"Ah, Good morning, James."
"Good Morning, M. I pray all is well with you."
"I am afraid not quite so well, James. And it is the very reason I have called you in. Please, have a seat."
I could tell the old boy was more fretful than usual. His ash tray was filled to the brim with ashes from his Meerschaum pipe and that scrumptious custom Turkish blend that he has shipped in from the Embassy in Ankara. I also noticed that his bottle of Glennfiddch Scotch was already down to its last few jigs.
"James, this must be all be very hush-hush, under lock and key, mind you. Last night, there was a robbery at the Tower of London, and they made off with a sampling of the Crown Jewels."
Now I understood why the old man had been working all night on that bottle. "Sir, I am not sure I heard you correctly. The Crown Jewels?"
"Yes, 007. It appears that someone inside our own security at the Tower had found a way to debilitate the guards and disarm that new, so-called, state-of-the-art impenetrable security system. We've put out a public relations cover story that there was a gas leak in the tower and it will be closed for a number of days. We made mention of the theft, waiting to see what might come of it."
"And the Met?"
"No, 007. The Queen herself has asked the Home Secretary to give this one to us. So James, I have decided that you and 005 need to be chasing down whatever leads we can find before this is made public."
"Any ransom demands?"
"No, James, not a peep from anyone. It's not like you can go down to the local pawn shop and cash these things in for a bob or two."
"The Queen would like to meet with both of you, up at Balmoral, this evening. 005 is already on his way. We have a Lynx on its way to transport you there."
"Of course, sir. But where do I begin? Or, I suppose i should ask, where do we begin?"
"I would love to tell you, James, but I must leave that to Her Majesty. i know that sounds strange, but trust. You will see why this is such a delicate matter."
"Anything else, M?"
"Yes, Q needs to see you before you depart. And by the way, James. I really do love that suit. Savile Row?"
A bit amused at the sudden interest in my haberdashery, I answered, "No, sir. Hong Kong. A gift from a friend."
M winked and smiled, as if recollecting a former day when ... well, when life was a bit more adventuresome.
"And, James, use the private elevator. Miss Moneypenny needs no more of your nonsense today."
I always had a faint suspicion that there was more to M and Moneypenny's relationship than was always presumed.