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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17. Chapter Sixteen: The 7 Victims

 

 

Despite his angry threats and spiteful snickers, Suneep didn’t really want to get in trouble at all. So he made himself circle the main building three times before he realised he was finally calm enough to do thing properly. Alyssa would still be angry with him, but there was no real reason for him to get in trouble this way.

            Suneep had hardly paid any attention to the tree by the main building, but that night it became very important. He climbed up it easily and was soon at the balcony. He saw Ardi and Alyssa taking their laundry off the line and smiled. Then, suddenly, he stepped out of the tree and into the light. Alyssa screamed, and dropped the basket she was holding. Ardi's mouth fell open in shock. Liberty stepped out, and frowned immediately.

            'Suneep? What are you doing here?'

            'I've come to get in trouble.'

            'I'm not helping!' Alyssa cried, beginning to leave. Suneep quickly scooped her up, and held her like a small child.

            'Yes, you are.' Alyssa struggled, and was very angry at Suneep, but he only held tighter and smiled. 'You have not even heard my idea yet. Stay still.'

            'Put me down!' She cried, truly panicking. Suneep felt sorry for worrying her, and instantly set her back down.

            'I am sorry, bhainee.' He said, choosing his words carefully. 'But I only came here for your help.'

            'You should be sorry!' Liberty cried vehemently. 'Climb back down the tree and go back to where you came from!'

            Suneep sighed and turned back to Alyssa. 'Please help me.'

            'You want to get in trouble?' Ardi asked. 'After all your hard work?'

            Suneep realised how ridiculous his excuse seemed, and sighed again. 'Not quite.'

'           You want to be told off.' Ally correctly guessed. 'Well fine, I can arrange that. Now go!'

            Suneep smiled. 'You will help?'

            Ally nodded. 'Yes – if you go.'

            'Are you demented!?' Ardi cried. 'Why do you want to be told off?'

            Alyssa smiled. 'He has not gone for more than two weeks without being told off a little.'

            'Idiot!' A voice suddenly cried.

            Suneep jumped, and ran away from the edge.

            'See?' Alyssa pointed out. 'He doesn't want to get in any real trouble.' Then, walking over to the bannister, she peered over. 'Bikram! Why do you insult me thus?'

            'Not you, bhainee, you know who.'

            Ardi ran over to the edge, eager to cover up. 'I don't.'

            Bikram sighed. 'Suneep jyu kahaa hunuhunchha?'

            Ardi caught the sense of his words and replied, 'why would I know?'

            Alyssa rolled her eyes. 'Suneep jyu tyahaa hununhunchha.'

            Bikram smiled. 'Well done, bhainee! You are getting very good at Nepali!'

            Suneep appeared by the bannister, and Bikram frowned. 'Timi ahilay k gardai chhau?'

            'I am not doing anything!' Suneep replied. 'I've been up here for five minutes!'

            'What were you thinking? You know how much trouble you will get in if you stay up there!'

            Suneep smiled. 'Yaap.'

            Bikram sighed and scurried up the tree.

            'Whoa! What are you doing, bhai?' Suneep cried, panicking.

            'We will get in trouble together.'

            'No!' Suneep cried. 'No! Okay, I will be honest! I want two seconds alone with Alyssa. Two seconds! You can all watch if you have to, so long as you can't hear.'

            The three frowned, and Alyssa awkwardly followed Suneep to the other side of the balcony.

            The two spoke a lot longer than Suneep had made out, and did not stop for half-an-hour. Finally they finished, and the three tried hard to analyse each person's face. Suneep seemed hopeful and embarrassed, while Alyssa seemed embarrassed and excited.

            'Thank you, dear.' Suneep said, climbing into the tree. 'I will see you tomorrow.'

            Why couldn't you have done this then?' Bikram sighed.

            'It was too important.' Alyssa explained, surprising every-one. 'And dai, do not do anything stupid.'

