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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10. Chapter Nine: The 7 Wanderers

 

Gopi was not pleased at how the boss was treating him so condescendingly, but he supposed he did deserve it. So, answering the man’s previous question, he said, ‘you must remember my mistake of destroying IndAid offices, stealing their money and shutting down their websites, and then shutting down websites which made mention of my actions.’

          ‘Oh, those ones.’ The boss replied, though he did not look like he was trying to be funny.

          ‘Yes.’ Gopi continued. ‘Those ones. Very foolish actions, and the organisation was determined to use them against me. They found back ways into the websites we had only managed to partially shut down, thus compiling enough evidence against us to land us in serious trouble. I could not let such information exist.’

          ‘So that is where this crazy plan began.’ The boss cut in.

          ‘It is a well thought through plan.’ Gopi objected. ‘But yes, it is quite far-fetched. You see, IndAid had acted particularly spitefully towards us, and handed out the information to numerous people. You will understand, of course, that none of these people can be allowed to survive.’

          ‘Of course.’ The boss replied through gritted teeth. ‘No-one ever can.’

          ‘You’ve got it now.’ Gopi smiled, his eyes glinting cheekily.        

          But he was not happy.

 

Mehmet walked nervously through the streets, Danny faithfully by his side.

                Danny felt himself being to worry, as people stared at Mehmet in awe as he passed. They obviously knew who he was, and this was not exactly a safe area. The streets were close together, and the paths were narrow. The gutters were filled with a mix of rubbish, water, and whatever else people decided to put in there, and small children stayed close to them – probably looking for a moment to steal something.

                Danny kept his hands in his pockets, protecting his wallet, and notice people beginning to whisper. To his surprise, he found he hoped Mehmet didn't notice.

                Eventually they reached a small house, where Mehmet knocked bravely on the door. A beautiful woman answered, her head covered in the typical Muslim fashion. Danny actually gasped when he saw her, as her eyes were spectacular.

                They were green. Not hazel, green. He would have bet his life on it. Glancing at Mehmet's eyes, he realised for the first time that they were not brown, but dark green.

                'Assalama alikum, om.' Mehmet said nervously.

                His mother's face was filled with complete shock, and she was unable to reply.

                'Jameela!' A woman cried. 'Who is there?!' After receiving no reply, the person rushed over to the door. Upon seeing Mehmet's face, she scowled. 'You!' She cried. 'Demon-child! What have you come here for?'

                'I have come to apologise.' Mehmet said, looking truly frightened.

                'Come back to Islam?' His mother finally spoke.

                'No!' Mehmet replied quickly. 'But I have to apologise for shaming you, and disappointing everyone. I have behaved very badly – I have sinned. My only consolation is that God will forgive me. But please, I cannot bear it any longer. Will you forgive me?'

                Mehmet's mother seemed on the verge of saying yes, but the woman (whoever she was) was not so easily persuaded.

                'Get out of here, you filthy scoundrel!' She screamed. Turning to some of the neighbours, she aroused their support. 'Get him out!' She cried.

                'Aunty, please!' Mehmet cried, his eyes filling with terror as more and more people closed in.

                'Get out!' She cried again.

                'Aunty, I have learned my lesson! I know why you attacked BSI... it was because of me!'

                'Yes, and it worked didn't it?' A random man called out. 'BSI is closed, and you have come begging for forgiveness.'

                Mehmet nodded. 'You killed just under half the BSI.' He cried. 'I would be an idiot not to grovel.'

                'Get out!' The woman cried again.

                Some-one threw a rock, which Mehmet dodged.

                'Fine!' He cried, sounding a little high-pitched. 'I will leave – for now.'

                'Don't come back!' The man shouted.

                Mehmet wisely did not respond, and ran desperately away. Danny followed frantically. They ran non-stop, until they were safe in their hotel room. Puffing, Danny spoke.

                'Well. That went well.'

 

Arjun jumped, as Sara walked unannounced into his room. Her eyes were burning intently, which was unusual. She was usually the least inquisitive of his sisters (though he only had two to choose from). She shut the door behind her, though it was more like a slam in Sara standards, and asked, 'is that why BSI closed?'

