Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(14)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(14)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

What's more, the shadow was moving through the wall. Not walking normally, like a magician, but gliding along like a vampire.

By the time Kostya walked into the bathroom, I'd already set my face into the calm, mocking expression appropriate for a Light Watchman who's gotten the better of a Dark One.

"You!" said Kostya. In the Twilight his body gave off a light vapor. Vampires generally look different in the Twilight world, but Kostya still looked a lot like a human being. Amazing for a Higher Vampire.

"Of course," I said. My words seemed to sink into wet cotton wool. "What are you doing here?"

Kostya hesitated, but he answered honestly:

"I sensed you using Power. So I knew you must have found something... Someone."

He turned his gaze on Timur Borisovich. "Is this the blackmailer?"

There was no point in lying now. Or in trying to hide the businessman either.

"Yes," I said. "I've got him to withdraw his demands."

"How?"

"I lied, told him it was his own father who promised to turn him into an Other. And now his father's in serious trouble... He felt ashamed and withdrew his demands."

Kostya frowned.

"I'm planning to send him as far as possible out of harm's way," I lied, inspired. "He can settle down somewhere in the Dominican Republic."

"That's only half of the investigation," Kostya said sullenly. "I think you Light Ones are protecting one of your own."

"We are, or I am?"

"You are, Anton. Finding the human being isn't the most important thing. We need the one who spoke out of turn. Who promised to initiate him."

"But he doesn't know anything!" I protested. "I checked his memory, there's nothing there. The traitor came to him disguised as a movie actor from the last century. And he didn't leave any clues."

"We'll see about that," Kostya decided. "Let him get his pants on, and I'll take him in."

How about that for cheek.

"I found him, and he's going with me," I barked.

"And I think you were going to cover up the clues," Kostya said with quiet menace in his voice.

Behind our backs the old man was slowly toweling himself off, without even the slightest idea of the conversation we were having in the Twilight. And we glared at each other, neither of us willing to back off.

"He's going with me," I repeated.

"Fight you for him?" Kostya asked, almost cheerfully.

And in a single gliding movement he was there beside me. He glanced into my eyes, and in the Twilight his eyes glittered with red fire.

He really wanted this fight.

He'd been wanting it for years. To finally convince himself that truth was on the side of the Higher Vampire Konstantin, and not the naive youth Kostya, who had dreamed of freeing himself from the curse and becoming human again...

"I'll annihilate you," I whispered.

Kostya just laughed. "Shall we find out?"

I looked down at my feet. The shadow was barely visible, but I raised it and slipped down into the next level of the Twilight, where the walls of the building were mere hints in the mist and space was filled with a low, disconcerting drone.

But I only held the advantage for a brief moment.

Kostya appeared at the second level immediately after me.

Now he had really changed a lot - his face looked like a skull with the skin stretched tight over it, and his eyes had sunk into the skull. His ears were long and pointed.

"I've really learned a lot," Kostya whispered. "Well then, who's the suspect going with?"

And then another voice spoke. "I have a proposal that will suit everyone."

Witezslav materialized in the gray mist. His body was also distorted, and it was steaming, like a lump of dry ice in the sun. I shuddered - the Prague vampire had emerged from the third level of the Twilight, from depths that were beyond my reach. Just how powerful was he?

Edgar appeared after Witezslav. The journey to the third level had cost the magician a serious effort - he was staggering and breathing heavily.

"He's going with us," Witezslav continued. "We are not inclined to suspect Anton Gorodetsky of any criminal intent. But we take note of the Day Watch's suspicions. The investigation is transferred to the Inquisition."

Kostya didn't reply.

I didn't say anything either. Apart from the fact that Witezslav was well within his rights, there was no way I could oppose him.

"Shall we go back, gentlemen?" Witezslav proposed. "It's a little bleak down here."

And a second later we were back standing in the spacious bathroom, where Timur Borisovich was hopping from one foot to the other as he tried to get into his underpants.

Witezslav gave him time to pull up his underwear. It was only when the businessman heard something and turned around, then saw our little group and shouted out in surprise that Witezslav cast a cold glance at him.

Timur Borisovich went limp. Edgar leapt to his side and lowered the helpless body into a chair.

"You say he doesn't know who the traitor is," Witezslav said, surveying the businessman curiously. "What a remarkably familiar face... It suggests certain rather interesting conjectures to me."

I didn't say anything.

"You can be proud of yourself, Anton," Witezslav went on. "What you said made perfect sense. I believe this man's father really does serve in a Watch. The Night Watch."

Kostya giggled. Of course, he didn't much like Witezslav's decision. Kostya would have preferred to deliver Gesar's offspring to the Day Watch. But the way things were suited him pretty well too.

"Could the all-wise Gesar really have committed such a blunder?" he asked in delight. "How interesting..."

Witezslav looked at him, and Kostya stopped short.

"Anyone can blunder," Witezslav said in a quiet voice. "Even a magician beyond classification. But..."

He fixed his gaze on me. "Can you ask Gesar to come here?"

I shrugged. It was a stupid question, of course I could. And so could Witezslav.

"I don't like what's going on here," Witezslav said in that same quiet voice. "I don't like it at all. Someone here is bluffing far too brazenly."

He ran his piercing, inhuman glance over all of us. Something had put him on his guard, but exactly what was it?

"I'll contact my chief," Kostya said in a tone that brooked no denial.

Witezslav didn't object. He was looking at Timur Borisovich and frowning.

I took out my cell phone and dialed Gesar's number.

"Someone's trying to make fools of us all..." said Witezslav, his fury starting to break through. "And that someone..."

"Tell him to get dressed," I said, listening to the beeping of the phone. "Or do we have to humiliate an old man and take him like that in his underpants?"

