Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(4)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(4)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Then I killed my first vampire.

After that Kostya joined the Day Watch. I didn't know if he'd ever graduated from his biology faculty, but he'd certainly shed his childhood illusions...

He'd started receiving licenses to kill. Rise to the level of a Higher Vampire in three years? He must have had help. All the resources of the Day Watch must have been brought to bear so that the nice young guy Kostya could sink his fangs into human necks over and over again...

And I had a pretty good idea who had helped him.

"What do you think, Anton," said Gesar, "in the given situation, who should we appoint as the investigator from our side?"

I took my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed Svetlana's number.

Chapter 2

IN OUR LINE OF BUSINESS YOU DON'T OFTEN GET TO WORK UNDERCOVER.

In the first place, you have to completely disguise your nature as an Other so that nothing gives you away - not your aura, or any streams of Power, or any disturbances in the Twilight. And the situation here is quite simple - if you're a fifth-level magician, then you won't be discovered by magicians weaker than you (i.e., those who are sixth- and seventh-level). If you're a first-level magician, then you're concealed from the second level and below. If you're a magician beyond classification... well, then you can hope that no one will recognize you. I was disguised by Gesar himself. Immediately afterward, I spoke to Svetlana - a conversation that was brief, but painful. No, we didn't quarrel. She was just very upset.

And in the second place, you need a cover story. The simplest way to provide a cover story is by magical means - people you don't know will gladly believe you're their brother, their son-in-law's father, or the army buddy they drank home brew with when they went absent without leave. But any magical cover story will leave traces that any reasonably powerful Other can spot.

So there was no magic at all involved in my cover story. Gesar handed me the keys to an apartment in the Assol complex - 500 square feet of floor space on the eighth floor. The apartment was registered in my name and had been bought six months earlier.

When I opened my eyes wide at that, Gesar explained that the documents had been signed that morning, but backdated. For big money. And the apartment would have to be handed back afterward.

I got the key to the BMW just to add substance to my story. It wasn't a new car, or the most luxurious model, but then my apartment was a small one too.

Then a tailor came into the office - a mournful little old Jew, a seventh-level Other. He took my measurements, promised the suit would be ready by the evening, and then, he said, "This boy will start to look like a man." Gesar was extremely polite with the tailor. He opened the door for him and then saw him out into the reception, and as he said goodbye, he asked timidly how his "little coat" was coming on. The tailor told him there was no need to worry - a coat worthy of the Most Lucent Gesar would be ready before the cold weather set in.

After hearing that, I wasn't so delighted by the decision that I could keep my suit. The tailor clearly didn't make genuine, monumental things in half a day.

Gesar himself provided me with ties. He even taught me a particularly fashionable knot. Then he gave me a wad of banknotes and the address of a shop and ordered me to buy myself everything else to match - including underwear, handkerchiefs, and socks. I was offered the services of Ignat as a consultant - one of our magicians who would have been called an incubus in the Day Watch. Or a succubus - he didn't really care much either way.

The expedition around the boutiques, where Ignat felt right at home, was amusing. But the visit to the hairdresser's, or rather, the "Beauty Salon," left me completely wrecked. Two women and a young guy who tried to act like he was gay, although he wasn't, took turns inspecting me. They all sighed for a long time and made uncomplimentary remarks about my hairdresser. If their wishes had come true, the hairdresser would have been condemned to shearing the wool off mangy sheep for the rest of his life. And for some reason in Tajikistan. This was clearly the most terrible hairdresser's curse... I even decided that after my mission I'd drop into the second-class hairdresser's where I'd been getting my hair cut for the last year, just to make sure they hadn't left an Inferno Vortex hanging over the man's head.

The collective wisdom of the beauty specialists was that my only hope of salvation was a short comb-cut, like one of those small-time hoods who fleece the traders at the market. In consolation they told me that the forecast was for a hot summer and I'd feel more comfortable with a short haircut.

After the haircut, which took more than an hour, I was subjected to a manicure and a pedicure. When Ignat was satisfied, he took me to a dentist, who removed the tartar from my teeth with a special fitting on his drill and advised me to have the procedure repeated every six months. After the procedure my teeth felt somehow na**d - it was even unpleasant to touch them with my tongue. I couldn't think of what to say in reply to Ig-nat's ambivalent comment, "Anton, you look good enough to fall in love with!" and just mumbled something incomprehensible. All the way back to the office I served as a defenseless target for his unsubtle wit.

The suit was already waiting for me. And the tailor too, muttering discontentedly that sewing a suit without a second fitting was like getting married on impulse.

I don't know. If every marriage made on impulse was as successful as that suit, the incidence of divorce would be reduced to zero.

Gesar spoke to the tailor about his coat again. They had a long, heated argument about the buttons, until the Most Lucent Magician finally capitulated. And I stood by the window, looking out at the evening street and the small blinking light of the alarm system in "my" car.

I hoped no one would steal my ride... I couldn't set up any magical defenses to frighten away petty thieves. That would give me away more surely than the parachute trailing behind the Russian spy Stirlitz, as the old joke goes.

That night I was due to sleep in the new apartment. And I had to pretend it wasn't the first time I'd been there. At least there was no one waiting for me back at home. No wife or daughter or little dog or pu**ycat... I didn't even have any fish in an aquarium. And it was a good thing I didn't.

"Do you understand your mission, Gorodetsky?" Gesar asked. The tailor had left while I was pining at the window. My new suit felt amazingly comfortable. Despite the new haircut, I didn't feel like a thug who terrorized market traders, but someone a bit more serious. Maybe a collector of protection money from small shops.

"Move into Assol. Associate with my neighbors. Look for any signs of the renegade Other and his potential client. When I find them - report back. In dealings with the other investigators behave civilly, exchange information, be cooperative."

