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Authors: Ben Brunson

The Falstaff Enigma

BOOK: The Falstaff Enigma
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The Falstaff Enigma

A Novel

Ben Brunson

In memory of
Elfrieda Beatrice Darden Brunson - my mother, my guiding light

 

The Falstaff Enigma
is a work of fiction that incorporates historical characters in a fictional manner. All events and the major characters contained herein are a product of the author’s imagination.

Copyright
©
2013 by Interactive Partners Group, LLC

All Rights Reserved

Published by Interact Press, LLC

ISBN:
978-1-939893-00-0

Table of Contents

Prelude – Star Wars

1 – May Day 1983

2 - Revelation

3 – The Swap

4 - Reunion

5 - Contact

6 – The Offer

7 - Ankara

8 – Sudden Death

9 - Alive

10 - Escape

11 - Analysis

12 - Transit

13 - Home

14 – The Committee

15 – The Museum

16 – Change in Locations

17 - Israel

18 - Reconnecting

19 - Cover

20 - Partners

21 – A Late Night Snack

22 - Interrogation

23 - Perestroika

24 - Checkmate

25 – Defining the Opposition

26 - Seduction

27 - Waiting

28 – Iridium 192

29 - Confrontation

30 - Realization

31 - Svetlana

32 – A Wider Group

33 – Collaring the GRU

34 – The Reckoning

35 – Netting the Fish

36 – Combat Command

37 – Stalking Sorovin

38 – Heading West

39 – The Thrill of the Chase

40 - Helsinki

41 – Washington in Summer

42 – Setting the Bait

43 – Breaking the Code

44 – The Trap is Sprung

45 - Contact

46 – Accelerating the Plan

47 – The Mole Emigrates

48 – Into the Lion’s Den

49 – Bona Fides

50 – Action Demands Reaction

51 - Trapped

52 – Waiting for Word

53 – Action in Minsk

54 - Sacrifice

55 - Knowledge

56 – First Strike

57 - Counterattack

Prelude
– Star Wars

 

During the winter of 1983, the Cold War was as hot as it had been since the Cuban missile crisis. America was now led by Ronald Reagan and everyone in the world either respected his vision or feared that he would launch World War III. To many, he was the savior of a nation – the leader of a system of governance and economics that had spent the decade of the 70s on its knees. To much of the planet, he was a buffoon in a cowboy hat – an old man playing an acting role he had no right to perform.

But nobody doubted his resolve.
The rearmament of the United States was underway and the Soviet Union was coming to grips with the realization that there was to be no easy victory for their forces, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. America began to bring new weapons systems, such as the B-1 bomber and the MX missile, online. In the Kremlin, the generals feverishly planned to match the U.S. military build-up, while the Politburo technocrats pondered how long the finances of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would survive the combined strain of an Afghan war that appeared to have no end and a military that demanded to keep pace with the military might of the world’s largest economy.

The days when
Khrushchev uttered the bellicose prediction that “we will bury you” to the West were now just a distant memory. A dream that had evaporated in the fullness of time. To the outside world, the Soviet elite continued to thump its collective chests. But inside, the rot had taken hold and everyone knew that it was the West that was burying the Soviet Union.

The last of the larger-than-life Soviet
premiers had died on November 10, 1982. And with the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the lion who had stood toe-to-toe with Richard Nixon and who had the presence to face up to the cowboy who was the new American president, the foundation of the Soviet Union began to crumble. The new general secretary, Yuri Andropov, was not cut from the same cloth. He was a technocrat – a man who had advanced by keeping his head down, his nose clean and by fighting the enemies of the communist revolution at every turn.

Despite his career of crushing dissent, often ruthlessly, the new Soviet premier embarked on tentative reforms. He tackled the corruption and economic deception that he inherited. But this new direction only left many who had known and supported his ascendancy scratching their heads
. Andropov did not seem to understand that it was the backbone of his predecessors – Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev – that by transference formed the backbone of the Soviet Union. Within a few months of ascending to the top post, he was fighting chronic renal failure and his strength was noticeably ebbing.