Witezslav didn't stir a muscle, but Timur Borisovich stood up and started getting dressed, as if he were sleepwalking.

Edgar sidled up to me and asked sympathetically, "Isn't he answering? In his place I'd..."

"It will be a long time before anyone offers you a place like that," Witezslav commented. "If you can't see how we've been set up..."

If the look on Edgar's face was anything to go by, he couldn't see a thing. And neither could I, or Kostya, who had rolled his eyes back and up and was whispering something soundlessly.

"Yes, Anton..." Gesar said when he answered. "Anything interesting?"

"I've found the man who was promised he could be turned into an Other," I said, forcing the words out with a struggle.

Total silence fell in the bathroom. Everyone seemed to be straining to hear the faint sound from my cell phone.

"Excellent!" Gesar exclaimed. "Well done. Now get in touch with the investigators from the Day Watch and the Inquisition right away. Let them join in the investigation. That Czech vampire, Witezslav, is around there somewhere. The old guy's on the ball, even if he doesn't have any sense of humor... but that's a misfortune suffered by all vampires."

Witezsav turned toward me. His face had turned to stone and his eyes were blazing. He'd heard everything. And I would have bet a crate of Czech beer to a bottle of triple cologne that Gesar knew perfectly well that Witezslav was standing there beside me.

"Witezslav is already here," I said. "And so is Edgar and... the investigator from the Dark Ones."

"Great!" Gesar was delighted. "Ask our visitor from Prague to put up a portal for me... if he can manage that, of course. I'll drop over to see you."

I put the phone away and looked at Witezslav. To be honest, I felt Gesar had overdone the jibes a bit.

But how could I know the way things stood between the old Light Magician and the vampire Inquisitor? And what scores they had to settle with each other?

"You heard him," I said evasively.

"Tell me again," Witezslav replied curtly.

"The head of the Night Watch of Moscow, the Most Lucent Magician Gesar, requests you to put up a portal for him. If that is within your power, of course."

Witezslav simply glanced briefly to one side - and a narrow, bright portal appeared in the air above the seething Jacuzzi. Anyone stepping out through that strange doorway was bound to end up in the water.

"No problem," Witezslav said coolly. "Edgar..."

The former Dark Magician looked devotedly into his eyes.

"The file on this man..." Witezslav nodded toward Timur Borisovich, who was lazily knotting his necktie. "It's probably downstairs, in the security service office."

Edgar disappeared - to save time, he went to get the file through the Twilight.

And a moment later Gesar appeared in the bathroom.

Only he didn't appear through the portal, but beside it, stepping down neatly onto the marble slabs of the floor.

"I'm really getting old," he sighed. "I missed the door..."

He looked at Witezslav and broke into a broad smile.

"Well, just look who's here! Why didn't you drop in to see me?"

"I've been busy," Witezslav answered curtly. "I think we need to resolve a few matters that have come up as quickly as possible..."

"You've been spending too much time in the office," Gesar sighed. "You've become a total bureaucrat... Well, what do we have here?"

"There he is," I put in.

Gesar gave me a smile of approval and looked at Timur Borisovich.

There was a sudden silence. Kostya had gone quiet after finishing his soundless conversation with Zabulon - who was in no hurry to put in an appearance. Witezslav had turned to stone. I was trying not even to breathe.

"That's curious," said Gesar. He went over to Timur Borisovich, who was staring blankly straight ahead, and touched his arm. He heaved a sigh: "Ah..."

"Do you know this man, Most Lucent Gesar?" Witezslav asked.

Gesar turned toward us with an expression of profound sadness on his face, and asked bitterly, "Tell me, have you completely lost your grip? This is my own flesh and blood, Witezslav! This is my son!"

"Really?" Witezslav asked ironically.

Gesar took no more notice of him. He put his arms around the old man, who from the human point of view could have been his father. He stroked his cheeks affectionately and whispered, "Where have you been all these years, my little one... and we end up meeting like this... They told me you'd died... they said it was diphtheria..."

"My heartfelt congratulations, Gesar," said Witezslav. "But I should like to receive an explanation."

Edgar reappeared in the bathroom. Perspiring, clutching a folder in his hands.

Still hugging his old son, Gesar replied, "It's a simple story. Before the war I worked all over Uzbekistan. Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent... I was married. Then I was recalled to Moscow. I knew I'd had a son, but I never saw him. There was no time for that... there was a war on. Then the boy's mother died. And I lost track of him."

"Not even you were able to find him?" Witezslav asked suspiciously.

"Not even me. According to the documents, he had died. Of diphtheria..."

"This is a Mexican soap opera," Edgar protested, outraged. "Most Lucent Gesar, do you claim that you have never met this man?"

"Never," Gesar said sadly.

"You have never spoken to him, never, in contravention of all the rules, offered to help him become an Other?" Edgar persisted.

Gesar looked at the magician ironically.

"Esteemed Inquisitor, if anyone knows, you should, that a human being cannot become an Other."

"Answer the question," said Edgar, half asking, half ordering.

"I have never seen him, never spoken to him, and never made any promises to him. I did not send the letters to the Watches and the Inquisition. I did not ask anyone to meet with him or send those letters. The Light bears witness to my words!" Gesar rapped out. He flung out his hand - and for an instant a petal of white fire blossomed on it. "Are you casting doubt on what I say? Claiming that I am the traitor?"

Gesar had grown taller, as if some spring had straightened out inside him. You could have hammered nails into the look in his eyes.

"Are you accusing me of anything?" Gesar continued, raising his voice. "You, Edgar? Or you, Witezslav?"

Kostya was too slow to back away and he too was caught in that withering glance.

"Or you, vampire-boy?"

Even I felt like hiding. But deep in my heart I was laughing. Gesar had put one over on everyone. I didn't know how he'd managed it, but he had.

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