Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(13)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(13)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"He has a cell phone," I said just in case.

"Don't teach your grandmother... He even has two cells... And they're both... they're... Right, just a moment, I'll superimpose the map..."

I waited.

"At the Assol residential complex. And not even the CIA could tell you more precisely than that - the positioning isn't accurate enough."

"I owe you a bottle," I said, and hung up. Jumped to my feet. But then... what was the rush? I was sitting in front of the observation services monitor, wasn't I?

I didn't have to search for long.

Timur Borisovich was just getting into the elevator, followed by a couple of guys with stony faces. Two bodyguards. Or a bodyguard and a driver who doubled up as a second bodyguard.

I switched off the monitor and jumped to my feet, then dashed out into the corridor just in time to run into the head of security.

"Got what you wanted?" he asked, beaming.

"Uh huh," I said, nodding on the run.

"Need any help?" the head of security shouted after me eagerly.

I just shook my head.

Chapter 6

THE ELEVATOR SEEMED TO TAKE AN UNBEARABLY LONG TIME CREEPING UP to the twentieth floor. I managed to think up and reject several plans on the way. It was the bodyguards who complicated the whole business.

I'd have to improvise. And if necessary, breach my disguise a little.

I rang the doorbell for a long time, peering into the electronic eye of the spy-hole. Eventually something clicked and a voice from the intercom concealed in the wall asked, "Yes?"

"You're flooding me out!" I exclaimed, trying to sound as agitated as possible. "The frescoes on my ceiling have run! The water's swilling about in the grand pianos!"

Where the hell did I get those frescoes and pianos?

"What grand pianos?" the voice asked suspiciously.

How was I supposed to know what kinds of grand pianos there are? Black and expensive. Or white and even more expensive...

"Viennese pianos! With curvy legs!" I blurted out.

"Not the ones in the bushes then?" the voice asked me with blunt irony.

I looked down at my feet. That damned multiple point lighting... there weren't even any proper shadows!

I reached my hand out toward the door and just caught a faint glimpse of a shadow on the pinkish wood bound with armor-plate steel.

And I pulled the shadow toward me.

My hand plunged into the Twilight, and I followed my hand.

The world was transformed, becoming colorless and gray. A dense silence descended, only disturbed by the buzzing of the electronic innards of the spy-hole and the intercom.

I was in the Twilight, that strange world to which only the Others know the way. The world from which our Power is drawn.

I could see the pale shadows of the wary bodyguards through the door, their auras flickering an alarmed crimson color above their heads. And now I could have reached out with my thoughts, given the order, and they would have opened the door for me.

But I preferred to walk straight through the door.

The security guards were really alarmed - one of them had a pistol in his hand, the other was reaching incredibly slowly for his holster.

I touched the security guards, running my thumb across their solid foreheads. Sleep, sleep, sleep... You are very tired. You have to lie down and sleep right now. Sleep for at least an hour. Sleep very soundly. And have pleasant dreams.

One guard went limp immediately, the other resisted for a fraction of a section. I'd have to check him later to see if he was an Other, you could never tell...

Then I emerged from the Twilight. The world acquired colors and sped up. I heard music coming from somewhere.

The two guards were slumping like stuffed sacks onto the expensive Persian rug spread out just inside the door.

I managed to catch both of them at once and lay them out fairly gently.

Then I set off toward the sound of a violin singing in a minor key.

Now this apartment had been finished in real style. Everything here shone, everything had been carefully considered so that it harmonized with the whole. It must have taken a real top designer to do all this. The owner hadn't hammered a single nail into any of these walls. He'd probably never even expressed any desire to do so... just muttered in approval or dissatisfaction as he looked through the color sketches and jabbed his finger at a few of the pictures - then forgotten about his apartment for six months.

It turned out that Timur Borisovich had come to the Assol building to relax for a while in the Jacuzzi. And a genuine Jacuzzi at that, not a hydro-massage bath from some other less famous firm. Only his face, so painfully reminiscent of Gesar's, protruded above the frothing surface of the water. There was an expensive suit carelessly thrown across the back of a chair - the bathroom was big enough for chairs, and a coffee table, and a spacious sauna, and this Jacuzzi, which was like a small swimming pool.

No doubt about it, genes are a remarkable thing. Gesar's son couldn't become an Other, but in his human life he enjoyed every possible boon.

I walked in, got my bearings in those wide, open spaces, and approached the bath. Timur Borisovich looked at me and frowned. But he didn't make any sudden movements.

"Your bodyguards are sleeping," I said. "I assume you have an alarm button or a pistol somewhere within easy reach. Don't try to use it, it won't help."

"There's no alarm button here," Timur Borisovich growled, and his voice sounded painfully like Gesar's. "I'm not paranoid... So you must be an Other?"

Right. Apparently it was full and frank confession time.

I laughed.

"Yes, I am. I'm glad no long explanations will be required."

Timur Borisovich snorted. "Do I have to get out? Or can we talk like this?"

"This is fine," I said generously. "Do you mind?"

The Great Magician's offspring nodded, and I moved up a chair and sat down, heartlessly creasing his expensive suit.

"Do you understand why I'm here?"

"You don't look anything like a vampire," said Timur Borisovich. "Probably a magician? A Light Magician?"

I nodded.

"You've come to initiate me," Timur Borisovich decided. "Was it too much trouble to phone first?"

Oh, calamity...

He didn't understand a thing after all.

"Who promised you would be initiated?" I asked sharply.

Timur Borisovich frowned. "I see... here we go again. What did you come here for?"

"I'm investigating the unsanctioned dissemination of secret information," I said.

"But you're an Other? Not from state security?" Timur Borisovich asked anxiously.