When Ronald Reagan declared the Soviet Union to be an “Evil Empire” in a speech given in Orlando on March 8, 1983, he was declaring
war. For the Soviet generals, it was as if Reagan could see through the façade and understand the true hollow state of the mighty Soviet Army. Now they began to fear that the build-up of the U.S. military was preparation for a NATO invasion through Eastern Europe. The generals didn’t mind the country’s internal issues when a man like Jimmy Carter ran the U.S., but now they lost sleep as reports from the KGB streamed in. The reports were not encouraging. The U.S. military was rapidly transforming into a highly-trained professional army – and now the weapons systems to back up that army were beginning to roll out of American factories.

A new phrase began to haunt the halls of the Kremlin. The phrase was
American and spoken in English – there was no need to translate it into Russian. It became an ominous catchphrase that meant that the clock was ticking for the Soviet Union. The phrase was “Star Wars.” For the generals, this was not a reference to the classic movie series – even when the KGB dutifully delivered a stolen copy of
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
to the Kremlin in May – it was Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, announced for the first time only a couple of weeks after the Orlando speech. For the generals in Moscow, this was a ticking bomb that was pointed right at them – and time was running out.

1 – May Day 1983

 

Robert Austin felt the rush of anticipation as he edged onto Chesapeake Road to begin the thirty minute journey that took him to the job he loved. The sun’s light danced through the trees, shadows growing shorter, foretelling – no, promising – a beautiful warm spring day.
God, my life is too good
. Austin could not avoid the thought that crossed his mind several times each day. But it was much more than getting back to work after a pleasant weekend that put him in such a good mood. Today he was cutting his weekend short. Today he was genuinely excited, for this was the one day of the year that Austin knew beforehand would bring a new product to be examined. The date: Sunday, May 1, 1983.

It was 7:35 a
.m. as Austin accelerated onto the highway. His car easily outperformed the car in front of him on the entrance ramp. He made his way to the far left lane and within seconds was speeding along at 70 mph. On any other morning this speed would suffice, but not today. He was now completely absorbed with thoughts of what he would find at the office. His foot seemed to be acting involuntarily and he suddenly noticed his speedometer nudging past 85.

T
he movement in his rear view mirror caught his eye. The police car was moving into position a couple hundred yards behind Austin. “Oh, damn,” he blurted as he simultaneously relaxed the muscles in his right foot. But he was able to control his urge to apply the brakes, feeling that such an action would be a sure confession. He moved over into the center lane, preparing himself for the inevitable. The thought of the fine and the inconvenience of a court appearance never crossed Austin’s mind; rather he was furious that this police officer was going to delay his arrival at the office on this most important of days.

His next thought was not the relief it should have been, but rather a sense of guilt that only the most honest or the very young would feel. The police car had sped rapidly past him, not even acknowledging his presence. He let his weakness pass and was once again absorbed by his thoughts.

Twenty minutes later, Robert Austin down-shifted into second gear and turned into an underground parking garage. From the outside, the office building appeared to be just like any of the myriad of small office buildings that ring American cities from Miami to Seattle. The first clue that this five-story building was something out of the ordinary, however, was that it was located only ten miles outside Washington, D.C. The second could be found only upon closer inspection. When driving by, one could easily make out the sign above the lobby door identifying the building as the "Hechtman Office Complex," the mark of a proud developer. But in the lobby there was no directory. No law offices. No accountants. No architects. Yet this building was full of men and women going about their tasks in a professional manner. The Defense Intelligence Agency employed eighty-six people here, most of them civilians, and all of them quite good at their jobs.

Austin inserted his card in the slot and the heavy steel gate started upward; the first
check was complete. He drove ahead twenty feet and was confronted by a heavier steel gate. Austin knew the routine. He turned off the engine and handed the keys to the guard who had materialized out of the darkness.

