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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2. Chapter One: The 7 Immigrants

 

 

Gopi. My name is Gopi.

          And there are so many people outside, just outside my window, who don’t even know I am here. Who don’t even know this organisation exists. Look at them all, wandering around, completely clueless. So many of them – Delhi is a large city.

          An enslaved city. Slave to one thing: financial aid.

          Aid! From supposed ‘first world countries’. India does not need aid. What India needs is a firm work ethic. And that may only be encouraged when there is no other alternative. When there is nowhere to turn for help.

          I stand for the liberation of India – I stand for its independence and the freedom of the people. I am Gandhi, I am Lincoln – I am the hero of India.

          They just don’t know it yet.

          ‘We don’t have much time.’ He said, turning around to face his co-worker. ‘The minute our plans fall into place is the minute the enemy tries to catch us out. We have no time to lose.’

          His co-worker nodded hesitantly. ‘This is risky business.’ He pointed out. ‘If we make one wrong move, it’s all over. This organisation – everything we stand for… it’s all gone.’

          ‘We can’t afford to get anything wrong.’ Gopi agreed. ‘For… personal reasons as well.’

          His colleague nodded. ‘I suppose I’ll finishing arranging things then.’

          Gopi growled a little. ‘You should have finished ages ago.’

          He added a little more sugar to his chai and turned back to looking out the window. His colleague walked off unnoticed.

 

 

Present Day:

 

The flight attendant frowned and pulled an air-hostess aside.

'Is he alright?' He said, glancing at one of the passengers.

The air hostess turned around and also frowned. 'I will check.'

'He seems very nervous.'

'It probably isn't anything serious.'

With this, the woman walked off, and made her way towards the young man - about 20. The man sat in his seat, staring out the window, checking around the plane, and then back out the window again, all the while shaking and fiddling nervously with his right hand. His feet tapped nervously too, and his jaw - already clenched in an over-bite - was firmly set.

'Excuse me, sir.' The woman interrupted.

The man jumped, and even let out a small cry.

'May I help you?' She continued.

'No.' The man replied abruptly. 'I am fine, thank you.' He spoke hurriedly, but he also had an accent. The woman decided it was probably just his first time flying and walked off.

The man shifted nervously, and pushed the head of the man next to him off his shoulder. This man - who looked younger, but was actually older - snored contentedly and leant on the man's shoulder to his left. The former man laughed, and turned to the nervous one.

'Aw, isn't he cute?'

'Very cute.' The man muttered, in between clenched teeth.

The other man sighed, and the middle-one snored again. 'You don't like flying?' The former asked.

'You know that is not it!' The nervous man snapped, his eyes flashing with anger. The other resisted the temptation to laugh, but smiled.

'Relax. We're on a plane.'

'Well, that certainly sounds very wrong...'

'Arjun!'

The man did not turn his head this time. Instead, he stared impertinently out the window. The friend only sighed again.

'They cannot follow us. Not here.'

Now Arjun turned his head. 'How do you know?' He hissed. 'They've followed us everywhere else.'

His friend rolled his eyes now. 'Fine. You stress out about it. But I am going to sleep.'

Arjun turned away angrily, and stared out the window. For a while, there was silence.

It was sunny outside, and the sky was so clear that Arjun could see the earth below. The soil was red, which told him they were in Australia now, and there was hardly any shrubbery in sight. There were occasional creeks or rivers, but they seemed so pitiful to Arjun that he felt more inclined to call them dribbles of water. He hoped Melbourne would not be this dry.

Suddenly, the man in front turned around and said, 'K chaa?'Arjun turned to the man, but did not glare. Instead, his eyes showed some sort of fear. This caused the man to repeat his question, in English.

'What's up?'

The man next to the one who had spoken laughed and said, 'hopefully this plane!'

Arjun smiled. 'That makes no sense in Nepali.'

'So?' The man replied, turning round. 'He translated the phrase into English, and then I replied. So it makes sense.'

Arjun actually laughed a little before looking back out the window.

