This is a work of fiction.

All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in
this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


An imprint of St. Martin’s Press.
RED STAR FALLING. Copyright © 2013 by Brian Freemantle. All rights reserved. Printed

in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth
Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Freemantle, Brian.
Red star falling / Brian Freemantle.
pages cm
ISBN 978-1-250-03224-9 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-250-03225-6 (e-book)
1. Muffin, Charlie (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Intelligence service—
Great Britain—Fiction. 3. Intelligence service—Russia (Federation)—Fiction.
4. Espionage—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6056.R43R33 2013
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First Edition: June 2013


8 7








consciousness, not opening his eyes, not moving. Alive at least. But hurt:
he had to be hurt, although there was no pain. Shots. He remembered
several shots, and falling but no pain then; no pain now, either. Just
numbness. He was numb, no feeling in his left side, and there was a
strangely tight thickness on his right that he could feel. Bandaged. He was
bandaged, his chest encased. Why? If he’d been shot, why didn’t it hurt? A
hospital, he supposed: he was definitely under bedcovering. What sort of
hospital? Very cautiously, knowing the sheets and blankets would cover
the movement, Charlie edged his right hand sideways, almost at once detecting unsecured restraining straps: two at least, each with heavy metal
fixings against the bed frame. There would be more that he couldn’t
reach. At best an infirmary operated exclusively by Russia’s international
intelligence service, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, or FSB. At
worst a psychiatric facility. Before the alleged end of communism in Russia in 1991, psychiatric institutions and their mind-destroying expertise
were favourite KGB weapons against its prisoners and dissidents.
The FSB, the KGB’s successor, wouldn’t interfere with his mind,
Charlie tried to reassure himself. Before they did that they’d drain its
memory of every particle of every scrap of information embedded from
twenty-five years of front-line espionage service in MI5, Britain’s counterespionage service. Or would they? They’d want to inflict the heaviest
punishment possible for the incalculable damage he’d caused them.



| 2 |

Wherever he was, there’d be room-encompassing cameras, the fisheye lenses fitted with infrared darkness penetration: maybe sound detectors or someone physically in the room. But he needed to assess his
surroundings. He kept his eyes as narrowed as possible—the eyes of unconscious people were frequently half open—but didn’t move his head.
Charlie’s impression was of near darkness, the room illuminated solely by
two permanent low-emission night lights. There were two disinterested
interior-ward guards at the half-opened, metal-backed door, in soft-voice
conversation he couldn’t hear with unseen people, possibly more guards,
outside. The uniforms were more medical than military.
It had to be a psychiatric hospital, Charlie accepted, a different numbness moving through him. To do to him what they wanted, whenever
they wanted. Before they took his sanity would he be able to answer the
one and only question that mattered to him?

In the tree-bedecked LEGOLAND castle at London’s Vauxhall Cross that
is the headquarters of MI6, the UK’s secret intelligence service, Director
Gerald Monsford’s imagery was of being in a room in which the ceiling
and floor as well as the walls were contracting all around him, crushing
from every direction his chances of survival.
He’d needed Charlie Muffin dead, not just wounded, for that survival:
that was his hope, that Stephan Briddle, his designated assassin, would
have succeeded and then fortunately been killed himself, neatly solving
almost all his problems. Just as urgent—maybe more so, in the immediate
short term—was locating the other two officers who’d been with Briddle.
There was no reference to them in what Moscow had so far released and
no response yet to his frantic embassy enquiries, which gave Monsford the
straw-clutching hope that they’d escaped the shooting and would be returning to London. It was imperative he got to them first. So where were
they? Why hadn’t they made even the briefest of reassuring contact?
His threadbare professional existence depended upon Stephan Briddle’s having withheld the assassination order from those other two, which