"Good morning, Jack," Austin said mechanically.

"Morning, Mr. Austin," the guard replied. Both knew that professionalism dictated that nothing more be said between them. Austin's eyes pivoted to the bulge in the man's jacket, the bulge that betrayed the guard's Uzi submachine gun.

As the guard opened the trunk, Austin moved over to
a two-way mirror that concealed four-inch thick glass and the second guard. He knew that within the glass and concrete cell, the guard had a formidable line of defenses at his command. The mere press of a button would release a gas that would readily incapacitate anyone and everyone in the entire underground garage while simultaneously blocking all avenues of escape and sending out a message that would bring a dozen armed field agents to the building within minutes.

Austin placed his right palm on
a ten-inch square of glass that emitted a greenish glow, his fingers extended. The Identimat machine’s glow intensified as the computer scanned his palm and all five fingers, measuring the size of Austin’s hand and length of each finger. The red light on the wall turned to green and Austin removed his hand and took a short side-step to his left. His mouth was only six inches from a Neumann microphone.

"Robert Michael Austin.
Age: thirty-six. DIA com code: nine-five-zero-zero-five. Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio." Once again the red light in front of Austin's eyes turned to green. The computer had not forgotten his voice. The second guard was completely removed from the cycle. Robert Austin thought about the second guard and recalled "1984," remembering the profound impact the book had on a very impressionable 13-year-old boy.

Austin still had to wait.
The first guard had examined the trunk and the passenger compartment and now was under the hood. His job was to find anything that shouldn't be in that car. Austin was impatient, but he knew he couldn’t show it, since any misinterpretation on the part of either guard would be immediately reported.

"Okay, Mr. Austi
n, everything's in order. Have a nice day."

"You too," said Austin as he thought about how miserable it
would be to have the guard's job. Austin drove through the gate, which reminded him of a vault door. It closed behind him, threatening to remove his rear bumper if he hesitated in any way. He parked in his assigned space and headed for the elevator. He was surprised to find that even at this early hour on a Sunday morning, the garage was almost half full.

The elevator doors opened on the second floor and Austin stepped into a very short hall with a steel door at the end. Once again he placed his right palm on the glass square in front of him.
The door swung open and he walked into a small room to face yet another guard.

"Good morning, sir.
Please remove your jacket and shoes and move against the wall."

Austin complied without emotion or words.
The endless security was, for today at least, almost unbearable. It would be so nice, Austin thought, to work for private business again. Just a week without this dogmatic security would be heaven. But in the final analysis, this job was worth it and Austin had no illusions about that. Still, just to be able to take some work – any work – home for the night or the weekend would be a touch of normalcy in this most unusual lifestyle.

The guard frisked Austin's clothing and removed everything that was not permanently attached.
Robert Austin had walked in with a wallet and $37 and change in his pockets. He left with literally only the clothes on his back and the socks on his feet. He could gather his shoes, wallet and money on the way home, which he knew would not be until very late that night. He could not take or bring anything – anything – to or from work with him, but he could stay as late or arrive as early as he desired. Austin usually took advantage of the former, if not the latter.

Austin
entered another elevator and pushed the button that commanded it to go to his floor. Now something took place that would never fail to shock the uninitiated: the elevator moved not up, but down. The five stories aboveground gave way to four floors below the underground garage. The five stories above ground were not unused, however. They contained the air conditioning, heating and ventilating machines, the generators, computers, security rooms, and even two entire floors of books and periodicals that were essential to the efficient operation of this Defense Intelligence Agency building.

This building was not a spot where vital strategy was
devised which could shape world destiny for the immediate future, but was rather a mundane intelligence analysis center, and Robert Austin was one of the most respected cogs in this well-oiled machinery. His job was to analyze all Soviet weapons systems and forecast the costs involved with each system. The cost of the materials. The amount of manpower to build each weapon. The time needed to produce each weapon. The size of the factory needed. The type and sophistication of factory needed. The type and sophistication of labor needed, from the common laborers used to produce the T-72 tank to the laboratory technicians and nuclear physicists necessary to produce and arm the SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile. And Austin was the best at what he did. His four years on Wall Street as a defense industry analyst had prepared him well.

