“If there is a God, He doesn’t love me.”

Clark looked at the young man who was interrupting his thoughts. The boy appeared to be college-aged. His blonde hair stood straight up, thanks to a generous helping of wax or gel. Great, a talker. I was hoping for a quiet flight. And who starts a conversation like that?

“I mean, I don’t mean to be rude. I’m just saying that’s how it seems to me,” the boy continued – apparently uncomfortable with silence in a conversation.

“Well, the fact that you even expressed that statement shows that you have some type of need or desire to be loved. Where do you think that came from?”

“I don’t know.” The boy narrowed his eyes as he stared at Clark. “You think that’s a desire that God gave us? To draw us to Him?”

Clark shrugged slightly as if to indicate it was a possibility the boy should consider. Maybe he’ll think about that for a while.

The boy nodded his head and turned toward the window.

Thank God. Now maybe I can relax a bit. Unlike the lad, Clark was pretty clear about his religion. He didn’t want God to love him; he wanted money. That was his god and, at the moment, it was abundant.

He tried to force his thoughts back to the tasks he needed to complete when he got home. He needed to look for a new apartment, preferably one closer to the beach. He needed to open a new account with a different bank and transfer half of his money into that account. He needed to visit Santiago and purchase a new identity – the current one had been in use for a few years now.

But something about their conversation kept distracting him. You have a need to be loved. What? No I don’t. The almighty dollar had purchased plenty of loving since he had arrived on the island.

Another thing to add to the list: get a new ‘career.’ Who knew dressing like a priest would cause everyone to talk your ear off?

You have a need to be loved. Images of his wife and boys filled his mind. This was crazy. He didn’t miss Jeanine. All they did was fight and argue when they were together. She was probably happy when he disappeared.

You have a need to be loved. Clark choked back tears as he thought of his two boys. Leaving them was the only hard part of his decision. He wondered almost every day for the past ten years what they were like and how much they had grown. He had thought for a brief moment about taking them with him when he left, but he knew that would only draw more attention from law enforcement. It would also make him easier to spot.

His window of opportunity had been small. The find was a surprise. At first, he had been confused by the special account, but it didn’t take long to realize his boss had been siphoning off funds for years. It was the perfect setup. One quick transfer and then he could disappear. The only one who would know would be his boss and he would have a very difficult time explaining that one. He would, of course, explain it – there was no way he would let Clark just walk out with that kind of money. But it would take him a few days to clean things up before he could bring in law enforcement and file a complaint.

“Do you think of God as a father?” The young man was looking at him again.

Clark thought for a moment. “I think he can be whatever you need him to be. Do you want him to be a father?”

“I don’t know. I never really knew my father. He left when we were young.”

“So you have siblings?” Clark hoped a quick change of the subject would get him off the hook for trying to explain something he knew nothing about.

“Just my brother. He doesn’t remember dad at all. I guess he was too young.”

I wonder if Chad remembers me? How old was he when I left?

“So, no. I guess I’m hoping God is a lot better than a dad.”

Clark looked into the boys eyes. While playing priest on travel days, he had gotten pretty good at spewing religious talk at people. But the longing and hurt in this young man left him with no response. Forget about it, Clark. You’ve got a perfect life. Money, girls, and you don’t even have to work.

The boy turned back toward the window, gnawing on his bottom lip.

For the remainder of the trip Clark kept trying to focus on what he had to do back at his apartment. He had resisted the urges to call home through the years, knowing that kind of action could easily get him caught. His constant travel was risky enough. Fortunately, the inquisitive boy said nothing more, even as they left the plane.

Stepping into the terminal, Clark checked the screens for his connecting flight. Everything was on time and he had an hour to kill until then. As he glanced around the terminal, he noticed a pay phone. That is strange. You don’t see a lot of pay phones any more, now that everyone has a cell phone.

He stared at the phone for several minutes. She is probably not at the same number. What would I say? The boys probably hate me. I need to go get something to eat. You don’t have time for this.

As he turned to find a restaurant, he bumped into someone. “Sorry,” he mumbled and stepped to the side.

“Clark Harrington?” the stranger stepped over to be in front of him. He felt another person step behind him.

Clark’s body tensed. No one had called him by that name since he vanished. He slowly looked up into the man’s eyes.

“You need to come with us. You are under arrest. Please place your hands behind your back…”

Clark didn’t really hear anything he said after that. He glanced back at the payphone and smiled. I have a need to be loved.