Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(12)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(12)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"Uh huh," Kostya said with a nod.

The little girl beamed and ran off to a young woman who was collecting her things together a little distance away. The sand spurted up from under her heels...

"You've lost your mind!" I roared, jumping up. "I'll reduce you to dust right here!"

My expression must have been pretty terrifying. Kostya was quick to answer.

"What is it? What's wrong with you, Anton? She's my great-niece! Her mother's my cousin! They live in Strogino, and I'm staying with them for the time being, so I don't have to drag myself all the way across town."

That brought me up short.

"What, did you think I was sucking her blood?" Kostya asked, still looking at me warily. "Go and check! There aren't any bites. She's my niece, understand? For her sake I'd take out anyone myself."

"Pah!" I said and spat. "What else could I think? 'Will you come again tonight? Will you tell me a story?'..."

"A typical Light One," Kostya said more calmly. "Since I'm a vampire I must be a bastard, right?"

Our fragile truce wasn't exactly over, but it had reverted to the normal state of cold war. Kostya sat there fuming, and I sat there cursing myself for jumping to conclusions. They didn't issue licenses for children under the age of twelve, and Kostya wasn't such a fool as to hunt without a license.

But it had just burst out...

"You've got a little daughter," Kostya said, suddenly catching on. "The same age, right?"

"Younger," I replied. "And prettier."

"Obviously, your own's always prettier," Kostya laughed. "All right, Gorodetsky. I understand. Let's forget it. And thanks for the lead."

"That's okay," I said. "Maybe those security men didn't see anything after all. They'd been drinking vodka or smoking dope..."

"We'll check it out," Kostya said cheerfully. "We'll check everything out."

He rubbed the back of his head with his open hand and stood up.

"Time to go?" I asked.

"It's getting to me," Kostya answered, squinting upward. "I'm disappearing."

And he did just that, disappeared, after first averting the eyes of everyone there. There was just a dim shadow left hanging in the air for a second.

"Show off," I said and turned over on to my stomach.

To be quite honest, I was already feeling hot too. But I decided on principle not to leave with a Dark One.

I still had a few things to think through before I went to the Assol security office.

Witiezslav had done a really good job. When I turned up the head of security broke into a broad, friendly smile.

"Oh, look who's come to see us!" he declared, shoving some papers off to one side. "Tea, coffee?"

"Coffee," I decided.

"Andrei, bring us some coffee," the boss commanded. "And a lemon!"

He reached into the safe and produced a bottle of good Georgian cognac.

The security man who had shown me into the boss's office was a little disconcerted, but he didn't argue.

"Any questions?" the boss asked as he deftly sliced the lemon. "Will you have some cognac, Anton? A good cognac, I promise."

I didn't even know what his name was... I liked the former boss of security better. The way he'd treated me had been sincere.

But the former security boss would never have given me the information I was counting on getting now.

"I need to take a look at the personal files of all the residents," I said. And I added with a smile: "In a building like this you must keep a check on everyone, right?"

"Of course," the boss agreed readily. "Money's all very fine, but there are some serious people intending to live here, and we don't want any thugs or bandits... You want all the personal files?"

"The lot," I said. "For everyone who's bought an apartment here, regardless of whether they've moved in yet or not."

"The files on the real owners or the people the apartments are registered to?" the security boss asked politely.

"The real owners."

The boss nodded and reached into the safe again.

Ten minutes later I was sitting at his desk and leafing through the files - all very neat and not too thick. Out of natural curiosity I started with myself.

"Do you need me here anymore?" the security boss asked.

"No, thanks." I eyed the number of files. "I'll need one hour."

The boss went out, closing the door quietly behind him.

And I got into my reading.

Anton Gorodetsky, it emerged, was married to Svetlana Gorodetskaya and had a two-year-old daughter, Nadezhda Gorodetskaya. Anton Gorodetsky had a little business - a firm trading in milk products. Milk, kefir, pot cheese, and yogurts.. .

I knew the firm. A standard Night Watch subsidiary that earned money for us. There were about twenty of them around Moscow, and their employees were perfectly ordinary human beings who never suspected where the profits really went.

It was all pretty modest and simple, cute. Like the old promo jingle for milk - On the meadow, on the meadow, who is grazing on the meadow? That's right, Others. Well, I couldn't really deal in vodka, could I?

I set my file aside and started on the other residents.

Naturally, not all the information about the people was there. It couldn't have been. After all, no private security service, even in the most luxurious residential complex, is any match for the KGB.

But I didn't need too much. Basically information about their relatives. In the first instance, their parents.

First I set aside those whose parents were alive and well and put the files on people whose parents were dead in a different pile.

I was particularly interested in anyone who had been raised in a children's home - there were two of those - and anyone with a stroke through the columns headed "Father" or "Mother."

There were eight of those.

I laid these files out in front of me and started studying them closely.

I immediately weeded out one ex-orphanage boy who, to judge from his file, had criminal connections. He had been out of the country for the last year and, despite appeals from the agencies of law enforcement, had no intention of coming back.

Then two from incomplete families were sifted out.

One of them turned out to be a weak Dark Magician known to me from a trivial old case. The Dark Ones were bound to be giving him the tenth degree already. If they hadn't come up with anything, the guy was in the clear.

The other was a rather well-known variety artist who, I happened to know - again quite by chance - had been touring abroad for the last three months: the USA, Germany, Israel. Probably earning money for the finishing work on his apartment.

That left seven. A good number. For the time being I could focus on them.

I opened the files and began reading them closely. Two women, five men... Which of them might be worth considering?

"Roman Lvovich Khlopov, 42, businessman..." The face didn't arouse any associations. Maybe he was the one? Maybe...