How could anyone survive in a place like this? His thoughts flittered aimlessly, comparing the place to his homeland – Nepal. He had known several Australians who had sworn that Australia was beautiful, though in a strange kind of way so it had to grow on you. But the scenery out the window actually repulsed him. He decided instantly he would never think Australia was beautiful. 

'How much longer have we got?' The curious man directly in front of him asked. The man behind Arjun replied.

'Six hours.'

All groaned.

The eldest of them all spoke. 'I hate flying.'

'It's better than falling.' The one next to him replied.

                The man near the window chuckled and turned back to Arjun. 'You did not answer my question, friend. K chaa?'

                'Theekai chha.' Arjun replied, without really thinking.

                'You do not look good.' The eldest teased.

                Arjun only rolled his eyes.

                The man near the window was clearly in the mood for joking around. 'So...' he continued, 'tapaai kahaa baata aaunu vaeko ho?'

                Arjun turned with a certain degree of annoyance to his friend. 'Nepal.'

                'Malaai pani!' The friend returned.

                'Me too!' The man next to him added.

                'You mean three.' The eldest said.

                'Me four!' The man behind Arjun piped up.

                'Amazing.' Arjun muttered under his breath.

                'What are you doing?' The man continued to ask. Arjun turned towards him, his eyes practically on fire.

                'Shut up.' Was all he said.

                His friends laughed, and even high-fived. The teaser raised his eyebrows and shrugged. 'Fine. I will talk no more, Mr. Grumpy.'

                The others chuckled and sat down properly. All was silent for about five minutes. Then...

'Arjun's grumpy... very, very grumpy.'

                The others started to laugh, and Arjun forced himself to close his eyes. Sleep seemed like the best option.

 

 

Sleep soon proved to be a terrible option, as Arjun’s dreams turned into nightmares.

 

                'Keep an eye on her, Arjun.' Dr. Ashwin had said. 'She stands out like a sore thumb, and she can't be discreet to save herself.'

            Arjun cringed, but had nodded. 'Yes, sir, I will look out for her.'

            'You don't like her?'

            Arjun shifted uncomfortably. 'I... she disturbs me.'

            Dr. Ashwin nodded. 'Well, sorry, but of all the people I know, you're the best to take care of her.'

            The group had gone out, the entire group of Australian exchange students as well as a couple of other students, and Arjun had tried to avoid Ardi while watching her. At some point during lunch, Ardi had just walked off. Arjun followed her.

 

                He moaned in his sleep. 'What was she doing?!' He muttered. 'What was she thinking?'

                That day had changed their lives forever.

 

 

Two hours later, Arjun awoke to see all his friends staring at him.

                'What?' He groaned, confused.

                The six men started laughing, and Arjun frowned.

                'Stop it!' He cried.

                'Stop it!' The man in front mocked him.

                'Aw, do not tease baby Arjun.' The man next to him teased.

                The man next to Arjun (who was no longer asleep) frowned, and spoke firmly. 'Do not tease him. He is very sensible. You should be more grateful to him.'

                'I am very grateful.' The one in front said seriously.

                'Watch a movie.' The other persisted.

                'They are all boring.' The teaser replied. 'How about we play the game. I suggest the complement one.'

                'Fine.' The defender agreed.

                'But I think there should be a twist. Instead of just complementing everyone, you have to complement one person: Suneep!'

                'Suneep!' The defender cried in annoyance.

                'A, I am awesome.' Suneep continued.

                'B, I am Bikram.' The man next to him added.

                'How is that complementing me?'

                'It isn't.'

                'Please stop!' Arjun suddenly cried. Surprisingly, the two did.

                After quite a long pause, Bikram turned to Suneep. 'Wanna play battleship?'

                'Sure.' Came the half-hearted response. 'Dandin, you want play too?'

                'Haan.' Dandin replied, turning around.

                Suneep smiled. 'Haan, haan. Always haan. Why never 'yes' or 'oui'?'

                'I speak Hindi.' Came Dandin's simple reply.

                Five minutes later, Bikram turned around again and Arjun sighed.

                'Josha!' Bikram called. The man behind Arjun responded. 'You want play quiz with us?'

                Josha's face lit up, and he eagerly replied, 'sure!'