| 3 |

regulations strictly decreed the man should have done. But regulations
also dictated that the Director was never contacted at home, which Briddle had ignored, ironically giving Monsford the escape he was contemplating now. If Briddle had stayed silent and had managed to rehearse
the other two, he might just be safe. Able, even, to overcome all the other
things that had gone so disastrously wrong and endangered his intention
to control not just MI6 but MI5 as well and establish himself as the country’s intelligence supremo.
He needed help, Monsford conceded: people—a person—he could
trust, as much as he trusted anyone. But he didn’t have such a person.
James Straughan would have been the one: known how to find out more
before the impending confrontations. He could at least have sketched a
ground plan with his operational director if the stupid bastard, who’d
shown no sign of a breakdown, hadn’t committed suicide and brought
about the current internal headquarters-security investigation. That, by
itself, would normally have dominated Monsford’s priorities. Now it became one of several, all potentially professionally fatal.
There was, of course, Rebecca Street. But while he’d already established his newly appointed deputy as a satisfactorily inventive mistress,
he wasn’t any longer sure of her absolute loyalty, despite her inclusion,
along with Straughan, in the assassination discussions. It was the very fact
of her participation in those ambiguous, innuendo-cloaked exchanges
that was belatedly causing Monsford’s doubts. In the days immediately
prior to Straughan’s suicide, Monsford had isolated a closeness between
the two which unsettled him.
Was his fragile escape plan possible? He had to make it so. Like a
frightened child whistling in the dark—and totally without embarrassment in his empty office—Monsford, who feigned a classical education by
quoting Shakespeare with monotonous frequency, recited his favourite
aphorism—Am I politic? Am I subtle? Am I a Machiavel?
‘Yes I am,’ he answered, still aloud.



| 4 |

‘It’s been officially upgraded to crisis,’ announced MI5 Director-General
Aubrey Smith, a quiet-spoken man whose uncaring dishevelment betrayed
the university professorship he’d held before his intelligence appointment.
‘What’s the practical update?’
‘Charlie’s alive,’ declared John Passmore, a former SAS colonel seconded to MI5 after losing an arm in the first days of the Iraq invasion in
2003. ‘The confirmation from the Russian Foreign Ministry is that he’s
wounded, shot, but there are no details of how badly. Four died in the
airport shoot-out: two MI6 men, an uninvolved arab who was in front of
Charlie and a militia security officer. We don’t have a definitive number
of wounded. The estimate is twelve, at least half of them seriously. We
have to expect more deaths. I’ve forwarded to the emergency committee
the very preliminary report from Ian Flood, who headed our extraction
‘You sure Flood’s sound on everything he saw?’ asked Jane Ambersom,
the deputy director.
‘One hundred percent sound,’ insisted Passmore. ‘Flood is definite he
saw the gun in Briddle’s hand.’
‘Firing at whom?’ broke in Jane Ambersom, tensed forward in her
‘Charlie,’ declared the operations director, positively.
Silence settled in the suite, Aubrey Smith’s concentration appearing
to be upon a tandem-linked London barge making its arthritic way down
the Thames. Eventually he said, ‘We’ve got a credible, trained witness to a
British MI6 officer shooting a British MI5 officer with the clear intent to
‘Yes,’ confirmed Passmore, reaching across to his empty left side, an
unconscious habit familiar to the other two.
‘Are we going to make the direct accusation against Monsford today?’
asked Jane Ambersom, who’d initially seen her manipulated transfer
from MI6 deputy to the parallel position in MI5 as an escape to the safer
side of the internecine war between the two intelligence directors but
wasn’t totally sure now that she was on the winning side.


| 5 |

‘No,’ decided Smith, to the visible surprise of the other two. ‘When we
release what I wish was a real trapdoor I want to be sure that Gerald
Monsford hangs by the neck until he’s dead.’

‘We realized you’d recovered consciousness an hour ago but I guess it was
earlier than that,’ declared a voice Charlie instantly recognized. ‘Why
don’t you open your eyes so we can talk, Charlie? That’s what you’ve got
to learn now, how to talk about everything I want to hear.’
Mikhail Guzov, the FSB general whom Charlie had outwitted during
his most recent assignment, smiled down at Charlie as he finally opened
his eyes. Guzov was a tall man of pronounced ugliness, thin to the point
of appearing skeletal. Charlie had months before determined that the
man compensated for his physical appearance by dressing immaculately
in suits hand tailored for him, which Charlie hadn’t believed possible in
Moscow. Today’s was grey striped, Charlie saw, looking at Guzov at the
side of his bed. ‘You’re certainly not who I expected to see.’
‘There’s going to be so much you didn’t expect,’ said Guzov, grimacing an intended smile of satisfaction. ‘Who would have imagined things
turning out like this?’
Charlie was able to look properly sideways to where his left side was
virtually embalmed in bandages. ‘It looks bad.’
The grimace this time came with a snorted laugh. ‘The bullet missed
every bone, anything important and stopped just short of your left shoulder: all you’re suffering is extensive bruising and shock.’
‘What about the bullet?’
‘So close to the surface it popped out like a bean from its pod.’
‘Sounds like I was lucky.’
‘We’ve got all the time in the world for you to decide if you’re lucky or
not, Charlie. I really don’t think you’re going to feel lucky by the time it all