                Arjun sighed, and he instantly knew what his sister was talking about.    

                He was so angry at Mehmet right now – he supposed the man had almost been wise to leave. 'It is one of many reasons. There were other problems besides the Muslim attack.'

                'Like what?'

                Arjun shrugged. 'There was a fire.'

                'You told us about that.'

                'I know.'

                Sara shifted. 'Does this have anything to do with why you ran away to Australia and came back?'

                Arjun smiled at his sister. 'You are worried.' He said, looking calmly into her eyes. 'What about?'

                Sara frowned. 'Josha said you would die. He said we'd all die. What was he talking about? Are you in danger?'

                Arjun stood up. 'Josha is dramatic. Drama-king. Ignore him.'

                'Your face fell. Why?'

                Arjun laughed now. 'You are so worried! Do not worry! If you are in any trouble, I will save you.'

                'What if you can't?' Sara returned.

                Arjun's eyes dimmed, but his face did not flinch. 'I will. End of story. There is no what if.'

                'You can't do everything, Arjun.'

                'Am not trying to do everything. Just one thing: keep you safe.'

                Slowly, Sara began to smile. 'So... every thing’s fine then? Or, at least it will be?'

                Arjun nodded. 'All izz vell, sister.'

                His sister laughed. 'Idiot.' She went along with the joke. ‘You watch too many Bollywood movies.'

                'Oh, have seen plenty of Hollywood too.'

                His sister laughed again. 'Even worse.'

                'Yeah. Hey, always bad things are in threes. Three idiots... three stooges...' his face fell. 'Great. Now only Chandan and Josha are here, there are three of us.'

                His sister smiled lovingly. 'Three good men.'

                Arjun's face relaxed and Sara left him alone.

 

Arjun's father kindly dropped the three men off at the train station, where they waited patiently for the train. Once aboard, the trip was a long one, and the three didn't arrive at Suneep's hometown until late at night.

                'You booked hotel?' Chandan asked wearily.

                Arjun only nodded.

                That night, no-one could sleep, despite the fact that they each had their own room, and Arjun soon remembered the sleeping pills he had seen in the bathroom cabinet. He'd never taken sleeping pills before, but he was so exhausted and sick of being tired that he decided to take one.

                The next morning, all the men looked exhausted – including Arjun.

                'You look sick.' Josha said to Chandan. 'Are you all right?'

                Chandan nodded. 'Fine, dai.'

                'You look like you're half-drugged.' Josha said to Arjun.
                Arjun stared at his breakfast egg confusedly.

                'You don't look much better, dai.' Chandan pointed out.

                Arjun looked up. 'Huh?' He grunted, struggling to keep his eyes open.

                'What?' Josha returned.

                'What did you say?' Arjun mumbled, slurring his words.

                Josha was confused. 'What?!'

                Chandan rolled his eyes. 'He said you looked half-drugged.'

                Arjun turned to Chandan. 'What?'

                Chandan sighed heavily. 'Never mind.'

                'Sorry?' Arjun frowned.

                Chandan suddenly dropped his spoon and stood up. 'This is great!' He cried, though he was not yelling. 'Our best man is completely off his face! Good luck convincing Suneep's parents of anything but that he is on drugs!'

                'I am not on drugs.' Arjun groaned, looking like a child.

                Chandan sighed and sat back down.

                Arjun began smashing his egg, frowning confusedly at it. Chandan threw his head up and growled.

'Would you like me to peel it for you?' He asked.

                Arjun did not reply. He held his egg and stared at it for a moment. Then, turning to Chandan, he said, 'would you please open it, dai?'

                Chandan cried exasperatedly, whereas Josha laughed. 'Whoa! He is bad, bhai! Arjun, did you take something?'

                Arjun turned to Josha. 'Huh?'

                'Are you on drugs?' Josha rephrased the question.

                'No...' Arjun frowned. 'Why would I be on drugs?'

                Chandan handed his egg back, and Arjun ate it awkwardly. He seemed to be having difficulty with everything, and after a while, Chandan became deeply concerned. 'Bhai, are you all right?' He asked gently.