                'Mehmet? You?'

                The man on the end of Arjun's aisle shrugged. 'Sure, why not.' Turning to the man next to him, he said, 'will you play, Chandan?'

                Chandan shrugged. 'Sure.'

                'Our name is BKOOZ.'

                Arjun looked up. 'Why?'

                Suneep smiled, revealing several dimples. 'Because he is stupid and cannot spell his own name.'

                Arjun laughed, and Bikram smiled. 'Can I play too?' The former asked.

                'No.' Came Suneep's harsh reply.

                Arjun's face fell. 'Why not?'

                Suneep replied speedily. 'Because you will beat us all.'

                Arjun laughed, and joined the game. But he still couldn’t forget that man’s words: They will all die on the way to Australia.

 

 

Relief washed over Arjun as he stepped out of Melbourne Airport. Mehmet came up behind him and patted him on the shoulder.

                'See?' He teased. 'All izz vell.'

                Arjun rolled his eyes and then smiled. 'Idiot.'

                Mehmet laughed and looked behind him. 'Where are others?'

                'Over there.' Arjun said, nodding to his right.

                'Oh. Good. What are we waiting for?'

                Arjun turned to Mehmet. 'You organised taxi...?'

                Mehmet's face fell. 'That was my job?!' He cried.

                Arjun sighed.

                'I swear you gave it to Dandin!'

                'Well did Dandin do it?'

                Dandin immediately shook his head. 'No, no, no, no, no. That was not my job. I did that.'

                Arjun glared angrily at Mehmet, and then turned to the rest of the group. 'We have to find taxi. Who has the address?'

                'What address?' Mehmet asked.

                'The hotel address!' Arjun shot back.

                'I do.' Chandan replied calmly. 'I give.'

                Arjun took a deep breath and spoke again. 'We will meet at the hotel. Okay?'

                'Okay.' Came the flat reply.

                Arjun adjusted his luggage and began walking off. 'If you want come with me, then follow.'

                Behind his back, the group members looked at each other uncertainly. Then Chandan sighed, rolled his eyes, and followed. Suneep smiled cheekily and ran after the two. The others shrugged and walked off.

                Arjun walked quickly, and Suneep took a while to catch up.

                'Whoa! Slow down, bhai!'

                Arjun slowed down a little.

                Chandan frowned and turned to Suneep. 'You have come to cause trouble.' He accused.

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'I not come to cause trouble. I never cause trouble.'

                'Then how come it always happens when you're around?'

                Suneep shrugged. 'I am very attractive to it is all.'

                Chandan rolled his eyes.

                Eventually, Arjun began speaking to a driver. 'How much?' He asked before committing to anything.

                'I can't tell until I've driven you there.' The man replied. 'It depends on traffic.'

                Arjun sighed and turned to his friends. 'Get in.'

                The two smiled and did so.

 

 

The traffic was heavy.

                The driver insisted on playing the radio loudly, and Suneep insisted on annoying Arjun.

                'Baby, baby, baby ooh!' He sung, perfectly on tune, but very annoyingly.

                Arjun leant on the window pane and gritted his teeth. 'Somebody should shoot this girl.'

                The driver laughed. 'It's a boy.'

                Suneep laughed, and stopped pretending to be a girl.

                'How much longer?' Chandan asked.

                The man shrugged. 'An hour?'

                Arjun panicked. 'An hour!? I can't afford that much money!'

                The man smiled. 'That's your problem.'

                Arjun fell further into despair, and Suneep had the brains to stop singing.

                Arjun stared out the window and let his mind drift. But it insisted on driving back to the same instances – the same, painful ones.        

                The despair was overwhelming.

 

 

 

It was the night before the institution closed down. Each of the students had their own theory as to why it was closing, and one of them in particular – the tough one - thought it was because of money and wanted to fix it.

            So he went to the local bank.

            He was meant to ask for special permission to go outside the institution’s doors, but knew he wouldn’t be given such a privilege. So he had convinced a timid friend to go out with him, promising it wasn’t for anything important.

            But it was important, of course.

            Walking into the bank, he felt into his pocket just to check his tool was there. Check. He was all ready to go.

