and he was getting too close to you.”
Peter, you’re wrong,” angry Rachel looked at her husband as if she could calm him down with her gaze. “How long will you be jealous of me? We’ve been living together for five years, wasn’t that enough time for you to make sure of my decency? I saw everything with my own eyes,” the man shouted.
Rachel covered her face with her hand. “That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired.” The boss saw Ben with a bruise under his eye and he sent me on an unplanned vacation because of you, possibly with subsequent dismissal. Are you happy now? I’m almost unemployed!”
“So what? I earn a decent living. But I’m a doctor. Do I have to sit at home now and wait for you to bring me your paycheck, Peter? Wake up, you’re wrong!”
“I’m right, and you know it,” stubbornly said Peter. He knew he had gone too far but he couldn’t admit it to his wife, and Rachel had already gone to the bedroom, slamming the door hard. Peter knew she would forgive him and decided to wait a little while she calmed down. It was pointless to touch his wife in such a state, just as it was pointless to continue this whole conversation. Yes, he couldn’t resist. He came to his wife’s office and saw her there with this handsome Ben; his jealousy instantly shut down his mind, and Peter attacked his wife’s colleague without figuring out what was going on.
He had always been so impulsive; his character and past work had an impact. Peter had served in a Special Forces Unit for almost 10 years, and there they were taught not to be gentle with anyone. Now Peter worked as the head of a private security company, and his old habits and audacity remained. But Rachel believed that it interfered with their personal lives; however, Peter didn’t know how to deal with jealousy.
He took his jacket and left the apartment, deciding to get some fresh air. On his way back, he’d buy roses and Rachel’s favorite chocolate cake. In general, skinny Rachel at 30 looked like a petite teenager, and no one could guess that she had a really sweet tooth and simply couldn’t live without chocolate. Peter was gone for about an hour, and when he returned, the apartment greeted him with silence.
“Rachel? Rachel, come on, forgive me. Let’s make peace. Go to the kitchen, I bought you a cake. Do you want me to go see Ben and apologize after work tomorrow, and I’ll explain everything to your boss, Rachel?” Peter walked into the bedroom, worried about her silence, and saw a note on the bathroom sink. Rachel wrote that she went to her mother’s, and they would live separately for now.
Peter rushed to the hallway to go to the station, but at that moment, he received a call from work demanding he come urgently because of some problems that had arisen there. Peter dialed his wife’s number, but the phone was off. “Okay, I’ll take care of business and come to you myself,” he promised the portrait of his wife hanging on the wall. “Sorry, I just love you so much.” Meanwhile, Rachel came to her mother’s village, but in order not to worry her, she did not complain about her husband, saying that she just decided to visit her and take a rest. They had lunch together, and then Rachel decided to go to the local paramedics’ station where her friend and classmate Helen worked. She could talk to her about everything and pour her heart out.
Helen was raising a little daughter alone, and something did not work out with her husband, so she could understand her better than anyone else. Helen was pleased to see Rachel; she hugged her tightly and then said, “Listen, I don’t have any patience today, but the workday isn’t over yet.
Let’s do this: you put the kettle on, and I’ll quickly go to one address where I need to give an old man a shot. I was just about to leave. It’s good you caught me, and on the way back, I’ll stop by our local confectioner; she bakes cakes and various pastries, such delicious ones. She always has ready-made sweets. I’ll buy us some and return in 20 minutes, then we’ll talk properly. Anyway, I took my daughter to her grandmother’s for a few days so no one would disturb us from washing the men’s bones.”
Rachel laughed and waved to Helen. “Run, just don’t be late. I can’t wait to speak with you.” “Yeah, I’ll be quick. Wait, what about your suitcase? I don’t need it. Besides, everything is at Mr. Wales’s.”
The kettle boiled, and Rachel turned it off. She then sat down at the table and started looking through the magazines lying on the table. Suddenly, the door opened, and a bearded man in a thick sweater, khaki pants, and boots appeared in the doorway. “Doctor, quickly! There is a forest behind the village. A woman feels bad; she’s having trouble breathing.”
