Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(15)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(15)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"We would not dare even to surmise such a thing, Most Lucent Gesar," said Witezslav, and he was the first to bow his head. "Edgar, your questions were phrased impolitely."

"I apologize," Edgar said, hanging his head. "Forgive me, Most Lucent Gesar. I am profoundly sorry."

Kostya was gazing around in panic. Was he waiting for Zab-ulon? No, that wasn't likely. On the contrary, he was hoping the Dark One's chief wouldn't turn up for his share of the taunts.

And Zabulon wouldn't turn up, I realized that. A European vampire who, for all his great power and centuries-old wisdom, had lost his touch for intrigue might fall into a trap. But Zabulon had realized right away that Gesar wouldn't leave himself open so stupidly.

"You have attacked my son," Gesar said sadly. "Who cast the spell of paralysis on him? You, Konstantin?"

"No!" Kostya exclaimed, panic-stricken.

"I did," Witezslav said dourly. "Shall I remove it?"

"Remove it?" Gesar barked. "You have used magic on my boy. Can you imagine what a shock that is, at his age? Eh? And who will he become now, after the initiation? A Dark One?"

My eyes almost popped out of my head. Kostya gave a faint squeal. Edgar clamped his jaws shut.

We must all have looked at Timur Borisovich through the Twilight at exactly the same moment.

The aura of a potential Other was quite unmistakable.

Timur Borisovich had no need to expose himself to the fangs of a vampire or a werewolf. He could become a perfectly respectable magician. Fourth or fifth-level.

Unfortunately, most likely a Dark Magician... But...

"And now what am I to do?" Gesar continued. "You have attacked my little child, frightened him, crushed his will..."

The superannuated "little child" was scrabbling feebly at his necktie, still trying to tie the Windsor knot as neatly as possible.

"Is he going to become a Dark One now?" Gesar asked indignantly. "Well? This was all specially planned, was it? Gesar's son a Dark Magician?"

"I'm sure he would have become a Dark One in any case..." said Witezslav, "With his way of life..."

"You have subdued his will, urged him toward the Darkness, and now you make claims like that?" Gesar said in a menacing whisper. "Does the Inquisition believe it has the right to violate the Treaty? Or is this a strictly personal attack... haven't you got over Karlsbad yet? We can continue this conversation, Witezslav. This may not be Krasnaya Kupal'nya, but we still have plenty of space for a duel."

Witezslav wavered for a second, trying to withstand Gesar's stare.

Then he gave in. "My apologies, Gesar. I had no idea that this man was a potential Other. Everything indicated quite the opposite... those letters..."

"And what now?" Gesar barked.

"The Inquisition acknowledges its... its haste..." Witezslav said. "The Moscow Night Watch is entitled to take this.. . this man under its tutelage."

"To carry out his remoralization?" Gesar asked. "To initiate him after he has turned to the Light?"

"Yes," Witezslav said in a whisper.

"Well then, let us consider this dispute settled," Gesar said with a smile, slapping Witezslav on the shoulder. "Don't be upset. We all make mistakes sometimes. The important thing is to put them right, isn't it?"

My, but that old European bloodsucker had iron self-control.

"That's right, Gesar," he said sadly.

"By the way, have you caught the renegade Other?" Gesar asked.

Witezslav shook his head.

"What's in my little boy's memory?" Gesar asked aloud. He looked at Timur Borisovich, already standing there fully dressed. "Ah... Oleg Strizhenov. A 1960s movie star. What an audacious disguise."

"So it would seem the traitor is fond of old Russian movies?" asked Witezslav.

"Indeed. Personally, I would have preferred Innokenty Smok-tunovsky," Gesar replied. "Or Oleg Dal. Witezslav, this case is a dead end. The traitor hasn't left any leads."

"And you can't even imagine who he is?" Witezslav asked.

"I can imagine," Gesar said with a nod. "There are thousands of Others in Moscow. Any one of them could have assumed someone else's appearance. Does the Inquisition wish to check the memory of all the Others in the city?"