            Because it was dark, the bank was quite empty, though not completely so. Taking a deep breath, the tough man decided it was now or never. His poor, timid friend had no idea what he was about to do.

            Reaching into his pocket, he pulled the tool out and held it to the banker’s face. The man’s eyes widened, and everyone in the bank froze.

            ‘This is a hold up.’ The tough man said.

            Suddenly, before the banker could even say anything, alarms went off, and everybody relaxed. Turning around, the tough man saw his friend was shaking. Never mind that, he thought, they had to leave. The police would be here any minute now.

            He ran out of the bank, dragging his timid friend who was still shaking behind him. Men began running after them, yelling and screaming. It wouldn’t be long before the police arrived, and they’d have guns.

            ‘What were you thinking?!’ His friend was screaming. ‘What were you even thinking?!’

            The tough man didn’t know anymore. And he no longer felt tough either. He felt weak. Weak and stupid.

            They ran down the dark, emptying streets, trying to get back to the institution before the police found them.

            Flashing lights came into view, and the timid one broke down. Seeing a convertible, he jumped inside and started the car in seconds.

            The tough friend stood staring at his friend for a moment, mouth agape.

            ‘How do you know how to do that?’ He asked.

            ‘I don’t know.’ The friend admitted. ‘Just get in!’

            ‘You can’t just stea…’

            The sirens could be heard now, so the tough one didn’t argue anymore. He just jumped in and let his timid friend drive away.

            ‘What are you doing?’ The tough one asked.

            His timid friend shook his head, confused and dazed. ‘I don’t know. I’m scared, friend. Very scared. Besides… what were you thinking? And where did you even get a gun from!?’

            ‘It is not hard to get a gun.’ The tough one replied. ‘And… I don’t really know what I was thinking.’ He hang his head in shame. ‘I just wanted to help.’ He eventually muttered.

            His timid friend didn’t bother rolling his eyes. After all, he had just stolen a car.

            They sped along for a while before coming to a red light. That was when they saw another of their friends, looking madly for them, wondering where they were. His face fell as soon as he saw them.             ‘What on earth are you doing!?’ He screamed, totally overwhelmed at the sight of his two friends in a car he knew was not theirs.

            ‘I don’t know!’ The timid friend shot back, looking close to tears.

            The new, bossy friend ran up to the car and began pleading with the men to stop. But they would not relent.

            ‘Green light!’ The tough friend pointed out, and the timid one began to move. The new bossy friend did not want to be left behind, so he quickly jumped in the car.

            As the car sped up, the bossy friend became more and more agitated.

            ‘Stop!’ He cried. ‘Put the car back and just stop!’

            ‘We can’t just stop!’ The tough one replied. ‘I held a gun to a banker’s head.’

            The bossy friend was even more horrified now.

            ‘I know, I know, I know.’ The tough one continued. ‘It was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am just a fool!’

            The bossy friend sighed and shook his head. ‘Can you at least stop now? We can walk the rest of the way back to the college, surely!’

            The timid one reluctantly agreed to this idea and parked along the footpath. He and the tough one scrambled out, still afraid of the police.

            The police. They hadn’t told the bossy one about that yet.

            The three ran down the dark streets, struggling to see anything, until they heard someone running up to them, hollering at the top of their lungs.

            ‘Stop!’ The person cried. ‘I will call the police!’

            It looked like a man, or perhaps a teenage boy. At any rate, all three panicked.

            ‘Please, do not!’ The bossy friend tried to reason with them. We are not causing you any harm.’

            ‘You took my car!’

            ‘We have given it back and are very sorry.’ The timid friend tired, to no avail.

            Suddenly, without warning, the person lunged at the bossy man, muttering violent threats and clawing aggressively. The bossy friend panicked, and gave the person one firm hit across the face.

            It was a fight easily won, and the person fell to the ground, nose bleeding.

            The three friends gasped at once.

            ‘It is a woman!’ The tough one cried. ‘You hit a woman!’

            The bossy man began to shaking. ‘A woman!?’ He cried. ‘But that is a crime!’