corridor overlooking the multi-tiered, floor-to-ceiling atrium of what is
technically the Commonwealth section of the Foreign Office. Either end
was dominated by large double doors which could be opened to extend
the capacity. Today both sets were closed. There were, unusually, no oil
portraits of bewigged former statesmen looking down in judgement from
the walls upon entirely functional furniture, a long, central table against
which were arranged chairs, twelve on either side. In front of each chair
were individual leather-encased blotter settings, with notepad, pencil selection, water carafe, and tumbler. Not all places were name designated,
although every unnamed section had a generic identification: MI5 and
MI6 had both and confronted each other like courtroom lawyers. Behind
the anonymous sectors were smaller tables and chairs, for support staff
and aides. The secretarial provision of three stenographers, two women
and a man, was directly in front of one set of double doors. The complementing recording facilities, one master set with the insurance of a secondary backup, were on an individual but almost-linked table, operated
by two men, one of whom wore earphones to adjust his monitoring dials
and sound levels. Suspended from the ceiling directly above the conference table and extending its entire length were four relay microphones.
Sir Archibald Bland, the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet and, as
such, head of the civil service, occupied the chairperson’s position at the
middle of the table, flanked on his left by his equally ranked counterpart,


| 7 |

Geoffrey Palmer, the Foreign Office liaison to the Joint Intelligence and
Security Committee. Their normally shared responsibility was that of
conduit between both intelligence agencies and the government, an arrangement providing Downing Street with plausible deniability of direct
knowledge or involvement in any espionage activity, certainly any that
became publicly embarrassing, as it had now. On Bland’s right was Sir
Peter Pickering, the attorney-general, who was recognizable to everyone
but had no nameplate. Neither did the two men accompanying him. Behind them sat two aides, both women, just visible over a wall of legal
books that had needed a trolley to bring them into the chamber.
‘We’ll start,’ announced Bland, brusquely. The microphones were
over-amplified, deepening his normally weak voice. ‘And I’ll do so with
the reminder that all of us here are signatories to the Official Secrets Act.
Today’s situation has the highest security designation of that act. This
meeting will, officially, remain in permanent session.’
Those on both sides of the table had properly arranged themselves
during the preamble, making their spaces their own. The quickest to
settle were the confrontationally positioned MI5 and MI6, director opposite director, deputy facing deputy. Inexplicably, there was a named
place for James Straughan, leaving John Passmore facing an empty chair.
Aubrey Smith was surprised, and therefore unsettled, at Gerald
Monsford’s composure, which Monsford was, in fact, only just managing
to maintain, disconcerted by the provision for Straughan, convinced it
had been manipulated by Smith with the support of Bland and Palmer to
achieve the effect it was having. He’d been aware, too, of Rebecca Street
almost imperceptibly easing away from him. From the brief smile he’d
caught, Monsford was irritably sure Jane Ambersom had detected the
minimal distancing, too.
‘Which brings me to the next point,’ continued the cherubic, pinkfaced Bland. ‘At all times this will be a totally open as well as a permanently convened committee. I expect full and immediate participation
from everyone. We’re confronting an unparalleled political emergency
that has to be resolved as quickly and as completely as possible.’ Bland



| 8 |

stopped, drinking heavily from his water glass. ‘It’s essential the seriousness is defined from the outset, for which I defer to my co-chairman.’
Geoffrey Palmer, a grey-haired, patrician-mannered man completing a casting director’s image of a professional civil servant with his blackjacketed, striped-trousered uniform, had his water glass already filled,
sipping from it as he sorted through already prepared papers. ‘The most
effective way to achieve necessary clarity is to establish some chronology.
Eight months ago the body of a one-armed Russian man was found in the
grounds of the British embassy in Moscow. Before being brutally murdered he had been tortured. Shot as he was in the back of the head, his entire face and any teeth from which dental-record identification might have
been possible were destroyed. The fingertips of his remaining hand, from
which prints could have been obtained, had been burned away by acid.’
The majority around the table, with the exception of both intelligence groups, were making notes. The headphoned technician at the
recording apparatus had adjusted his sound levels, reducing intrusive
‘Under international diplomatic agreement, the embassy grounds, as
well as the building itself, is British territory,’ continued Palmer. ‘A widely
experienced MI5 officer, Charles Muffin, was sent to Moscow to investigate the crime. He did that with great success, very little of which was
made public—’
‘Is it to be made public to us?’ interrupted a bespectacled, fair-haired
man from GCHQ, the British government’s Gloucestershire-based radio,
electronic monitoring, and communications facility.
‘Of course,’ confirmed Palmer. ‘Running in parallel with Muffin’s investigation was a Russian presidential election. The predicted victor was
Stepan Lvov, a former KGB officer turned politician, as is Vladimir
Putin . . .’
‘Lvov was killed, weeks before the election,’ came in a iron-corseted
woman from the Foreign Office. ‘It was a Russian mafia execution: Lvov
was threatening to crack down on Russian organized-crime gangs, particularly those operating in Moscow.’