Witezslav frowned.

"No, it can't be done," Gesar agreed. "I can't even vouch for my own colleagues, and the Others who don't serve in the Watches will refuse point blank."

"We'll set an ambush," Edgar declared. "And if the traitor shows up again..."

"He won't show up," Witezslav said wearily. "He has no need to now."

Gesar smiled, looking at the gloomy vampire. Then the smile was suddenly wiped off his face.

"Now will you please leave my son's apartment? I'll be expecting you in my office to sign the report. At seven o'clock this evening."

Witezslav nodded and disappeared - only to reappear a moment later, looking slightly confused.

"On foot, on foot," Gesar said. "I've shielded off the Twilight here. Just to be on the safe side."

I trudged off after the Inquisitors and Kostya - boy, was he happy to be out of there and on his way.

"Anton," Gesar called after me. "Thank you. You did a good job. Call in to see me this evening."

I didn't answer. We walked past the bodyguards, still dead to the world, and I attentively scanned the aura of the one I'd thought seemed doubtful.

No, not an Other after all. A human being.

I'd be doubly careful about that for a long time now.

Witezslav said nothing, engrossed in thought, leaving Kostya and Edgar to fiddle with the locks. Then he cast a sideways glance in my direction and asked, "Will you offer us a cup of coffee, watchman?"

I nodded. Why not?

We'd worked together on the same job. And we'd all been duped together - no matter what token compliments Gesar might have paid me.

Chapter 7

WE MADE A FUNNY GROUP - A YOUNG VAMPIRE FROM THE DAY WATCH, two Inquisitors, and a Light Magician.

All standing together in a big, empty apartment waiting for the water in the microwave to boil so we could make instant coffee. I'd even allowed Kostya to come in, and now he was sitting on the inside of the windowsill.

Witezslav was the only one who just couldn't sit still.

"I'm not used to Russia anymore," he said, striding to and fro in front of the window. "I've lost the feel of the place. The country's unrecognizable."

"Yes, the country's changing. New houses being built, new roads..." I exclaimed enthusiastically.

"Spare me your irony, watchman," Witiezslav interrupted. "That's not what I'm talking about. For seventy years the Others in your country had the strongest discipline of all. Even the Watches remained within the bounds of propriety..."

"And now it's like everything's gone crazy?" I asked shrewdly.

Witezslav didn't answer that.

I felt ashamed. No matter what he was like, this Prague vampire from the Inquisition, today he had been thoroughly hoodwinked and bamboozled. It was the first time I'd seen the Inquisition humiliated. Even Gesar... well, he wasn't exactly afraid of it, but he acknowledged it as an insuperable force.

Then suddenly he had outwitted it. And with elegant ease.

Had something changed in the world? Had the Inquisition become a third side... just one more side in the game? Dark Ones, Light Ones, and the Inquisition?

Or Dark Ones, Light Ones, and the Twilight?

The water in the glass teapot began to seethe and bubble. I poured the boiling water into the cups standing along the win-dowsill. Set out the coffee, sugar, and a carton of milk.

"Gorodetsky, do you realize that today the Treaty was violated?" Witezslav asked out of the blue.

I shrugged.

"You don't have to answer," Witezslav said. "I already know you've understood the whole thing. An individual from the Moscow Night Watch provoked the Inquisition into acting injudiciously, after which he was granted the right to recruit a certain individual to the side of the Light. I don't think he will be of any great help to the Night Watch."

I didn't think so either. Timur Borisovich wouldn't bother to learn how to use the Twilight Power. He'd get his long life, the ability to do little magic tricks, to see his business partners' secret thoughts, to dodge bullets... That would be enough for him. Okay, I could assume his firm would transfer large sums into the Night Watch account on a regular basis. And the businessman would become a better person, he would do some kind of charity work... pay for the upkeep of a polar bear in the zoo and ten orphans in a children's home.

But even so, it wasn't all worth a quarrel with the Inquisition.

