The 7 Innocents

John 7:24
'Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.'



Isaiah 64:6
'But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;'


It was when their problems seemed to wane that they escalated. The Australians all disappeared, and the seminary shut down. They were told to run for their lives. Told if they didn’t, their families would die. Told if they did, their families would still die.
They endeavoured to solve the mystery – one that threatened to destroy them and their families – but soon realised that to end it all, they must first find the Australians. But the closer they came to finding them, the more they began to see they should run and never come back.
The question, of course, is why they didn’t call the police.
The answer is simple.
You can’t avoid being condemned unless you’re innocent.
And these men are not.

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16. Chapter Fifteen: The 7 Weeks

 

 

As soon as the two were out of earshot, Alyssa whispered, 'don't thank me. Thank Liberty and Shaktiah. They seem to think that if you're just trusted and helped you'll improve. But both of them were too scared to approach the doctor. So I did, because my Uncle's a doctor with about 7 more degrees than Dr. Ashwin. Ardi's dad, you know?'

            Suneep didn't know, but he was distracted by one of her earlier points. 'Improve? You don't agree that I can?'

            'I believe you can – of course you can! But I think Shaktiah is cutting you too much slack.'

            'You've known me for a day!'

            'Six days.'

            'I didn't meet you till yesterday.'

            'Yes, but I've known who you are for a long time. A week, in fact.' She smiled, as it sounded a little pathetic. 'And, of course, I've known Shaktiah, and we’re as good as sisters. I met her when she visited Australia once, you know?'

            Suneep's face fell. Again, he didn’t know. But he was again distracted by an earlier point. 'What has she told you?'

            'A lot. I guess a lot too.'

            'Like what?'

            'Like you're rich.'

            'Then what was with the fuss last night?'

            'Just a habit. I don't know many rich people.'

            'Why would she tell you?'

            'Because. Who else is she supposed to talk to? She decided she could trust me – and she can.'

            'Does Liberty know too?'

            'Nah. Shaktiah doesn't feel as comfortable with her.'

            Suneep was clearly bothered, and distractedly began wringing his hands. He crashed into Alyssa, and quickly backed away. 'Why did you stop?' He asked, looking her in the eyes.

            'Did you read the verse?'

            'Yes.'

            'What say you?' Alyssa continued, making Suneep hesitate. 'Do you think I'm mean?'

            'No! I appreciate the discipline,' he quickly replied, raising his eyebrows amusedly. 'What did you mean when you said I'd have one for you?'

            Alyssa smiled a little. 'Apparently nothing. You've reacted differently to what I expected. That's good. Suneep, something tells me you will easily get an A on Friday's test.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Thank you.'

            'So that is not good enough.' Alyssa finished.

            Suneep laughed. 'What?! How can I do better than an A?'

            'If you limit yourself to grades, you will never reach your full potential. Do you best – isn't that what Shaktiah's verse says?'

            'Yes, but not your verse.'

            'No. My verse says that a lazy person is as good as a destroyer. If you don't do your best, you're destroying yourself, Suneep. You ruin your own potential.'

            There was a pause.

            'What are you doing?' Suneep asked. 'Are you at uni?'

            'I hope to do teaching next year.'

            Suneep smiled teasingly. 'I figured. You'll be a good teacher.'

            'I hope that's a complement.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows ambiguously and walked off. He was at the front door now, which stayed open all day, being padlocked at night. He slid a little on the smooth, white-tiled floor, amusing himself before crashing into a table covered in brochures.

            'Suneep!' Alyssa cried, in her quiet voice. The man rolled his head casually towards her, trying to cover up the fact he’d knocked a pile of application forms onto the floor.

            'Yes?'

            'Please don't embarrass me. Don't abuse the freedom Shaktiah and Liberty worked to give you. Don't prove Dr. Ashwin right. Get an A. Do your best, Suneep.'

            Suneep sighed, pushing the papers into a neat pile with his foot. 'Alyssa. I don't even agree with Dr. Ashwin's point of view.'

            'So? You know how to write a persuasive essay.'

            Suneep laughed incredulously. 'You want me to contend the Doctor?'

            Alyssa nodded. 'Do your best. If that's your best then...'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows and walked off. Alyssa smiled, in awe at the young man's complexity, and returned to the main building.

            As soon as Suneep saw she had left, he ran, put the papers back on the table, and bolted before anyone could laugh at him.