            The timid friend sighed deeply. ‘Then we are all running from the police. Come on.’

            The bossy friend was too shaken up to run, so the tough friend took his hand and dragged him after the timid one.

            They hadn’t been running for two minutes when two more men began shouting at them. The bossy man sighed when he saw them.

            ‘You should not have snuck out without permission!’ The new, dark friend told the men off. ‘Now we have done it too. Besides, everyone is looking for you.’

            ‘You should come back quickly.’ The other new friend – the spunky one – put in.

            ‘Run with us.’ The bossy friend ordered, and the two did so without arguing.

            They ran nonstop for several minutes, until finally, rounding a corner, they crashed right into someone. The tough friend’s face fell at once.

            It was a police officer.

            ‘Sorry, officer.’ The dark friend said, completely unaware of how nervous the tough man, the bossy man, and the timid man were feeling.

            The police officer laughed a little and took a step back. ‘That’s all right.’

            Then the group moved on as if nothing had happened, the first three friends holding their breath the entire way.

            That was when the police man called after them.

            ‘What is this?’ He cried, waving something in the air. ‘It fell from your pocket.’

            The dark friend’s face tightened straight away, though he was trying very hard not to show any emotion. Subtly, he reached inside his pocket – and found nothing there.

            He panicked.

            ‘Are these drugs?’ The police officer continued.

            ‘I am breaking my addiction,’ the dark man tried to explain, as the officer felt around his belt for something. ‘Once that packet is gone I will not take anymore. I…’

            The police officer was coming closer and closer, and the dark friend was beginning to get the impression that his friends were about to run off on him.

            The police officer was close enough to touch now, and the men had finally worked out what he had been feeling around for: a torch.

            As the man raised his torch, the spunky friend acted without thinking. He rushed forward, pushed the officer to the ground, threw away the torch, and gave him a more gentle kick for good measure.

            Then, before he could realise what it was he had done, he ran off. His friends frightenedly followed.

            They were running so fast now, all of them afraid of the police, wondering why they had done what they had done (without even thinking!) and fearing the consequences. And the institution was still fifteen minutes away!

            ‘We should catch a rickshaw.’ The bossy friend suggested, but the timid friend shook his head.

            ‘I think we should just keep running.’

            They heard the honk of a horn and turned around hopefully. There, sitting in a car that was actually borrowed from a friend at the institution, sat another friend: a smart one. Beside him was a very amused, cheeky looking friend, who was clearly enjoying the hunt for the others.

            ‘Friends!’ The smart man cried. ‘What are you looking worried for?’

            The men hurriedly jumped into the car, and the bossy one did the explaining.

            ‘Drive.’ He said. ‘And I’ll explain.’

            They were on a rather empty road now, and – the more the bossy man explained – the faster the smart friend began to drive.

            ‘Slow down.’ The cheeky friend said. ‘You are speeding now.’

            Suddenly, the headlights died, and the driver found himself in the dark.

            ‘Oh no,’ he muttered, turning to face the dial that turned the lights on. ‘This is not good.’

            ‘Driving without headlights is illegal.’ The cheeky friend did not help.

            ‘I know.’ The smart friend replied, looking back up at the road. He instantly jumped, realising he was about to run into a car, and quickly swerved over to the other side of the road. Then, because there was no room to pull back in, he drove on the wrong side of the road for five minutes.

            ‘Stop!’ The men were all screaming at him, as he desperately tried to avoid traffic. ‘What are you doing?! This is illegal!’

            The smart friend was shaking a little now as he replied. ‘The brakes aren’t working, and neither is the speedo. It says we are still going very slow!’

            A few of the friends in the back sighed.

            ‘This night is terrible.’ The tough one complained. ‘And I started it all.’

            ‘Do you even have a license?’ The cheeky friend asked, beginning to understand just how much trouble they could all get into.

            The smart friend shook his head before nodding. ‘Well, yes…. But not Indian one.’

            The cheeky friend was the only one that laughed.

            The other friends simply screamed.

            ‘Police cars are chasing us now.’ The timid friend pointed out, no longer feeling very timid. He was mainly very bored and sick of all the trouble he and his friends were getting into.

