M steeled himself as he stood on the stoop of the London brownstone. He didn’t know why he found his predecessor so intimidating; she was after all little more than a doddering old woman. Her forced retirement from Mi6 had been a kindness more than anything else. Still, he found himself dreading the necessity of facing her once again.
Unfortunately, this particular meeting was not one which could be avoided. If he could only address Bond directly--but no, the former 007 was far too good at covering his tracks for that to be possible. M’s only hope was going through the woman on whose front step he now stood.
Reconciling himself to the only course of action he had, he lifted his hand to ring the bell, when the door swung open to reveal an attractive woman in her twenties. “Please come this way, sir,” she instructed M before he could explain himself, and lead him into a parlor. “She’ll be with you shortly.”
Indeed, it was less than two minutes before Her Majesty’s erstwhile spymistress entered the room. Even as a retired woman in her 80s, she moved with an ease which bespoke excellent health. “This is a most unexpected pleasure,” she remarked archly.
“Yes, ma’am,” M answered, forcing himself to resist the urge to fidget under her penetrating gaze. “We’ve been informed by the American government that they have received a ransom note for the 18-year-old daughter of one of their most prominent nuclear physicists, Dr. Christmas Jones.”
M watched as her eyes narrowed with recognition when he spoke the name of the American physicist. Old as she might be, there was obviously nothing wrong with her memory. “Dr. Jones was involved in the Renard affair in ‘98, was she not?”
M nodded. “She was integral in assisting our 00 agent in uncovering the plot and safely detonating the stolen plutonium. And then nine months later, in September of ‘99, Dr. Jones’ daughter Melody was born.”
“You think the girl is James’ daughter,” his predecessor said.
“Frankly, ma’am, given the man’s known habits, I’d be shocked if he hasn’t left illegitimate children all across the globe,” M answered bluntly. “In any case, it’s not a possibility I feel we can afford to ignore. Unfortunately, Commander Bond seems to have fallen off of Mi6’s radar.”
“And you think I know where James is?”
M shrugged. “Do you?” This woman’s partnership with Bond--part antagonistic, part conspiratorial, and part almost familial--was the stuff of legends at Mi6. It was responsible for some of the agency’s greatest achievements under her leadership, as well as many of its larger embarrassments. Bond had been a loose cannon and yet, somehow, this woman had nevertheless learned to aim him.
“No,” she answered without hesitation. “Not that I would tell you if I did, of course.”
“Of course,” M agrees easily.
“If Melody Jones is James’ daughter and the kidnapper knows it, then her kidnapping may in fact be intended to draw him out of hiding.”
“That thought has occurred to us, yes,” M admitted.
“Then why try to pass the information on to him?”
“I may not approve of the actions taken by Bond--or by you, for that matter--during his tenure as 007,” M told her frankly. “But Britain owes him at least this much. If it was my daughter, I know I’d want to be told.”
She paused, then nodded slowly. “If by some chance I happen to see James, I’ll be sure to let him know. Anna will show you out,” she said, as she turned to exit the room.
“Thank you, ma’am,” M said.
Once he was back on the London street, M took a deep breath. His duty discharged, he got back into his waiting car and finally allowed himself to relax as it took him back towards Vauxhall and the SIS Building. Perhaps she would be able to pass the message on to Bond, perhaps not. In any case, it was no longer his responsibility. Let Bond be her headache again; M wanted no part of it.
Still, he suspected with dismay that this would not be the last time he heard the name Melody Jones.