 

Despite all that Alyssa had said, Suneep still played cards that night. Because so many people wanted to play, every-one broke off into small groups. Suneep looked round the circle to see Mehmet, Chandan, Liberty, Alyssa, Shaktiah, and another Australian girl he had never met before.

            'I'm Suneep.' He abruptly introduced himself.

            'Arden. Call me Ardi.' The girl had replied.

            Oh, Suneep felt very amused. As the night continued, he only became more so. Ardi and Alyssa were cousins – he knew that now – but they differed greatly. Alyssa was friendly, yet a little shy and always reserved, whereas Ardi was the complete opposite. She was similar to Liberty, but then was different because she was nearly fake. Suneep almost believed Ardi was faking every move she made.

            Mehmet seemed to think otherwise. He stared at her all night, and teased her continually. Ardi's opinion of him was hard to work out, as she was bright, happy, and bubbly with every-one.

            At ten PM, Alyssa stood up to leave.

            'Don't go!' Mehmet pleaded, surprising every-one.

            Alyssa seemed reluctant to leave. 'But I'm so tired...'

            'Stay!' Shaktiah and Liberty pleaded.

            Suneep smiled at the girl mysteriously, and was not surprised when she sat back down. The fun continued loudly, and Suneep took advantage of the noise by whispering, 'so. You are very curious – cannot bare not knowing things.'

            'What makes you say that?' Alyssa returned. Suneep raised his eyebrows teasingly. 'Oh, please tell me!' The girl pleaded, seeming very young.

            Suneep smiled at her warmly, surprised at how strongly he felt towards her. 'No, bhainee. I think you know why any-way.'

            Alyssa smiled. 'Is it because I sat down when you smiled mysteriously at me?'

            Suneep laughed, and Alyssa knew she had nailed it. 'You are right, dai.' She admitted.

            The two continued speaking for half-an-hour, until Suneep felt like he knew her almost as well as she knew him.

            At approximately 10.30, Liberty and Alyssa had both decided to go to bed. Suneep was disappointed, but figured it was the best anyway. He returned to his room and decided to study.

            Bikram came out of the bathroom ten minutes later, drying his hair, and jumped when he saw Suneep.

            'Suneep!' He cried. 'Are you studying?' Suneep nodded. 'Dai, are you all right?'

            Suneep laughed. 'Yes, dhanyabad, Bikram.'

            Bikram did not recognise the book Suneep was reading, and checked the cover. 'John Calvin!' He cried. 'Not for this topic. Dr. Ashwin says it is one of the only topics he does not agree with Calvin on.'

            'So? I do.'

            Bikram was horrified. 'You're going to write against Dr. Ashwin?'

            'Yaap. The question does say to write your own opinion.' Bikram simply stared at his friend in horror. Suneep ignored him and continued working. 'I like Calvin. He gives you lots to think about.'

            Bikram shook his head and walked off. 'You are insane, dai.'

 

Alyssa jumped and squealed, as some-one poked her on either side. Suneep laughed as he stopped running. He was holding a piece of paper, and his eyes were very bright.

            It was Friday, nearly lunch time, and the weather was pleasantly warm. Suneep wore only a T-shirt today, that was brown with yellow script. It read 'vote for Pedro', which surprised Alyssa immensely. Furthermore, it was the first time Alyssa had ever seen Suneep without his beanie, and she realised he had quite a nice hair style. It suited him.

            'Guess what?!' He cried, nearly bursting out of his skin.

            'What?' Liberty and Shaktiah asked before Alyssa.

            'Guess!' Suneep persisted.

            'You got an A!' Shaktiah cried.

            'You passed.' Liberty teased.

            Alyssa smiled, and replied even less favourably. 'You failed.'

            Suneep laughed. 'No, dear. Not quite.'

            Shaktiah gasped. 'Suneep, tell me you are joking!'

            'I am not. I got a D! But guess what else?' Alyssa began shaking her head, and reached for the paper. Suneep pulled it away. 'No, no, no, bhainee. You must tell me what you are thinking!'

            'Dr. Ashwin did not mark it. It was Rev. Johns. He marked it with bias, and Dr. Ashwin did not think it was fair. So you have a pending A, and must preach it as a sermon next chapel.'

            Suneep's face fell. 'How did you guess?'

            Shaktiah was extorter. 'Suneep, you did? That is wonderful!'

            'Thank you, Tiah. But, tell me, Ally, how did you guess?'

            Alyssa was taken back. 'What did you just call me?'

            'Ally... is that all right?'