            The driver panicked and managed to pull over to the right side of the road. But he could not stop the car.

            ‘This is not a very good car.’ The cheeky friend said uselessly. ‘And at this rate our friend will not be getting it back in one point.’

            ‘Stop talking!’ The driver snapped, beginning to feel the pressure of weaving his way through traffic with no way to stop.

            ‘Just drop gears.’ The bossy friend suggested.

            ‘I cannot.’ The driver returned. ‘We’re on a hill.’

            ‘Use the handbrake!’ The cheeky friend added, pulling the handbrake for the driver. His face fell when the thing came off completely.

            ‘Brilliant.’ The driver muttered.

            The hill was slight at first, but it gradually grew steeper and steeper, until the car was racing along at a dangerously high speed. It became clear that the driver was going to lose control.

            ‘Should we jump?’ The spunky friend asked, clearly expecting the answer to be yes.

            The driver began to make out a large building coming up quickly – too quickly for him to avoid – and nodded.

            ‘Yes. Jump onto the grass over there. I will try and to make it easier.’

            The friends nodded and poised themselves for the jump.

            The driver took the car closer to the curb where the grass was and waited as his friends jumped out one by one, until he was the only one left. It was his turn to get out now, but the grass patch was nearly over. He had to be quick.

            Slowly, he edge his way over to the passenger side, still holding onto the steering wheel. Then, after taking a deep breath, he violently jerked the wheel to the right and jumped out of the car.

            The impact was harsh, and he rolled for a long time, stopping only when he hit a fence. For a while he remained still in pain and agony, until he heard his friends cry out in terror.

            Slowly, he stood up and looked to see what had happened to the car. His spirits sunk instantly.

            ‘It’s the military building!’ The spunky friend cried. ‘It looks like we’ve attacked the military building!’

            The driver (no longer the driver, of course) shook a little, and began muttering the word ‘no’ to himself repeatedly, even though he knew it wouldn’t change anything.

            ‘Can this get any worse?!’ The tough friend shouted, and the cheeky friend raised his eyebrows.

            ‘Do not say that, or it will get worse.’

            As if to prove the man’s point, the car burst into flames by the gate. Worst of all, the engine was still on, so the flames were intense.

            ‘I think we should run.’ The spunky friend suggested, his face long and pale. The dark friend nodded and led the way.

            They ran off, not daring to take even a brief glance back, with the exception of the smart friend. He looked back to see a haunting picture – one of the most haunting things he had ever seen in his life.

            He saw a man, standing next to the flames, simply watching them. Waiting to see where they would go.

            He trembled inside and ran to catch up with his friends.

 

                Two hours later, the group finally reached the hotel. Arjun scrambled out of the car and rushed to Mehmet.

                'Camel!' He cried, calling his friend by his nick-name. 'How we going to pay for this?!'

                Camel smiled. 'We aren't....' Arjun's face fell, and Mehmet laughed. 'Relax! I will speak to Dandin.' He turned around. 'Danny!'

                Danny walked over ridiculously. 'Yes, Cammie?'

                'How we going to pay for all this?'

                Danny turned to the driver. 'Do you accept chickens?'

                The driver shook his head.

                Danny turned back to the group. 'He doesn't accept chickens.'

                Arjun was a little confused. 'We don't have chickens.'

                Mehmet sighed. 'All we have is the clothes on our back....'

                Danny turned back to the driver. 'Do you take our clothes?'

                Now the driver was confused. 'No! I just want money!' He cried.

                Danny shrugged and turned back to his friends. 'You heard him.'

                Arjun rolled his eyes and tried to negotiate sensibly. 'Do you accept Nepali dollars?'

                'And rupees?' Cammie added.

                The driver raised an eyebrow. 'No. But even if I did, you'd need a few thousand to pay this debt.'

                Now even Arjun was at a total loss. 'Do you accept slaves?' He asked.

                The man laughed. 'I take it this is your first time in Australia.'

                'Yes, sir.'

                'You must be Nepali.'

                'Yes, sir.'

                'I'm guessing those four are also Nepali.'

                'Yes, sir. How?'

