The Sixth Watch

The Sixth Watch

Title page

This text is mandatory reading for the forces of Light.

The Night Watch

This text is mandatory reading for the forces of Darkness.

The Day Watch

PROLOGUE

FIFTEEN YEARS IS a long stretch.

In fifteen years a man can be born, learn to walk, talk and use a computer; learn to read, count and use the toilet as well; and then, a lot later, learn to fight and fall in love. And sometimes, to round things off, he brings new people into the world or dispatches old ones into the darkness.

Over the course of fifteen years spent in prisons for especially dangerous criminals, murderers pass through all the circles of hell, and then go free. Sometimes without an iota of darkness in their souls. Sometimes without an iota of light.

In fifteen years even the most ordinary man can radically change his life several times. He leaves his family and starts a new one. He changes his job maybe three or four times. He makes a fortune and is reduced to poverty. He visits the Congo, where he smuggles diamonds, or settles down in a deserted little village in the Pskov Region and starts breeding goats. He takes to drink, acquires a second degree, becomes a Buddhist, starts taking drugs, learns to fly a plane, and goes to the Maidan in Kiev, where he gets a smack across the forehead with a truncheon, after which he enters a monastery.

Basically, lots of things can happen in fifteen years.

If you’re a man.

…But if you happen to be a fifteen-year-old girl, you know for absolute certain that nothing interesting has ever happened to you.

Well, almost nothing.

If anyone could have had a heart-to-heart talk with Olya Yalova (five years ago her mother could have done it and three years ago her granny could have – but now no one could), she would have told that person three interesting things about herself.

First – how much she hated the stupid sound of her own name!

Olya Yalova!

You couldn’t make it up.

When she was a kid, they teased her and called her Olya-Yalo, like the twin girls in that ancient children’s film The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors. But that wasn’t too bad. After all, it was a good film (in seven-year-old Olya’s opinion), and she even looked a bit like those twins. Olya-Yalo? So, fine.

But then in fourth year at school, when she was ten, a certain classmate of hers… Yeah, right, ‘a certain classmate…’ It’s great when at that age you’re already blond, handsome and top of the class, with rich parents who adore you and your surname is Sokolov (from ‘sokol’, meaning ‘falcon’)… well then, this ‘certain classmate’ of hers decided to look up what the other pupils’ names meant on the Internet…

And then you discover that ‘Yalova’ means nothing more than a cow with no calf. A barren cow. And so ‘barren cow’ becomes your nickname from ten to thirteen. Sometimes it’s abbreviated to just ‘cow’, sometimes even to ‘B.C.’ The humiliation of it and all the tears you cry make you start staying at home, reading books and guzzling tea with biscuits – until your figure really does look like a cow’s…

The second supremely important thing to have happened in the life of Olya Yalova (or Olya-Yalo, as even she thought of herself) was ice hockey. Genuine ice hockey with a puck. Women’s ice hockey – well, girls’. She joined the class entirely by chance, when one day she happened to have a dream about that villain Sokolov: for some reason she was standing there absolutely naked in front of him, and the handsome devil (at the age of thirteen Sokolov had developed into a tall and quite obscenely attractive boy) was wincing, covering his eyes with his hand and hissing through his teeth: ‘cow…’

Either simply her time had come, or ice hockey was precisely what was needed, but all the excess fat drained off Olya in six months, and a year later – at fourteen – she was the star of Russia’s national youth team.

And suddenly it turned out that all this time, hiding under those plump cheeks and fat thighs, was a tall (at fifteen Olya had outgrown everyone in her class and her trainer looked her up and down sombrely and said: ‘I won’t let you switch to basketball!’), strong (they were just joking about and this stupid quarrel started up… Olya herself didn’t even notice how she knocked down two of her male classmates – and they just sat there on the floor, gazing at her fearfully, afraid to get up) girl (very definitely a girl – when Olya walked out of the shower she cast a glance at herself in the mirror and smiled, because she knew that every single poor fool whose name she didn’t even want to know would narrow his eyes in lustful delight at the sight of her.)