"Andrei Ivanovich Komarenko, 31, businessman..." Oh, what a strong-willed expression! And still fairly young... Was it him? Possibly... No, impossible. I set the businessman Komarenko's file aside. A man in his early thirties who donated serious money like that to building churches and was distinguished by "intense religious feeling" wouldn't want to be transformed into an Other.

"Timur Borisovich Ravenbakh, 61, businessman..." Rather young-looking for his age. And if he met Timur Borisovich, the strong-willed youngster Andrei Ivanovich Komarenko would have lowered his eyes. Even the face was familiar, either from TV, or somewhere else...

I set the file aside. Then my hand started to sweat. A chilly tremor ran down my back.

No, it wasn't from TV, or rather, not only from TV, that I remembered that face...

It couldn't be.

"It can't be!" I said, repeating my thought out loud. I poured myself some cognac and tossed it down. I looked at Timur Borisovich's face - a calm, intelligent, slightly Eastern face.

It couldn't be.

I opened the file and started reading. Born in Tashkent. Father... unknown. Mother... died at the very end of the war, when little Timur was not even five. Raised in a children's home. Graduated from a junior technical college and then a construction institute. Made his career through Komsomol connections. Somehow managed to avoid joining the Party. Founded one of the first construction cooperatives in the USSR, which actually did far more business trading in imported paving stones and plumbing fixtures than constructing buildings. Moved to Moscow... founded a firm... engaged in politics... was never... never a member of... was never employed as... a wife, a divorce, a second wife...

I'd found the human client.

And the most terrible thing about it was that I'd found the renegade Other at the same time.

And that discovery was so unexpected, it felt as if the universe had collapsed around me.

"How could you!" I said reproachfully. "How could you... boss..."

Because if you made Timur Borisovich ten or fifteen years younger, he would have been a dead ringer for Gesar, or Boris Ignatievich as he was known to the world, who sixty years ago had lived in that region... Tashkent, Samarkand, and other parts of Central Asia...

What astonished me most of all was not my boss's transgression. Gesar a criminal? The idea was so incredible, it didn't even provoke any response.

I was shaken by how easily the boss had been caught out.

So sixty years earlier a child had been born to Gesar in distant Uzbekistan. Then Gesar had been offered a job in Moscow. But the child's mother, an ordinary human being, had died in the turmoil of war. And the little human being, whose father was a Great Magician, had ended up in a children's home...

All sorts of things happen. Gesar might not even have known that Timur existed. Or he could have known, but for some reason or other not have played any part in his life. But then the old man had felt a tug at his heartstrings, and he'd met with his son, who was already old, and he'd made a rash promise...

And that was certainly amazing!

Gesar had been scheming for hundreds, thousands of years. Every single word he spoke was carefully weighed. And then he pulled a stroke like this?

Incredible.

But a fact.

You didn't have to be an expert in physiognomy to recognize Timur Borisovich and Boris Ignatievich as close relatives. Even if I didn't say anything, the Dark Ones would make the same discovery. Or the Inquisition would. They'd put the screws on the elderly businessman... but, no, why bother with the screws? We weren't vicious racketeers. We were Others. Witezslav would look into his eyes, or Zabulon would click his fingers, and Timur Borisovich would spill out the whole story as if he were at confession.

And what would happen to Gesar?

I thought about it. Well... if he admitted that he did send the letter... then there hadn't been any evil intent on his part.. . and in general he had the right to reveal himself to a human being.

I spent a little while running through the points of the Treaty in my mind, the amendments and refinements, the precedents and exceptions, the references and footnotes...

The result was pretty amusing.

Gesar would be punished, but not very severely. The maximum penalty would be an official rebuke from the European Office of the Night Watch. And something menacing, but almost meaningless, from the Inquisition. Gesar wouldn't even lose his job.

Only...

I imagined what merriment there would be in the Day Watch. How Zabulon would grin. How sincerely Dark Ones would start to inquire after Gesar's family affairs and send greetings to his little human son.

Of course, after living the number of years that Gesar had, anyone would grow a thick skin and learn how to shrug off ridicule.

But I wouldn't have liked to be in his place right then.

And then our guys wouldn't go easy on the irony either. No, no one would actually reproach Gesar with committing a blunder. Or badmouth him behind his back either.

But there would be smirks. And bemused head-shaking. And whispers - "the Great One's getting old after all, getting old..."

I didn't have any puppyish adoration or admiration left for Gesar. Our views differed on so many things. And there were some things I still couldn't forgive him for...

But to pull a dumb stunt like this.

"What on earth were you thinking of, Great One?" I said. I put all the files back in the open safe and poured myself another glass of cognac.

Could I help Gesar?

How?

Get to Timur Borisovich first?

And then what? Cast a spell of silence on him? They'd remove it; someone would be found who could.

What if I forced the businessman to leave Russia? To go on the run, as if all the city's criminal groups and agencies of law enforcement were after him?

It would serve him right. Let him spend the rest of his life hunting seals or knocking coconuts off palm trees! So he wanted to be the Empress of the Sea...

I picked up the phone and entered the number of our office's exchange. Entered the additional digits, and was put straight through to the IT lab.

"Yes?" the phone asked in Tolik's voice.

"Tolik, run a check on someone for me. Quick."

"Tell me the name and I'll run it," Tolik answered, unsurprised at my request.

I listed everything I'd found out about Timur Borisovich.

"Ha! So what else do you need apart from that?" Tolya asked in surprise. "Which side he sleeps on, or the last time he visited the dentist?"

"Where he is right now," I said dourly.

Tolik laughed, but I heard the brisk rattle of a keyboard at the other end of the line.

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