                'They are short. But not you - how odd. Anyway, those two are Indian?'

                'Yes, sir.'

                'Well anyway, I'm sorry I can't help you - I really need this money. Got anything valuable?'

                The group members stared at each other. Finally, Suneep stepped forward. 'Take this,' he said. The man held out his hand and received a ring. 'It's gold.' Suneep explained. 'Probably worth more than you are charging.'

                The man seemed dubious. 'How do I know you're not lying?

                'What makes you think I'm lying?'

                'You're Nepali.'

                Suneep just smiled. 'That is racist. It is pure gold. Bite it if you have to.'

                The man frowned and began starting the engine. 'I know where you're staying...'

                Suneep nodded. 'Yes, I know. That is why I have given you my real gold.'

                The man smiled, and sped away.

                For a while, the group stood still, staring after the car. Then Arjun broke the silence.

                'What is that ring? You always have it, and you are not married or engaged.'

                Suneep shrugged. 'Nothing.'

                Arjun eyed his friend closely, as the others moved inside. 'It was special.' He insisted.

                Suneep shook his head; the most flat he'd been since they boarded the plane. 'No. Just a ring.'

                The group headed inside, and Arjun followed them. Suneep stood very still, staring after the car, remembering one particular night of his life.

 

            'Won't you be broke?' One of his friends had asked. Suneep had only raised his eyebrows and turned away.

            Every-one had been speaking happily – they were in a restaurant - and the place was so loud that Suneep could hardly hear Liberty, next to him.

            'You've moved your ring!' She cried, picking up his hand. 'It was on your index finger this morning... and every other day. Now it's on your ring finger!'

            Suneep withdrew his hand and smiled. 'Ooo...'

 

Then, sighing sadly, he followed the group into the hotel.

 

 

It was probably the ugliest hotel any of the men had ever seen, and was basically a concrete block in the middle of a concrete courtyard right off the freeway, but it was cheap. So therefore, Arjun would not let anyone complain.

                Arjun had checked the rooms on the internet before deciding to come here, and knew that there would be a small bathroom, tiny kitchen area in the first room (which would have a double bed), and another little room to the side with three beds in. He also knew that – while the rooms were cheap – they could not afford more than one room. So he carefully arranged his friends in such a way as to make it look like there were five of them instead of seven.

                The friends managed to convince the hotel receptionist that there were only five of them, and sneaked into one room. Upon entering, they carefully locked the door.

                'I feel a little bad about lying.' Chandan reflected.

                'Do not.' Arjun consoled him. 'We could not afford two rooms.'

                Suneep smiled and turned to Bikram. 'Good job hiding behind Arjun and Camel.'

                Bikram smiled too. 'You also good job.'

                Arjun seemed a little more relaxed now, and began inspecting the room. Suneep followed him. Moments later, he fell into fits of laughter.

                'What?!' Mehmet cried, rushing over to them.

                'There are three single beds!' Suneep cried. 'And one double! Who wants to share!?'

                Suneep continued laughing, and Arjun tensed. Chandan smiled and winked at him. 'You know we will be forced.' Arjun nodded.

                'Arjun!' Bikram called. 'Arjun, because this was his idea!'

                Josha nodded. 'And Chandan, because he won't argue.'

                Chandan smiled and turned to Arjun. 'Told you so.'

 

Arjun lay on his side, away from Chandan, and as close to the edge as possible. Chandan was snoring, and Arjun could almost feel himself going insane.

                'Make him stop!' Suneep groaned from the other room. Arjun did not reply.

                'Arjun!' Bikram suddenly hissed. 'I will kill you!'

                Arjun replied now. 'It is Chandan!'

                'Kill him!'

                Arjun sighed. 'Have you finished yet?' He asked.

                'No.' Josha replied. 'Every-one is too good player.'

                'This is boring.' Mehmet groaned.

                'Do you really think 4 will fit in one bed?' Josha asked.

                'They'll have to.' Came Camel's reply. Then, 'woo-hoo! Not my problem! A royal flush!' The others groaned. 'Mehmet is poker champion!' He continued, doing some ridiculous dance moves.