                'Yes.'  Arjun nodded, his eyes fluttering.

                Chandan turned to Josha, and when he turned back, Arjun had fallen asleep. 'Arjun!' Chandan cried, shaking the man. Arjun did not respond.

                'I don't think he slept last night.' Josha reasoned. 'He was probably too busy worrying.'

                'Why does he worry so much?!' Chandan cried, clearly concerned. 'He has no more to worry about then the rest of us!'

                Josha laughed. 'He has to worry about us.'

                Arjun suddenly woke up. Looking at his plate, he frowned.

                'You finished, bhai.' Chandan reassured him.

                Arjun rubbed his eyes. 'Then let's go.'

                He stood up, and tripped on the leg of the chair. Chandan steadied him, and turned desperately to Josha.

                'Bhai,' Josha began slowly. 'I think we should go tomorrow. Sleep today.'

                Arjun shook his head. 'We can't afford many nights in this hotel.'

                'I can.' Josha replied.

                'So can I.' Chandan helped.

                'I can't.' Arjun concluded.

                Josha was confused. 'But your job pays the most, bhai. Why can't you afford it?'

                Arjun was agitated now. 'I just can't, dai. Now let's go.'

                He walked out, and Chandan turned to Josha. 'Is he tight-wad?' He asked.

                Josha shrugged. 'Either that or a gambler. Where else would all his money go?'

                Chandan nodded. 'Probably he just saves it.'

                Josha seemed calm for once, which was nice. 'Exactly. Now let's go brush our teeth and find Arjun before he does something weird.'

                Chandan smiled. 'Good idea, dai.'

 

Arjun slept for the entirety of the short trip to Suneep's house, and only awoke when shaken by both his friends. When he did awake, he gasped, though neither Chandan nor Josha knew why.

                'What?' Chandan asked, looking concernedly at his friend.

                Arjun's eyes were steadily fixed on something, and he said, 'we were looking for number 24?'

                Chandan nodded, and followed Arjun's gaze. Then he too gasped. Josha rolled his eyes and looked as well, procuring the same results.

                The number 24 was mounted on the massive walls surrounding the house and was made of brass. The walls were tall, with spikes on the top, and were of the purest white any of the friends had ever seen. The gates were beautiful, and looked to be gold, as well as being massive. All that could be seen through the gates was a large round about, with an oak tree in the middle, and a Ferrari parked next to a Lamborghini underneath a carport beautifully covered in vines. The house was massive, and made of stone.

                'It looks English.' Josha muttered.

                'Looks Indian.' Chandan corrected, observing body guards shooing monkeys.

                'Looks Nepali.' Arjun finished, seeing the flag waving proudly from the roof.

                'That is Suneep's house?' Josha asked incredulously.

                Arjun nodded, not averting his gaze. 'That is what Suneep wrote.'

                'Did we get wrong street?' Chandan asked. 'Suneep is not millionaire!' His face fell and he added, 'is he?'

                No-one replied to this.

                The rickshaw driver dropped the three of at the gate, where they were glared at by two security guards.

                'Can we visit?' Chandan asked weakly. 'We are friends of Suneep.'

                The security guards seemed to soften at the sound of Suneep's name, and nodded. 'Okay.' One granted. 'But follow me.'

                The massive gates were opened, and Chandan, Josha, and Arjun passed cautiously through. Then, as the gates were shut, they followed the man.

                'They all have guns.' Josha whispered to Chandan.

                Chandan eyed the weapons uncomfortably, while Arjun seemed completely unaware of their existence. He still hadn't taken his eyes of the building.

                The man led the friends into a grand room, with an immaculate white carpet, leather sofas, and a brown grand piano in the corner. There was a large painting on the wall next to the piano of The Girl With the Pearl Earring', and on the front most wall there was a large, gold-rimmed mirror, which made the room seem much bigger than it was. The large window with window seats looked out to the magnificent oak tree on the grand roundabout.

                Arjun stared at the painting dreamily, and Chandan wondered what on earth was going through his mind. As for Josha, he was constantly checking behind him to see if he left any footprints.