“But I am not a—” Flustered, Rachel got out, “Are you a doctor?” the bearded man shouted. “Yes. Well, what are you waiting for?” he said, “She’s dying!” Without wasting another second, Rachel put on her coat, grabbed Helen’s medical case, and ran after the stranger. They quickly found themselves behind the village, but when a breathless Rachel stopped to catch her breath and asked, “Is it far to the victim?” the man turned to her and said, “Too seriously? It’s far, but don’t worry. I think we’ll make it.”
“Now, only now did Rachel realize what a stupid thing she had done. She was with a stranger in a deep forest where no one would be able to come to her aid. ‘What do you want?’ she shouted. ‘Why have you deceived me?'”
The man didn’t grin, and then he turned and with a deft movement, pressed the handkerchief to Rachel’s nose. She cried out, dropped the case, and fell unconscious into the arms of her tormentor. When Rachel came to her senses, she realized that she was being carried somewhere. She was gagged and unable to call for help. And who could hear her in the forest in total darkness? Tears flowed from her eyes. She tried to move to see how tightly she was bound.
“Don’t try anything, or I’ll have to shut you up again,” Rachel sobbed and fell silent. Her head ached badly; her hands and feet were stiff and bound, and branches whipped her face now and then. He walked so quickly and confidently that Rachel realized he knew all the paths in the forest, and it would not be easy to escape from him. But suddenly, there was a dog barking, and then some knocking.
In another 10 minutes, the bearded man brought her to a hut and threw her off his shoulders onto a hard bedstead. “Lie there; I’ll be right back,” he said in a coarse, tired voice. “And don’t you dare make any noise, or I’ll kill you. Do you understand?” Rachel nodded. It seemed to her that at least an hour had passed before he came back.
All this time, Rachel thought of her husband, Peter. He was strong and brave; he never allowed anyone to offend her, and he was always there for her. If only it weren’t for his jealousy. But in fact, he never bullied her, not even out of jealousy. Of course, she never gave him a reason, but sometimes he didn’t like the looks men would throw at her. But that’s normal, isn’t it? Of course, he overreacted when he saw her and Ben sitting on the couch next to each other.
“And on the other hand, who knows what she herself would think if she saw Peter next to some woman? Goodness,” she mentally moaned. “How stupid I am! And I should have just talked to Peter. He loves me; I love him very much too. And what will happen to me now? Will Peter ever find me again? Is it really the end?” As if in confirmation of her thoughts, the front door creaked open, and a muffled male voice demanded, “Open up!”
Darnell jumped to his feet and scurried about the room, then yanked open some trap doors in the floor, and shortly after had Rachel down there. “Be quiet, please,” he whispered pleadingly. “Otherwise, we’ll have trouble.” Rachel realized she was in some sort of pit and groaned. Had nothing ended yet? She heard voices above, including female ones.
Rachel quietly lowered herself to the ground, rested her head on her hands, and fell asleep, unable to fight her exhaustion and frayed nerves any longer. She dreamed of Peter. He walked along the seashore toward her, holding their little one in his arms, who was babbling and laughing, and Rachel was laughing too. Little did she know that at the same time, Peter had arrived in the village and was rushing through all the streets, asking if anyone had seen his wife. Nervous Helen did not understand what was happening and where Rachel disappeared. She didn’t notice immediately that her medical bag was missing.
When she realized it was gone, she immediately ran to Peter. “We need to report this to the police,” she told him. “I’ve already been there, and they say they can only take the report after three days, and nobody will start searching before then. They say Rachel, being a grown woman, may have gone off on her own or perhaps found another man, but that’s ridiculous!” exclaimed Helen. “I know her; she can’t do that!”
“I know my wife too,” said Peter. “Of course, I’ve always gone crazy with jealousy, but I’d never believed that Rachel is really capable of that. No, something else is going on here. She disappeared with your bag.” Rachel is a doctor; that means most likely someone needed help. “Tell me, Helen, are there people here who might need help? Maybe she went to an elderly woman somewhere. Think, Helen, think. You know the area well, so you should be able to guess where my wife might have disappeared to.” Helen shook her head in disbelief. “I just can’t imagine what happened here. If Rachel left, she did so voluntarily. Everything is in its place with no signs of struggle. That means she wasn’t kidnapped. The people here are peaceful, kind, and calm. I didn’t hear anyone hurting anyone else. Although, wait, I heard that some communities settled somewhere in the wilderness. I don’t know if it’s a cult or something else.”