It had been easy to explain his leaving five years ago.
Wall Street analysts often burn out after only a couple of years near the top. It was always too easy for Robert Austin, PhD, economics, University of Chicago. Even the CIA analysts who replicated Austin's reports ultimately bowed to his opinions.

"I had a feeling you'd be here.
What time did you get in?" asked Austin as he walked into his office. It took Jim Welch several seconds to pry his eyes away from the television screen in front of him. When he did he pushed a button that froze the videotape on its current frame. The column of Soviet soldiers on the screen was instantly solidified in mid-goosestep. The irony was not lost on Austin.

"Where have you been?"
Jim Welch's question was purely rhetorical. Austin smiled inside; he always knew when this transplanted Texan was excited because his talk sped up to a normal rate. Welch continued. "I got in at six-thirty. I wasn't able to sleep last night. The tapes were delivered at around seven. I already called Bob Simms at the NSA and confirmed the delivery. He told me that the Russians had been especially brazen this year, and guess what?" Welch paused only long enough to smile, his thin lips just curling slightly up at the edges. "They did it. They actually put the Grapevine on display."

"The what?"

"The Grapevine. You know, the new SAM-17."

"Of course."
The emotion in Austin's voice was genuine. He not only understood Welch's excitement, he was now caught up in it. "So how far are you into the tapes?"

"Only an hour, of course.
Simms said that ten Grapevines rolled through the Square about two hours after the military procession began. I'm surprised that I've had the discipline to view all the preliminaries."

Austin sat down beside his partner from Houston, via Georgia Tech and the U.S. Army, and grabbed a notebook from his desk drawer.
There was no question that Austin was the genius of the pair, but Welch had the military experience and, far more important, the engineering expertise that was critical for the proper evaluation of a weapons system.

Welch had gone to Georgia Tech and received a B.S. with honors in mechanical engineering.
That was 1969 and the young Welch immediately joined the Army, for that was something he always had "had" to do. He served a tour in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the air cavalry and saw action many times. He was wounded on May 3, 1970, during the capture of Memot at the start of the U.S. push into Cambodia. The wound was not debilitating; he had just jumped off a "Huey" helicopter in the middle of a hot landing zone when a stray round from an AK-47 ripped into his left arm, tearing away a chunk of triceps brachii muscle but thankfully missing his humerus. His constant reminder of that day was a half dollar size gouge in his arm and the ugly scar that bisected it.

He was sent home despite the fact that he had recovered full use of his arm within a month.
But, unlike so many of the men who had accompanied him back to the States, he never became bitter. Despite all he was to experience back home, he never lost faith in the goals of the war. He went back to Georgia Tech and earned a PhD in mechanical engineering.

A few months before he submitted his doctoral project he received a call from a friend he had fought beside in Vietnam. They met for dinner the next night and the offer was made: the DIA wanted him as a weapons analyst and they were prepared to match any offer he might get from other concerns.
The man from the Defense Intelligence Agency knew Welch would not accept, but his objective was merely to plant the thought – and at that he succeeded. He would be contacting Welch in the future.

Welch graduated and accepted a position on the faculty at Ohio State.
He knew within the first semester that this was not his environment. He enjoyed teaching and was respected by his students, but the ideology of his colleagues as well as his students was worse for Jim than the harshest battle in Vietnam. These people were laughing at everything he had ever believed in and – the pain was especially intense at this thought – fought for. He taught for two years and was dangerously close to a nervous breakdown when the call came. The old friend, still working for the DIA, had not forgotten Jim. His life could begin again.

BOOK: The Falstaff Enigma
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