            'I told you you weren't lazy!' Liberty cried, looking at the paper she had successfully snatched from the man.

            'Not lazy?' Alyssa cried. 'He is so lazy he worked out me nickname so he didn't have to waste time calling me Alyssa! Yes, Suneep, that is my nick-name, and you are welcome to call me that. But in answer to your question, I guess because it happened once at the BCA, where my uncle works. It happened to him, actually, while he was a student.'

            'Isn't this great?' Suneep cried. 'Now I have a clear record again!'

            'It is just as well.' Shaktiah replied. 'It's only August.'

            Suneep laughed delightedly, and Alyssa smiled sweetly. 'Well done, dai. Very well done.'

            The lunch bell rung and the group separated gradually.

            'I can't believe it!' Shaktiah repeated. Then laughing, she changed her mind. 'I mean I can. I just can't believe Dr. Ashwin stood up for you.'

            Suneep shrugged, and raised his eyebrows. 'Yah, he knows that I am too cool to fail.'

            The girls chuckled, and walked towards the smaller dining room, which only the women ever used.

            'See you round.' Liberty said.

            'Not if you are a square.' Suneep returned. The girls laughed at the ambiguous reply, and Suneep skipped into the building to have lunch.

 

The day passed quickly, and soon dinner was over. As Suneep stuck his head out of the building to see if the girls were coming, he noticed three approaching: Liberty, Shaktiah, and Ardi. His eyes drifted over to the main building, where a single light lit up Alyssa, in conversation with Arjun. She began moving, and Arjun followed. Suneep was completely surprised – Arjun was coming to play cards!

            Mehmet appeared next to Alyssa, seemingly stepping out of the shadows, and she began speaking kindly to him. Suneep smiled warmly, as Liberty and Ardi suddenly burst in and took over. Yes, they were kind too, but Alyssa was something entirely different. As the two more outgoing girls chatted happily, Alyssa and Shaktiah obligingly listened as the six neared the building.

            Once they arrived, Samuel began organising small groups. Of course, every-one wanted to be in a group with an Australian. In the end, Suneep, Chandan, and Josha had joined the six. The played snap, and Arjun won three games in a row.

            'This is ridiculous!' Suneep cried, daring to speak to Arjun. 'How did you get so good?'

            Arjun laughed nervously. 'I am not. You are all just very bad.'

            Suneep was completely shocked to hear a sarcastic remark from Arjun, and the other laughed at his stupor.

            'You've been told!' Mehmet cried. 'Nice one, bhai!'

            Arjun seemed a little uncomfortable. 'Don't worry, friend. You aren't that bad.'

            Suneep panicked. 'No! No, your joke was funny. Do not take it back.' Desperately, he changed the subject. 'So. Why are you playing cards tonight?’

            'Alyssa invited me.'

            Mehmet sighed. 'I'm so sorry, Arjun. I just – didn't think!'

            Arjun nodded. 'It is all right, dai. I should have just come.'

            'Well then,' Suneep interrupted. 'Let me personally invite you ever night.'

            Bikram walked into the room and sat down at their table before Samuel could tell him what to do. 'Evening, brothers and sisters in Christ.' He greeted them brightly.

            'Evening, Bikram.' Came the almost unanimous reply.

            'I see you did well in your test.' Alyssa smiled.

            Bikram nodded. 'I am very happy.'

            Arjun fell even quieter, and began dealing the cards. Suneep was surprised when he eventually whispered to Alyssa, 'like I was saying, I was not pleased.'

            Alyssa smiled a little. 'Like I was saying, do not give up, dai. Besides, it is a very good mark.'

            Arjun shrugged. 'But I know I can do better.'

            Alyssa nodded, as Arjun clearly won the argument, and Suneep's spirits sunk.

            As the days passed, Suneep's curiosity in Arjun subsided, and gave way to a strong disdain. And this disdain had a lot to do with Alyssa, Liberty, Shaktiah, and Ardi. These four were interesting people. Ardi was friendly and over the top with every-one, except for with those she avoided, like Alyssa. Shaktiah was shy, and spoke to very few people. Suneep knew he could rely on her – she was his. Liberty was very friendly with every-one, like Ardi, though she took more strongly to outgoing people than the shy ones. But Alyssa was a different story. Yes, she was kind to every-one, but she behaved differently with each individual. And in a group, she adapted to please every-one. No, she was not two faced – every-one had the same opinion of her – but she did not treat every-one exactly the same. 

