Ronni hands M the paper from her pocket, one word scrawled upon it clearly not a surprise.
‘What’s BEAM, Sir? Is it an acronym?’
‘No he’s a person. Gregory Beam. CIA Section Chief for South America from 2008 to 2015, at the same time that 007 came into contact with a certain Dominic Green.’
‘Quantum senior agent, subsequently confirmed to be a subsidiary of Spectre. I am aware of the mission, Sir.’
‘It appears Mr Beam was working as a double agent for Spectre up until about six weeks ago, when he vanished on a routine trip from Los Angeles to Washington. This would not be of particular concern to us were he not carrying a significant amount of very important information at the time.’
‘For the American government?’
‘No, for Spectre. From what we have learnt concerning Christian Swann, Beam had been trusted with the location and activity of a great many senior Spectre figures in the US, Canada and South America, with remits that reached all the way into Asia. Clearly this is information we’d love to own, and with the death of the only Spectre member we held in custody…’
‘You learned this from who, exactly?’
‘Mr Swann’s half sister. She admitted to Bond after Blofeld’s death that she was aware of him and his position, that her father had placed him inside the organisation when it became apparent that she had no interest in following him into the family business. After consultation with Bond, we offered a deal: full immunity, safety in return for anything she could offer to help trace her brother’s whereabouts and activities. What we didn’t anticipate -‘
‘- was the effect it would ultimately have on Bond’s relationship.’
From M’s pocket comes a box, clearly very old, and Ronni has to work quite hard not to shake as the older man hands it to her.
‘007 gave me the letter and this, and I promised that I’d pass on both when a suitable opportunity arose. His respect and trust of you is abundantly obvious and he’s right, we haven’t given you the opportunities we should have in the last few months. Now we can be fairly confident Bond’s actively at risk himself, or else I doubt he’d have provided the means to expose the back-story when you visited earlier. However, there is more to it, which involves Felix Leiter’s position here.’
She is trembling as the ring box is opened, staring at the Bonds’ wedding band. Diamonds stud the filigree, pattern of what look like twigs, leaves with the stones as blossoms. James’s father had impeccable taste, and this was a rare and unique piece of jewellery. The box is clearly fire damaged; the effects from Skyfall, amongst so much else.
‘He knew you’d take care of it, and it has finally convinced that you need to be in the loop. Of course, this is the first chance I’ve had to speak to you -‘
‘- and I just confirmed that you did exactly the right thing by withholding the information with my emotional overreaction.’
‘When I was 22, I met a woman I fell in love with almost overnight. She was brilliant, and funny, and had a smile as warm as summer sun. But I was in the Army, and my career was beginning to take off, so I made a choice. I took the future over a relationship that, had I chosen it, would have completely altered the direction of my life. 007 is at the end of his career. He admitted as much himself today, and knows that whatever now happens in his life, he can’t reasonably expect you to be any part of it.’
Ronni stares at her boss with amazement: this conversation’s taken a turn she’d have never seen coming in a million years.
‘He actually said that?’
‘I’m not a fool, 004. I understand how this has worked between you two since the first time you crossed paths at Carnagie. Your final assessment before Active Consideration was sanctioned for a reason, and there was always a risk there would be consequences. Ironically, you were never the concern. The problem here, unsurprisingly, is Bond, and now we have him in a situation that we’d not immediately anticipated, which needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Q quite logically suggested that because Swann didn’t attack, you have also become a part of this equation, that he might use the fact that Bond’s called off the wedding…’
‘I could become a target too?’
‘No, you’re missing the earlier point. There was a communication after Bloefeld’s death, addressed directly to me, that we believed had been sent by Spectre. Because it was hand-written, it was initially dismissed, but thanks to the two business cards recovered this evening we can now confirm that Swann himself was the author. The organisation holds you personally responsible for the death of their leader. Bond’s weakness in retiring, leaving the service means that they consider you as the senior 00 in the field, and their current primary target. After tonight, Bond has become bait to guarantee your involvement. Knowing this was a possibility? It meant the plan moving forward was to make sure 007 could exploit that position without compromising you.’
Ronni doesn’t want to consider the possibility. Christian’s comments to her earlier made it obvious he was probably quite high up the command chain, but to have him in charge seemed impossible: however, if he wasn’t the whole story…
‘Sir, we have a problem.’