                After a few minutes, a man in a white suit with an orange turban appeared.

'Manju...'

                No-one heard the rest of the introduction. All were too distracted by the dazzling woman before them – not beautiful, but fascinating. She literally shone.

                'I am Suneep's mother.' She briefly introduced herself. 'Who are you?'

                Arjun was obviously in a daze, and Josha was hardly a fit spokesman, so Chandan obligingly replied.

'We are friends of Suneep's. From the BSI.'

                Manju smiled. 'Has he given you some sort of message for me?'

                Chandan nodded. .'Yes.'

                The woman chuckled. 'Well then, keep it brief. I imagine it's nothing too extravagant.'

                'Are you not disappointed that he didn't come?' Arjun suddenly spoke.

                Manju actually laughed. 'No! Look, I love him, but he makes such a mess of things!'

                Manju lost the group's attention when a man walked in. He looked very much like Suneep, and wore a very serious grey, pinstripe suit. 'He has probably not told you,' he burst into conversation, 'but he is quite a skilled pianist. He just prefers drums and electric guitars because they are loud and violent. But when he wants, he plays beautifully. Even better than his sister, to her disappointment.'

                'Where is she?' Arjun asked.

                Chandan thought that was an odd question to ask, but Suneep's father did not seem to think so. 'Married.' He replied. 'As of last year. Was about time too. She was nearly 30.'

                'She is much older than Suneep.' Arjun pointed out the obvious.

                'Yes.' Manju confirmed. 'Because we didn't want another child. Suneep was a mistake.'

                The man smiled a little. 'He is a mistake.'

                'So what's his message?' Manju asked, cutting to the chase.

                Chandan replied, while Arjun stared at the parents with an obvious amount of disdain. 'He says do not go to Australia – ever. Do not even think about going on a plane to there.'

                Suneep's father immediately panicked. 'What has he done?' He cried.

                'Nothing!' All three assured him at once.

                'But you must listen.' Chandan continued. 'It is very important.'

                The parents sighed, but nodded.

                'Are you finished?' Manju asked.

                Chandan nodded, but Arjun surprised him by suddenly asking, 'do you know anything about the gold ring Suneep used to wear all the time?'

                Suneep's father raised his eyebrow. 'Used to? You mean he stopped?'

                Arjun rolled his head ambiguously – the typical Indian head movement that he did not often do. 'No. He had to sell it our first night in Australia, when we could not afford to pay our driver.'

                Manju seemed crushed. 'Oh!' She cried. 'That would have hurt him so much!'

                Her husband shifted uncomfortably, obviously realising the friends would want an explanation. 'We did not even know why until three years ago.'

                Here, Arjun's ears pricked up. 'Three years?' He repeated.

                'It's always three years...' Josha muttered, summarizing Arjun's thoughts.

                'You probably knew her.' The man continued. 'Shaktiah Nylah.'

                Arjun's face immediately fell, though it took a little longer for the other two to work out who he was talking about.

                'Nepali girl from BSI?' Chandan asked.

                Manju nodded. 'They grew up together. She was very nice girl.'

                'Only one in the world that could see no bad in Suneep. Only good.' Her husband added.

                'He went to boarding school.' Manju continued. 'And would always be beaten for misbehaving. Then in the holidays he would come home to everything.'

                'Lamborghini was his birthday present.' The father cut in.

                'We did not raise him very well...' the mother contemplated. 'Especially not when you consider we are Christians.'

                'Each holidays he would basically get together with his gang and terrorize the town,' the father continued, 'though it was never too serious, it would always end with a threat of arrest. After that he'd settle down and try to make up for it by studying – learning Biblical Greek, playing piano. Whatever he though would please us.'

                'It was just frustrating, because it showed us he had so much potential – he just wasn't using it! So, needless to say, we were never pleased.'

                'Whereas she was always pleased. She would always encourage him. When Shaktiah was around, Suneep was the best person he could be.'

                'The ring was chicken feed to her – her family was even richer than ours.'

                'Still are.' the man qualified. 'And now we come to the part we did not know until 3 years ago.'