Peter jumped to his feet. “Where are they located? I have to go there. Let me take you to Mr. Minor; he is our most avid hunter. He knows the area like the back of his hand, and he won’t refuse to help you.” Mr. Minor turned out to be a sturdy old man with kind, clear eyes. “It’s not a cult; it’s people who refused the benefits and evils of civilization,” he explained. “They live in their own community, almost without any contact with the rest of the world. Only their leader can make decisions related to interacting with people. Well, if they need to buy something, for example, then he sends someone to the nearest village where there is a store. But they don’t accept medicine, so it’s unlikely that your Rachel is needed by them.”
“Still, Mr. Miner, take me there,” Peter begged. “I won’t rest until I find Rachel.” “I’m afraid they won’t even talk to us,” Mr. Miner shook his head. “But if it’s necessary, then it’s necessary.” Alfred, the leader of the community, looked surprised at the guests brought to him, then waved his hand and remained alone with them.
“What do you need here?” he asked calmly, looking at Peter and his companion, whom he knew. “You know, Mr. Minor, that we don’t have any dealings with the outside world. We don’t need doctors, thank God. Everyone here is alive and well. Look for your Rachel somewhere else, and go in peace.”
“I must inspect everything,” demanded Peter. “No one will allow you to do that,” smirked Alfred. “Then I will come back with the police.” “Come back if you have permission,” nodded Alfred, after waving goodbye to the uninvited guests. As soon as they disappeared, Alfred walked calmly and steadily to his son Darnell’s house and closed the door tightly behind him. “Is that you?” he asked sternly. “Did you violate our rules? Did you bring the female medic here?”
The man with a beard fell to his father’s feet. “Father, forgive me. I lied to you, but I cannot live without Monica. The doctor saved my wife and your grandson. He will continue our lineage; he is our only hope, Father. I will accept any punishment, just do not punish Monica and the newborn.” “Where is the doctor?” asked Alfred. “I took her away. I showed her the way to their village; she is already home.” Alfred closed his eyes, pursed his lips, and placed his hand on his son’s shaggy head. “Well, may God forgive you for lying to your father. What is done in secret will be judged in secret. Get up; let’s go see my grandson.”
Peter, upon returning to the village, walked with determination to his mother-in-law’s house. He already knew what to do: first, he would rally all the local men, then involve the police in the search, and then return to the settlement of these strange people and search all the nooks and crannies. But he would definitely find Rachel. He slammed the gate, and immediately Rachel’s mother ran out onto the porch.
Peter! Rachel is home; she came back two hours ago, saying she got lost in the woods.” Peter rushed to his wife; she was sleeping, but as soon as he entered, she opened her eyes. “Peter, my darling, I knew you would come. I saw you in a dream.” “Rachel, you scare me so much. Where were you? I’ll tell you everything, but only you; no one else should know, understand? I don’t want these people to be hurt, Peter. Do you promise me?” He nodded, listening to his wife’s story.
Peter involuntarily clenched his fists, but every time Rachel smiled at him, everything is good. “Do you hear? Everything is really good. But that’s not all, Peter, honey. It seems that you, like Darnell, will soon be able to hold your baby in your arms.” Peter, upon returning to the village, walked with determination to his mother-in-law’s house. He already knew what to do: first, he would rally all the local men, then involve the police in the search, and then return to the settlement of these strange people and search all the nooks and crannies. But he would definitely find Rachel. He slammed the gate, and immediately Rachel’s mother ran out onto the porch.
“Peter! Rachel is home; she came back two hours ago, saying she got lost in the woods.” Peter rushed to his wife; she was sleeping, but as soon as he entered, she opened her eyes. “Peter, my darling, I knew you would come. I saw you in a dream.” “Rachel, you scare me so much. Where were you? I’ll tell you everything, but only you; no one else should know, understand? I don’t want these people to be hurt, Peter. Do you promise me?” He nodded, listening to his wife’s story.
Peter involuntarily clenched his fists, but every time Rachel smiled at him, everything is good. “Do you hear? Everything is really good. But that’s not all, Peter, honey. It seems that you, like Darnell, will soon be able to hold your baby in your arms.” Rachel, upon returning to her mother’s village, decided to get some fresh air. On her way back home, she saw a man with a beard standing at the edge of the forest clearing.
She waved to him, and he waved back before disappearing into the shadows of the trees.
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