And the third supremely important thing in Olya’s life was only just about to happen. With her hands stuffed in her pockets (it was frosty, but she didn’t feel like wearing gloves), Olya walked past the Olympic Stadium, with the still-incomplete minarets of the main municipal mosque towering up behind it, and then past a small Orthodox church. It was early evening – the street lamps were all glowing brightly – but there weren’t very many people out on the streets, even though this was the city centre. Moscow wasn’t used to genuinely frosty Russian weather any more – a mere minus fifteen Celsius was enough to make everyone go running off home or huddle up in their cars.

And now she went across the narrow little street and down into the pedestrian underpass to the other side of Peace Avenue. Then she was intending to go down a side street with trams clattering along their rails and into the high-rise apartment block set on a massive platform with a colonnade – a ‘stylobate’ (three years of compulsive reading had not gone to waste; it had left Olya’s head crammed with a whole slew of random words and haphazard bits and pieces of knowledge). This was the house where the villain Sokolov lived. The handsome devil Sokolov. No longer Oleg Sokolov now, but ‘Olezhka’ – who was hers and hers alone!

They’d been dating for six months already. Only no one knew about it. Neither at school nor at her ice hockey class. And her mother and granny didn’t know, either.

The feud between Olya Yalova and Oleg Sokolov had gone on for far too long. But now… no, not right now, but starting from tomorrow Olya wasn’t going to hide anything any longer. Tomorrow she and Oleg would arrive at school together.

Because today she was going to spend the night at his place. Oleg’s parents were away. Olya’s granny and mum thought she was going to stay overnight with a girlfriend after training.

But she was going to stay at Oleg’s place.

They had already decided everything. Before this the most they had done was kiss… well… that evening in the back row of the cinema didn’t really count, even though Oleg had let his hands roam free…

Now it was all going to be serious. They were fifteen already: it was shameful to admit they hadn’t had sex yet. They’d be mocked to death! So maybe the girls on the team weren’t getting it, but they simply didn’t have the time, and they were too tired. And then, there were so many classes at school now… But in general, at the age of fifteen there were hardly any virgins left, boys or girls.

Olya knew that, because she’d read about it on the Internet, and the result of three years of obsessive reading was not merely superfluous knowledge but also excessive confidence in the printed word.

Somewhere in the depths of Olya’s soul (which was probably skulking in her stomach right now) there was a faint, cold pulse of fear. Or even doubt.

She liked Olezhka. Kissing with him was great. And hugging too. And… and she wanted more. She knew perfectly well how it all happened… how it was supposed to be… well, after all, it was on the Internet…

And basically, Olya wanted that.

Only she couldn’t work out if she wanted it now or later. With Oleg or with someone else.

But she’d already promised to go. And Olya Yalova didn’t like to break her promises.

The side street greeted her with a cold wind blowing from the direction of the Three Stations on Komsomol Square – and with a sudden, surprising darkness. Surprising because the street lamps were on, the windows in the apartment blocks and the shop signs were glowing. But for some reason their glow failed to dispel the gloom: the tiny spots of light were suspended in the night, bright but powerless, like the distant stars in the sky.

Olya even stopped for a moment. She glanced round behind her.

What sort of nonsense was this? She’d be there in three minutes. One minute, if she ran. She was a hundred and seventy-five centimetres tall and she had better muscles than lots of young guys. She was in the centre of Moscow, it was seven o’clock in the evening, and there were plenty of people around, on their way back home.

What was she afraid of?

It was just that she was afraid of going to Oleg’s place!

She couldn’t even keep her promise. She’d promised too much, and now she’d got scared just like a little girl. But she was a grown woman… almost a grown-up already… almost a woman…

Olya adjusted her woolly hat with its pompom, arranged the sports bag on her shoulder more comfortably (towel, clean panties and a pack of panty-liners – Olya suspected that she would need them tomorrow) and quickened her stride.

Junior Police Lieutenant Dmitry Pastukhov wasn’t on duty. He wasn’t even in uniform when he raised his arm to stop a car on ...

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