                'Does the loser of this one have to share?' Dandin asked.

                'No, next one.' Suneep answered.

                Camel continued dancing over to his bed. 'Good night, losers!'

                'Be quiet, dai, or I will kill you and Chandan.' Bikram called.

                Arjun waited impatiently for the next two games to finish. It wasn't hard to tell who had lost.

                'No!' Suneep groaned. 'Two kings, how can you... two aces?! This is rigged!'

                Danny laughed. 'Go to bed, bhai.'

                Suneep frowned and stood up. 'I will wait to see the next loser.'

                Danny looked at Josha, who looked at Bikram. 'You're on.'

                Bikram raised an eyebrow confidently, and Josha put down all his cards. 'None were good,' he explained, picking up 5 more.' Danny only put one card down.

                'Ready?' Bikram asked. The others nodded.

                Josha went first. 'Two queens.'

                Danny smiled, and Bikram chuckled. 'Three aces!' He cried triumphantly. 'Yes!'

                Bikram readied to do a victory dance, when Danny said, 'wait.'

                Bikram panicked 'What?! What you have?!'

                Danny smiled. '5 of a kind.'

                'No!' Bikram cried. 'No, no, no!'

                Arjun sighed. 'You didn't lose. Josha did.'

                'Not true!' Danny replied.

                Bikram was confused. 'No! Josha lost!'

                Josha turned to Danny, and the two smiled.

                'You lose.' Danny teased, jumping into bed.

                Josha smiled too, and suddenly scrambled into the last remaining bed. Bikram did not react well.

                'No!' He cried. 'I won! Get out, get out!' He tried to push Josha out of the bed, and fought him like a child.

                Danny laughed. 'Just go, Bikram.'

                'Why me!?' He cried, close to tears. 'You know I don't do well without sleep!'

                'You will sleep!' Mehmet grunted, half asleep himself.

                Bikram stood perfectly still, unable to process this information. Suneep sighed, and turned to the double bed.

                'If we had spare sheets we could have just slept on the floor.'

                'But we don't.' Arjun concluded. 'So get in.'

                Suneep sighed and crawled in next to Chandan, who was still snoring. Bikram mournfully fit in between Suneep and Arjun.

                'Goodnight.' Josha teased, turning out the lights.

                There was silence. Arjun turned further to his left, nearly half off the bed. Bikram lay on his back with his arms crossed. Suneep lay on his right side, centimeters away from the back of Chandan's head. Chandan snored.

                'Kill him.' Bikram moaned.

                Suneep sighed, and hit Chandan quite hard on the arm. Surprisingly, his tactic worked.

                'Good work.' Bikram congratulated.

                Suneep smiled. 'I am good assassin.'

                Arjun sighed. 'Don't say that.'

                Suneep frowned, as he realised what he'd done. Then, nodding, he replied, 'at least he is asleep.'

There was a depressing silence, in which everyone fell asleep.

 

When morning came, Suneep lay curled up next to Chandan, whose head rested on Suneep's shoulder. Bikram lay stretched out across the bed, and Arjun wasn't even on the bed. It was he who awoke first, and stood up. After staring at the bed in horror he cried, 'Bikram!'

                Bikram woke up and smiled. 'Namaste, bhai!'

                'You pushed me out of bed!' Arjun cried.

                'Sorry.'

                There was a scream, and Chandan and Suneep woke up.

                'Too close!' Suneep called.

                'Me too close?!' Chandan shot back. 'I was the one on the edge!'

                Suddenly, the other room filled with laughter.  Arjun frowned and opened the door, making the laughter stop.

                'Get ready to go.' Arjun said. 'We need jobs.'

                'Who wants to make bet?!' Mehmet called.

                'What bet?' Suneep replied.

                'If any-one gets job today, I will sing Hindi.... no, Bollywood... love song on the street - dancing! For money.'

                Danny laughed. 'And if no-one does?'

                Mehmet smiled. 'Then they sing song about me.'

                'To you?' Josha checked.

                'Yes, me only.' Mehmet assured them.

                Suneep chuckled and jumped out of bed. 'You're on.'

 

 

 

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