            Suneep amused her – he knew it. She enjoyed his company, and saw him as her joking older brother. Suneep was fine with that, he thought. She encouraged him to do better, but – unlike Shaktiah – she could clearly see his faults and did not ignore them. She subtly, slowly taught him how to overcome them.

She saw Chandan as a punkie older brother, and felt safe with him at all times. On warm days he wore singlets, and showed off his muscle, so she had good reason to suppose he could protect her if she needed it. And she could comfortably call him brother because of how often he 'accidentally' told her she would make a terrible wife. 'I don't think you're pretty.' He had remarked once. Every-one had been horrified, including Chandan, but Alyssa had only laughed.

            She regarded Mehmet with a sense of pity, as he seemed to get along very well with Ardi. She seemed to be his protector, more of a mother than a sister. Suneep got the impression she did not really respect Mehmet, and it pleased him.

            She seemed slightly scared of Josha, and generally avoided him. This too, pleased Suneep.

            Bikram seemed to amuse her, though Suneep could tell that she often agreed with nothing he said. But she knew when it was not wise to debate issues, so the two did not have many debates. She seemed to respect Bikram, but could easily find holes in his thinking. Because of this, Suneep figured she didn't really respect him much, and this pleased him immensely.

            But the way she regarded Arjun did not please him at all. Arjun had personality – he was discovering that now – but knew when to be sensible. He was as close to perfect as any human could be, and she respected him completely.

            All these changes were very minute, and Suneep did not notice at first. But once he had noticed, they drove him insane. So he hated Arjun.

            It wasn't until four weeks more had passed that he really flipped. It was the night when Shaktiah spoke to Arjun. That was just too much. Shaktiah hardly ever spoke! Especially not to other people! So, calmly as possible, Suneep had quit playing and left the room. He stalked to his room, where he threw himself angrily on his bed.

            He was doing well. He was studying, going to bed earlier, and walking up earlier too. He hated it, but that didn't matter so much when he saw he pleased a few people. But they still didn't respect him. Something snapped within Suneep, and he had the strangest idea. At this point, Bikram walked into the room, momentarily postponing his plan.

            'You are angry?' He asked.

            Suneep frowned. 'Yes.'

            'Why, dai?'

            'Nothing.'

            'I know why, dai.'

            'No you don't.'

            'Yes I do.' He giggled teasingly. 'I was worried for a minute. I though you liked Alyssa.'

            'Ally.'

            'But I see I was wrong.'

            'You are right.'

            'You know what I mean.'

            Suneep stood up and pulled on his beanie. 'If any-one asks where I am, tell them I am causing trouble and deserve punishment.'

            With this he left the room. Bikram was a little disconcerted, but did nothing to stop his friend.

            Suneep knew exactly what he was going to do. But first he had to calm down. He saw Arjun walking to his room, and quickly stopped him. 'Arjun!'

            The man stopped, and turned his sweet face towards Suneep's. Suneep took a deep breath and continued speaking. 'You are very good person.'

            Arjun was completely taken back. 'No I'm not!' He cried. 'I'm horrible.'

            'You always do the right thing, bhai.'

            'No I don't.'

            'You are everything! Good man. Fun man...'

            'Fun?' Arjun repeated. 'You are fun, Suneep! Fun, smart... Suneep...' his voice lowered, and Suneep nearly missed the next part. '… I wish I were more like you.'

            'You are joking!' Was all Suneep could think of saying in reply, stammering in complete shock.

            Arjun shook his head. 'No, dai.' He looked up, and Suneep felt for the first time that strange feeling which every-one had always told him Arjun could give. He truly felt that Arjun was his baby brother, and would do anything he told him to.

            'Arjun, would you do me a favour?' He tested his theory.

            Arjun nodded eagerly. 'Yes, dai. Anything!'

            Suneep's spirits rose, as he realised he could potentially get Arjun into immense trouble. But, looking into his trusting eyes, he couldn't bring himself to do that.

            'Could you do something wrong?' He finally finished. Arjun laughed, and Suneep smiled a little. 'Good night, Arjun.'

            'Good night, dai.' Arjun returned. 'Where are you going?'

            'To the main building.'

            'It is locked for the night. It is always padlocked once the girls go in.'

            Suneep nodded. 'I'll work it out. Thanks, Arjun.' Arjun was confused, but took the hint and walked off. Suneep turned towards the building and smiled. 'Dr. Ashwin's office here I come.'

 

 

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