Gesar stood beside me at the window. He nodded.

"All correct, Anton, all correct... Only you've left out the most important thing."

"Oh yes?" I asked.

"You mustn't cling to any theories. Not even the most likely ones... especially the most likely ones! The Other might be a vampire or a werewolf... or he might not."

I nodded.

"He might be a Dark One," said Gesar. "Or he might turn out to be a Light One."

I didn't say anything. I'd been thinking the same thing.

"And most important of all," Gesar added. "Remember - 'He intends to turn this human being into an Other' could be a bluff."

"And maybe not?" I asked. "Gesar, is it really possible to turn a human being into an Other?"

"Do you really think I would have hidden something like that?" Gesar asked. "So many Others with broken lives... so many fine people condemned to live only their short, human lives... Nothing of the kind has ever happened before. But there's a first time for everything."

"Then I'll assume it is possible," I said.

"I can't give you any amulets," Gesar advised me. "You understand why. And you'd better refrain from using any magic.

The only thing that is permissible is to look through the Twilight. But if the need arises, we'll be there quickly. Just call."

He paused and then added, "I'm not expecting any violent confrontations. But you must be prepared for them."

I'd never parked in an underground garage before. It was a good thing that at least there weren't many cars; the concrete ramps were flooded with bright light and the security man sitting there watching the internal observation monitors politely pointed out where the parking places for my cars were.

Apparently it was assumed that I had at least two cars.

After I parked, I took the bag with my things out of the trunk, set the car's alarm system, and walk toward the exit. The security man was amazed, and he asked me if the elevators were out of order. I had to wrinkle up my forehead, wave my hand through the air and say I hadn't been there for about a year.

The security man asked which floor I lived on, in which block, and then he showed me the way to the elevator.

Surrounded by chrome, mirrors, and conditioned air, I rode up to the eighth floor. I actually felt rather insulted that I lived so low down. Well, I hadn't exactly been expecting the penthouse, but even so...

On the landing - if you can apply that dreary term to a hall with one hundred square feet of floor space - I wandered from one door to another for a while. The fairytale had come to an abrupt end. One door was completely missing, and behind the blank aperture there was a gigantic, dark, empty room - concrete walls, a concrete floor, no internal divisions. I could hear the faint sound of water dripping.

It took me a long time to choose between the three doors that were in place - there weren't any numbers on them. Eventually I discovered a number someone had scratched on one door with a sharp object, and the remains of some figures in chalk on another. It looked like my door was the third one. The most unprepossessing of them all. It would have been just like Gesar to

put me in the apartment that didn't even have a door, but then the cover story would have been shot to pieces...

I took out a bundle of keys and opened the door fairly easily. I looked for a light switch and found an entire battery of little levers.

I started switching them on one at a time.

When the apartment was flooded with light I closed the door behind me and looked around thoughtfully.

Maybe there was something to this after all. Maybe.

The previous owner of the apartment... okay, okay, according to the cover story, that was me. Anyway, when I started the finishing work, I'd obviously been full of truly Napoleonic plans. How else could I explain the custom-made patterned parquet, the oak window frames, the Daikin air conditioners and other distinctive features of a truly sumptuous residence?

But after that I must have run out of money. Because the immense studio apartment - no internal dividing walls - was absolute untouched, virginal. In the corner where the kitchen was supposed to be there was a lopsided old Brest gas cooker, which could well have been used for cooking semolina in the days of my infancy. Nestling on its burners, as if to say "Do not use!" was a basic microwave oven. But then there was a luxurious extractor hood hanging above the appalling cooker. Huddling pitifully alongside it were two stools and a low serving table.

From sheer force of habit I took my shoes off and walked over into the kitchen corner. There was no refrigerator and no furniture either, but there was a big cardboard box standing on the floor, full of supplies - bottles of mineral water and vodka, cans of food, packets of dry soup, boxes of crackers. Thanks, Gesar. If only you'd thought of getting me a saucepan as well...

From the "kitchen" I moved toward the doorway of the bathroom. Apparently I'd been clever enough not to display the toilet and the Jacuzzi for everyone to see...

I opened the door and looked around the bathroom. Not bad, thirty or forty square feet. Nice-looking turquoise tiles. A futuristic-looking shower - it was frightening just to think how much one like that would cost and what fancy bits of technology it was stuffed with.

But there wasn't any Jacuzzi. There wasn't any kind of bath at all - just the blocked-off water pipes sticking up in the corner. And in addition...

I dashed around the bathroom until I finally confirmed my terrible suspicion.

There was no toilet there either!

Just the exit pipe to the drains blocked off with a wooden plug.

Gee, thanks, Gesar!

Stop, no need to panic. They didn't put just one bathroom in apartments like these. There had to be another one - for guests, for children, for servants...

I darted back out into the studio space and found that other door in the corner, right beside the entrance. My premonition had not deceived me - it was the washroom for guests. There wasn't supposed to be a bathtub here, and the shower was simpler.

But instead of a toilet, there was just another plugged pipe.

Disaster.

Now I was really screwed!

Of course, I knew the genuine professionals didn't take any notice of such petty details. If James Bond ever went to the rest-room, it was only to eavesdrop on someone else's conversation or waste the villain hiding in the tank.

But I had to live here.

For a few seconds I thought about calling Gesar and demanding a plumber with a full set of equipment. And then I imagined what his reply would be.

For some reason in my imagination Gesar smiled. Then he heaved a sigh and gave the order, after which someone like the head plumber of all Moscow came and fitted the toilet in person. And Gesar smiled again and shook his head.

Magicians of his level didn't make mistakes in the detail. Their mistakes were cities in flames, bloody wars, and the impeachment of presidents. But not overlooked sanitary conveniences.

If there was no toilet in my apartment, then that was the way it was meant to be.

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)