"Very unfortunately for you, I'm not from state security. Tell me absolutely honestly who promised you would be initiated and when."

"You'll sense it if I lie," Timur Borisovich said simply.

"Of course."

"Oh Lord, all I wanted was just to spend a couple of hours in peace," Timur Borisovich exclaimed in a pained voice. "Problems here, conflicts there... and when I climb into the bath, in comes a serious young man looking for answers."

I waited. I didn't bother to point out that I wasn't simply a man.

"A week ago, I had a meeting with..." Timur Borisovich hesitated, "... a meeting, in rather strange circumstances... with a certain gentleman..."

"What did he look like?" I asked. "No need to describe him, just picture him to yourself."

A gleam of curiosity appeared in Timur Borisovich's eyes. He looked hard at me.

"What?" I exclaimed, bewildered.

I had good reason to be...

If I could trust the mental image that had appeared in the businessman's mind (and I had no reason not to trust it), then the person who had come to talk to him was the now little known but once famous movie actor Oleg Strizhenov.

"Oleg Strizhenov," Timur Borisovich snorted. "Still young and handsome. I thought there was something badly wrong with my head. But he said it was just a disguise... a dis.. ."

So that was it. Gesar had had enough wits to disguise himself... Well then... that improved our chances.

Feeling a bit more cheerful, I said, "Go on. Then what happened?"

"That were-creature," said Timur Borisovich, inadvertently confusing our terminology, "gave me a lot of help with a certain matter. I'd gotten involved in a bad business... entirely by chance. If I hadn't been told a few things, I wouldn't be lying here now."

"So you were helped."

"Helped big time," Timur Borisovich said with a nod. "So naturally, I got curious. Then another time we had a real heart-to-heart. Remembered old Tashkent and talked about the old films... And then this phoney Strizhenov told me about the Others, and said he was a relative of mine. So he'd be happy to do anything at all for me. Free and for gratis, no return favors required."

"So?" I asked, urging him on.

"Well, I'm not an idiot," Timur Borisovich said with a shrug. "You don't ask a golden fish for three wishes, you ask for unlimited power. Or at the very least for a pool full of golden fish. I asked him to make me an Other, like him. Then this 'Strizhenov' started getting edgy and hopping about like he was on a red-hot skillet. Said it couldn't be done. But I could tell he was lying. It can be done. So I asked him to make a real effort and turn me into an Other after all..."

He was telling the truth. Every single word. But he wasn't quite telling me the whole story.

"It's impossible to make you into an Other," I explained. "You're an ordinary human being. I'm sorry, there's no way you'll ever be an Other."

Timur Borisovich snorted again.

"It's... well, if you like, it's in the genes," I explained. "Timur Borisovich, did you realize that your contact was caught in a trap? That he had formulated his proposal wrong, and as a result he was obliged to do something for you that's impossible?"

The self-confident businessman didn't have anything to say to that.

"You did," I said. "I can see that you did. And you still went on demanding?"

"I told you - it can be done!" said Timur Borisovich, raising his voice. "I can feel it. I can tell when someone's lying just as well as you can. And I didn't make any threats, I only asked."

"It was probably your father who came to see you," I said. "Do you realize that?"

Timur Borisovich froze in his seething Jacuzzi.

"He wanted to help you all right," I said. "But he can't do this. And your demand is literally killing him. Do you understand that?"

Timur Borisovich shook his head.

"The promise he gave was too vague," I said. "You took him at his word, and if he fails to carry out his promise, then he'll die. Do you understand?"

"Is that one of your rules?"

"It's a corollary of Power," I said curtly. "Well, for the Light Ones."

"Where was he all that time, my dad..." Timur Borisovich said with genuine sorrow in his voice. "I suppose he must still be young? Why did he come to me when my grandchildren are already married?"

"Believe me, he couldn't have come sooner," I replied. "Most likely he didn't even know about you. It just happened that way. But now you're killing him. Your own father."

Timur Borisovich didn't say anything.

But I was exultant. Because this businessman lounging in his Jacuzzi wasn't a hardened scoundrel. He'd grown up in the East, and the word "father" meant a lot to him.

No matter what.

"Tell him that I withdraw my... request," Timur Borisovich muttered. "If he doesn't want to... then to hell with him... He could simply have come and told me everything honestly. He didn't need to send his staff."

"Are you sure I'm one of his staff?"

"Yes. I don't know who my dad is. But he's some big wheel in those Watches of yours."

I'd done it. I'd removed the Sword of Damocles that had been hanging over Gesar's head.

Maybe that was why he'd sent me to the Assol? Because he knew I could do it?

"Timur Borisovich, one more request," I went on, striking while the iron was hot. "You have to disappear for a while, get out of town. Certain facts have become known... there are Others on your trail, apart from me. Including Dark Ones. They'll make trouble for you, and for... for your father."

Timur Borisovich jerked upright in his bath. "What else will you order me to do?"

"I could order you," I explained, "just as easily as your bodyguards. And you'd go dashing to the airport without your trousers. But I'm asking you, Timur Borisovich. You've already done one good deed by agreeing to withdraw your demand. Take the next step. Please."

"Do you realize what kind of ideas people get about businessmen who take off without warning to God knows where?"

"I can imagine."

Timur Borisovich grunted and suddenly looked older somehow. I felt ashamed. But I carried on waiting.

"I'd like to talk... to him."

"I think that'll be okay," I agreed. "But first you have to disappear."

"Turn around," Timur Borisovich growled.

I obediently turned around, because I believed I wouldn't get a heavy nickel-plated soap dish across the back of my head.

And that entirely groundless trust saved me.

Because I glanced at the wall through the Twilight to make sure the bodyguards were still sleeping peacefully by the door. And I saw a fleeting shadow - moving far too quickly for a human being.

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