| 9 |

‘It was an execution, certainly,’ agreed Palmer. ‘But not by Russian
mafia. Lvov hadn’t quit the Russian intelligence organisation for politics.
And he most definitely hadn’t ceased being what America’s CIA judged
potentially to be the greatest intelligence coup in its history, having as a
spy the president of the Russian Federation. It took over eighteen years
for Russia to set up that coup, orchestrating Lvov’s approach to the Americans, and over that period feeding through him to Washington genuine
sacrificial material to convince the CIA of the spectacular asset they’d
have when he became President of Russia, which he undoubtedly would
have become because the FSB were ensuring the election result, ironically financed by payments to Lvov from a gullible CIA.’
There were shifts around the table, people momentarily looking up
from their notes, taking in the growing realization of what they were being told.
Before the man could continue, Stanley Brown, the GCHQ director,
said, ‘The FSB would have been able to manipulate American foreign
policy in whichever direction they chose with what Lvov supplied to the
CIA. Why did the FSB kill him?’
‘To silence him, as they silenced others involved, in the hope of keeping the operation secret, once it had been destroyed,’ said Palmer. ‘Muffin
broke the plot by discovering the embassy-murder victim had been a
KGB colleague of Lvov who tried to sell what he knew to the CIA! At the
very last moment, to prevent Charlie making that discovery, the FSB colonel who’d supervised Lvov from the start, a woman named Irena Novikov,
came forward claiming to have been the murdered man’s lover: she even
risked travelling to London with Muffin to destroy the proof of the Lvov
operation she’d had to provide to convince Muffin she was genuine. Charlie unravelled it first. She’s now in an American protection programme,
undergoing interrogation likely to last for years. Muffin was put into a
protection programme here in England. . . .’
‘I hope Muffin got a medal,’ said a woman from the GCHQ group.
‘There’s still a lot for you to hear,’ cautioned the civil servant. ‘Muffin
abrogated the conditions of his programme, actually disappearing from



| 10 |

his safe house to demonstrate he could guarantee his own safety. Within
hours of his reappearance, the apartment in which he’d lived prior to going into protection was burgled by three FSB agents until then operating
undetected from the Russian embassy here in London. Most if not all of
you will be aware from the resulting publicity of their arrest: they remain in custody . . .’ Palmer hesitated again, draining his glass and refilling it, needing the break. ‘So far, I’ve sustained my chronology in a
relatively logical sequence . . . now we come to the surreal. . . .’
There were further shifts around the table, note-taking suspended
‘Surreal is the apposite word,’ intervened Sir Archibald Bland, supportively.
‘The Russians’ arrests resulted from MI5 monitoring Muffin’s apartment, as part of his protection. That included converting his apparently
disconnected telephone into a detection device, in effect a burglar alarm.
It also recorded, without any indication of it doing so, incoming calls,’
recounted Palmer. ‘During a period of little over a week there were five
separate messages from a woman we subsequently learned to be Natalia
Fedova. All the calls were from Moscow street kiosks. She holds the rank
of lieutenant colonel in the FSB, in which she was then a senior analyst
and interrogator. It has been confirmed that she is also the legal wife,
under Russian law, of Charles Muffin, by whom she has a daughter.
Those five calls were all pleas for Muffin’s help to get her to England,
which had apparently been arranged between them during his time in
Moscow on the embassy-murder investigation—’
‘I think this is the appropriate moment for a coffee break so that we
properly digest what’s been outlined,’ interrupted Bland. ‘This isn’t by
any means the end of the surrealism: it’s little more than its beginning.’


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