"Ignominious," Witezslav said bitterly. "The abuse of an official position for personal ends."

I couldn't help snorting.

"What's so funny?" Witezslav asked guardedly.

"I think Gesar was right. You really have been shuffling papers around for too long."

"So you think there was nothing wrong with all this?" Witezslav asked. "There's no call for outrage?"

"A man - okay, so he's not the best man in the world - will become a Light One," I said. "Now he will never do evil to anyone. On the contrary. So why should I be indignant?"

"Leave it, Witezslav," Edgar said quietly. "Gorodetsky doesn't understand a thing. He's too young."

Witezslav nodded and took a sip of coffee. He said gloomily, "I thought you were different from the rest of this Light fraternity. That it was the substance you cared about, not the form..."

That really wound me up. "Yes, the substance is important to me, Witezslav. And the substance here is that you're a vampire. And you, Edgar, are a Dark Magician. I don't know where you can see a violation of the Treaty, but I'm sure there wouldn't have been any charges brought against Zabulon."

"Light Magician..." Witezslav hissed. "Adept of the Light... All we do is maintain the balance, is that clear? And even Zabulon would have ended up facing a tribunal if he'd pulled a stunt like this!"

But there was no stopping me now. "Zabulon has done lots of things. He tried to kill my wife. He tried to kill me. He's constantly urging people toward the Darkness. You say one of our side acted dishonestly in outwitting the cheat? Well, maybe it was dishonest, but it was right! You're always so outraged when you get your own counterfeit coin back... well, that's easily fixed. Start playing fair for a change."

"Your fairness and ours are two different things," Edgar put in. "Witezslav, let's go..."

The vampire nodded and put down his unfinished cup of coffee.

"Thank you for the coffee, Light One. I return to you the invitation to enter."

And the two Inquistors walked out, leaving just Kostya, sitting silently on the windowsill and finishing his coffee.

"Moralists," I said angrily. "Or do you think they're right too?"

Kostya smiled. "No, of course not. They got what they deserve. It's high time the Inquisition was taken down a peg or two... I'm just sorry it was Gesar who did it, and not Zabulon."

"Gesar didn't do anything," I said stubbornly. "He swore, didn't you hear him?"

Kostya shrugged. "I've no idea how he set everything up. But it was his plot. Zabulon was right to wait it out. He's a cunning old fox, all right... You know what surprises me?"

"What?" I asked cautiously. Somehow I didn't find Kostya's support very reassuring.

"What difference is there at all between us? We scheme to drag the little people we want over to our side. And you do exactly the same. Gesar wanted to make his son a Light One - and he did it. Good for him! I've got no complaints."

Kostya was smiling.

"What do you think, who was right in the Second World War?" I asked.

"What are you getting at?" Kostya was tense now, naturally expecting a trick.

"Just answer the question."

"Our side was right," Kostya said patriotically. "And, by the way, some vampires and werewolves fought in the war. Two of them were even awarded the order of Hero of the Soviet Union."

"And just why was our side right? Stalin would have been happy enough to swallow up the whole of Europe. And we bombed cities full of civilians too, and pillaged museums, and shot deserters..."

"Because it was our side. That's why it was right."

"Well then, now it's our side that's right. And our side is the Light Ones."

"You mean, that's the way you see it," Kostya objected. "And you refuse to consider any other point of view?"

I nodded.

"Ha..." Kostya said contemptuously. "Come up with at least one logical argument."

"We don't drink blood," I said.

Kostya put his cup down and stood up. "Thank you for the hospitality. I return to you the invitation to enter."

And I was left alone - in a big, empty apartment, with just the half-empty cups, the open microwave, and the water cooling in the glass teapot...

Why had I heated it in the microwave? A single pass with my hands - and the water would have boiled right there in the cups.

I took my cell phone out and dialed Svetlana's number. There was no answer. She must have gone for a walk with Nadiushka and left her phone in her room again...

Deep down I wasn't feeling nearly as jaunty as I'd tried to make out.

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