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Hunger

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"Andrew!"

"Yes?"

"Tell me, oh man without appetites. Why would a man such as yourself, a man with no appetites, steal €40.000 from a hotel? What would be the point?"

Andrew gives him one of those quick smiles, a shield polished to a bright sheen… but, for once, holds Roper’s gaze as he lets it fade away.

"Well… There’s appetites. And there’s hungers. There’s a difference."

"Is there indeed? And what do you perceive to be the difference?"

"Appetites are for things you want. Things you’d like to have. Enjoyments, pleasures… Things you like to have, but that you could very well do without. Things that make you smile when you think of them, things that you can have sweet dreams about."

"And hungers?"

"Hungers… hungers are for the things you need. The things that, when you do not have them, gnaw at you. The hole in your belly, the ache that cannot be soothed by substitutes. Things that, when you think of them, make you ache for what you do not have. Things you have nightmares about never getting to."

"So, a man like Jonathan Pine. He might steal for a need, but wouldn’t lower himself to satisfying an appetite?"

"I wouldn’t put it quite like that - but yes, essentially, I suppose."

Roper considered him for a few moments, lips curled in a slight smile.

"So you’re saying that the man with no appetites can be trusted, but the man with hungers cannot?"

"Am I?"

"Well, that was the case for poor Mr Meister, wasn’t it?"

"I suppose it would depend on what the hunger is for. And possibly how it was awakened."

"Oh?"

"Hypothetically, a man might be in a state where he feels neither appetite nor hunger. He might not feel much of anything, in fact. He’d be content to do what was expected of him, to have a quiet and unassuming life. Until one day…"

"Yes?"

"One day, or perhaps one night, someone comes along. Someone who wakes that hunger."

Andrew, or perhaps Jonathan, takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

"At that point, he might choose to no longer suppress certain parts of himself. He might allow himself to the sort of man who could one day find himself in a place where that hunger can be assuaged. He might steal, he might kill… he might do anything."

"Such a man might be dangerous."

"Yes."

"And useful."

"In the right place, for the right person, he would be very useful indeed."

"And that man would be the hypothetical someone who woke the hypothetical hunger in the hypothetical man, right?" Roper’s voice carried just a touch more irony than usual.

Jonathan looked at him, a faint smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Hypothetically."

"The question, then, is who that man might be."

"No. That’s not the question."

"Isn’t it?"

"No." Another deep breath, and a look straight into those clear, cold blue eyes. At this point, all choices have been made, all decisions already taken. Nothing remains but the final step of the dance. He takes it, deliberately, with full knowledge of where it will lead.

"The question is… What is he hungry for?"