By the time Margarita finishes the chapter of the master’s novel, it is dawn. She feels a deep sense of contentment. Meanwhile, a big group of investigators have been up all night looking into the strange events that have visited Moscow over the last few days.
Margarita has been rewarded for her courage with exactly the life that she longed for.
The investigators interview Arkady Apollonovich about his experience at the theater, who confirms that the magician’s name was Woland. Investigators visit the Sadovaya Street apartment more than once but find no-one there. Nor is there any official trace of Woland’s visit at any of the relevant government agencies. Meanwhile, Prokhor Petrovich is returned to his formerly empty suit, much to his receptionist’s relief; but he knows nothing about Woland.
The apartment is always vacant when investigators try to go there, showing that Woland and his entourage can choose who encounters them and when. Both Arkady and Prokhor are returned to relative normality—similarly to the characters at the end of chapter 24. Prokhor’s lack of memory is indicative of the general sense that the Moscow residents learn nothing from their experience.
The investigators are baffled: Woland seems to have vanished, along with the top tier staff of the Variety theater. They find Rimsky hiding in a hotel room wardrobe in Leningrad, but he is too scared to talk about what happened to him. They also track down Styopa, who is returning to Moscow on a flight from Yalta. They can find no trace of Varenukha.
The investigators are portrayed comically and shown them to be misguided and haphazard. This satirizes Soviet authority, suggesting it too is not as all-seeing as it thinks.
Investigators then head to Professor Stravinsky’s clinic, figuring out that Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy, George Bengalsky, and Ivan Nokolaevich Homeless have all been victims of Woland’s gang. They interview Ivan, but he longer seems interested in helping to catch Woland or avenging Berlioz: his “eyes looked now somewhere into the distance.” Instead, he daydreams about Yershalaim. The departing investigator wishes Ivan a recovery and says he hopes to read Ivan’s poetry again soon, to which Ivan replies that he won’t be writing any more.
Ivan is in a kind of stupor, partly because of Woland and partly because he is so deeply interested in the Pilate story. Ivan’s commitment to stop writing poetry shows that it has dawned on him that his work is inauthentic and without value; this change is largely brought on by the impact of the Pilate narrative.
The investigators theorize that Berlioz was made to kill himself through hypnosis. When Styopa returns and tells his story, they assume that he too has been a victim of hypnosis. He is confined in a secure cell at his own request. Varenukha turns up and tries to lie about what’s happened to him, scared of incurring Woland’s wrath. He too asks to be placed in a cell.
Another instance of the popular hypnosis explanation for Woland’s antics. The investigators are attracted to this theory because it is resolutely scientific and eliminates the possibility of any supernatural element being involved. Styopa and Varenukha’s request to kept in cells is a representation of their cowardice.
Annushka is arrested for trying to spend foreign currency in a department store. The investigators listen with interest to her story about seeing people fly out of the fifth-floor window at her apartment block. She also tells them about the jeweled horseshoe and insists that she was paid roubles—not dollars—for giving it back. She is released.
Koroviev’s motivations for giving Annushka the money are revealed to be insincere. It provides another example to the investigators of this strange money that is doing the rounds in Moscow.
Next to be interviewed is Nikolai Ivanovich, who shows the investigators his certificate recognizing his attendance at “Satan’s ball.” He tells them about what happened to him—becoming a hog, being flown by Natasha, going to “hell and beyond”—but leaves out that he had propositioned Natasha and requests that nothing is told to his wife. Spurred on by his testimony, the investigators discover that both Margarita and her housekeeper are missing.
Nikolai’s absurd behavior satirizes Soviet era bureaucracy, demonstrating an overreliance on official documentation. He, too, has learned little from the experience, witnessed by his request to keep his wife in the dark.
Later that day, the investigators get a call attesting to signs of life at the Sadovaya street apartment. Apparently, singing and the sounds of piano have been heard coming from its windows, and a black cat has been seen basking in the sun on the windowsill.
Woland and his entourage are toying with the authorities, enjoying the game of cat and mouse.
The investigators descend on apartment no. 50 in large number. As they come up the stairs, Koroviev and Azazello calmly drink coffee and cognac, fully aware of what’s happening.
Koroviev and Azazello’s calm demeanors demonstrate that Woland and his gang have nothing to fear when it comes to the investigators. They have already shown themselves to have control of time and space, hence their laidback attitude.
The men go into the apartment from the front and the rear. They are shocked to find “an enormous black cat,” who warns them that he is doing nothing wrong and that, furthermore, “the cat is an ancient and inviolable animal.” The men try to ensnare Behemoth in a net but he is too quick for them.
Behemoth once again delights in dazzling and amazing his “audience.” The net is a comically inept tool with which to catch Behemoth, lending the scene a slapstick quality (and thereby mocking Soviet authority).
A gunfight ensues between Behemoth and the investigators. Behemoth relishes the excitement; despite many shots being fired, miraculously no-one is hurt. Koroviev, Azazello, and Woland complain about the commotion from another room. Koroviev says: “Messire! It’s Saturday. Then sun is setting. Time to go.”
The gunfight is another kind of spectacle, ultimately pointless in terms of trying to catch Behemoth (or, on his part, to injure the officers). Like Woland and his gang’s other antics, it’s a show, and one that they demonstrably enjoy.
Behemoth sets fire to the apartment and climbs out onto the roof. The investigators flee the blazing building; as the fire spreads, so too do the other flats’ inhabitants. As fire engines arrive on the scene, the people outside notice the silhouettes of Woland and his entourage flying out of the fifth-story window.
Behemoth’s fire is ceremonial, symbolizing a kind of purging of Moscow. It also has clear connotations of Hell, which reminds the reader of Woland’s true identity.