                'When he was 16 he started wearing that ring – always. We didn't even think anything of it. True, he wore it on the wedding finger, but we figured he was just stirring.'

                'He wasn't engaged.' The father assured the three. 'But she gave it to him as a birthday present. On the inside was engraved 'Colossians 3:23'.

                All were surprised when Arjun automatically chanted, 'whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men.' When he realised everyone was staring at him, he quickly explained. 'He would write it at the top of each page while he worked. Every page in his test, books, and assignments would at least have the reference. He engraved it in my mind.' He continued speaking, though no-one knew what about. 'He much preferred it over Proverbs 18:9, which says, 'A lazy person is as bad as some-one who destroys things'. That verse really came back to haunt him...' Arjun only received more blank stares.

                'She died, didn't she?' Chandan asked. 'Died in attack.'

                Manju nodded.

                'Wait, which one?' Josha asked.

                'Hindu one.' Arjun muttered distractedly. Obviously, something was beginning to make sense in his mind.

                Manju's face had filled with grief, as had her husband's. 'Please go.' She begged them.

                Chandan nodded, and led the other two out of the house. The three were let out by a miserable looking guard, and then they walked aimlessly on the road in the opposite direction to the hotel.

                'So...' Chandan muttered at last. 'Suneep is filthy rich.'

                Arjun nodded. 'Everything makes sense now!' He cried.

                'What makes sense?' Josha asked.

                'Everything!' Arjun repeated himself. 'The ring, the Bible Verse, Ally...'

                'Whoa!' Josha interrupted. 'What does Ally have to do with anything?'

                Chandan frowned. 'Quiet Australian girl that was really from New Zealand? Alyssa?' Turning to Josha, he asked, 'how did you work that out?'

                Josha explained very briefly. 'That is what Suneep called her.'

                'She has a lot to do with everything!' Arjun cried. 'A lot!'

                Chandan shook his head. 'I am so confused. I thought of all the confusing things she would be the least confusing.'

                Arjun actually laughed, which the others found weird. 'Every thing's so clear now!' He cried.

                'So you can fix our problem?' Chandan asked.

                'No.' Arjun admitted. 'But...' he stopped, and froze on the spot.

                Chandan turned around. 'What, bhai?'

                Arjun's face lit up as he said, 'that's it! How to fix everything!'

                Josha's eyes immediately became intense. 'You know what to do, bhai?'

                Arjun nodded. 'I need to step back and evaluate everything. Everything! Put together everything and I can work it out.'

                'What?' Chandan asked, completely confused. For the first time in a long time, there was an air of cruelty in his utterance.

                'Think about it, dai!' Arjun cried. 'So many questions! Why did the Muslims attack? I know why now – it was Mehmet's fault. Why did the Hindu's attack? I don't know, but I bet you one of us is responsible.'

                'What?!' Chandan cried angrily. 'You contend that we together are guilty for the destruction of BSI?!'

                'What did I do?' Arjun muttered to himself.

                'Nothing of course!' Chandan shouted. 'You're just Mr. Perfect!'

                Arjun suddenly realised what he had suggested, and turned apologetically to Chandan. 'I am so sorry!' He cried desperately. 'That is not what I meant!'

                'Yes it is!' Chandan shot back. 'It is exactly what you meant!'

                Arjun found himself unable to contradict this.

                Josha surprisingly stepped in as a peacemaker. 'I agree with Arjun to an extent. I mean, you could argue that we are guilty, even if you don't take that night into consideration...'

                'It's not my fault!' Chandan screamed, his eyes filling with tears and horror. 'I did not kill any-one!'

                Josha put his hand on Chandan's shoulder. 'We are not saying you did. Only that you could be framed.'

                'Nothing makes sense!' Arjun suddenly cried, contradicting himself. 'Why us? Why them? Why BSI?!'

                'I don't know.' Josha helped. 'But I think you are right. If you evaluate everything, you will work out why.'

                Arjun nodded. 'Quick, let's go back. I need to write everything I know so far down.'

                Josha nodded too, and led the way. Chandan sniffed, glared at Arjun, and followed.

 

 

 

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