            Suneep smiled, winked at her playfully, and scurried down the tree.

            Alyssa turned to her friends, said, 'we're not getting him into trouble, okay?' and then walked off.

            Bikram sighed. 'What?' Then he scurried after Suneep.

            Suneep did his best to avoid his room-mate, but was very unsuccessful. As soon as the two were in their room, Bikram cried, 'what is going on?!'

            Suneep smiled happily. 'I had a brilliant idea. But, of course, brilliant ideas cannot wait long. I graduate this year.'

            'Aren't you going to do your masters too?' Bikram interrupted.

            Suneep raised his eyebrows happily. 'Not if all goes well.'

            He carried his pajamas to the bathroom and shut Bikram out, leaving him completely confused.

 

Every-one stared as Suneep queued in the breakfast line.

            'Suneep!' Pramaad cried. 'Good to see you up so early! And dressed so nicely.'

            Suneep smiled. 'Thank you, friend.'

            'When did you get your hair cut? It looks nice and neat.'

            Suneep's smiled widened. Yes, his hair was short and neatly parted now, though a little spiked at the front. 'I got it done earlier this morning by some-one on the street.'

            'Looks good.' Calvin finished, walking off.

            Suneep had a good morning, which only improved when he saw Alyssa. 'Good morning, Ally.' He greeted her. 'How are you today, dear?'

            'Good thank you, dai. Nice outfit. I like the way your clothes reflect your emotions.'
            Suneep didn't exactly appreciate this, but he knew it was true. Today, he wore jeans that actually fit him. He'd had them brought up so he didn't tread on the cuffs, and wore a belt for good measure. He wore a checkered blue shirt over a white T-shirt, and looked very smart. Even his black Converses didn't look too worn.

            'I am handsome.' He teased.

            Alyssa laughed, and Suneep playfully hugged her. 'Do not, dai!' She cried. 'People will talk.'

            He picked her up like a child and quickly put her down on a nearby ledge. 'I will have to call you bhainee, bhainee.'

            'Dai. Just because you call me your little sister does not mean any-one will see it that way.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows and shifted happily. He was on a sort of high, and continually moved.

            Alyssa laughed. 'Dai, you are so sweet.' Then, as an afterthought, she added, 'and you look very nice, as always. But especially nice today.' Smiling at him lovingly, she whispered, 'you just get better every day, Suneep. I will pray it continues.'

            Suneep smiled as she walked off, and wondered that he never knew her. Then he remembered his task for the day, and set about it.

 

Suneep took many people out for dinner that night, with Dr. Ashwin's permission.

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

            Every-one spoke happily, 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...'

            'Is that what you spoke to Alyssa about last night?' She gasped, grabbing Shaktiah's hand. The young woman was sitting next to Liberty, and Suneep was grateful no-one had noticed what she was doing. 'You have a ring!' She cried. 'On your ring finger!'

            Shaktiah smiled. 'You must not tell any-one. We cannot get married until June at least, when we graduate.'

            Liberty was so excited. 'I can't believe it!' She cried. 'That's so exciting!'

            Suneep smiled at Shaktiah, who smiled right back at him. Alyssa – directly across from Liberty – shook her head. 'Suneep, you are the worst secret keeper in the world.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Not so bad.'

            'Don't tell Ardi.' Shaktiah suddenly said. 'Or every-one will know.' The others laughed, as this was certainly true.

            'So we're celebrating then?' Liberty cried.

            'Ssh!' Suneep warned. 'But yes, we are.'

            Liberty raised her glass, and the four had a secret toast to Suneep and Shaktiah.

 

Over the next few months, Suneep continued to improve, and occasionally even wore suits. He never wore any other shoes but Converses, but this seemed to relieve people more than bother them. It remained as a constant that they could rely upon.

            Contrary to Alyssa's wishes, Suneep continued to treat her like his little sister openly, and – as she had feared – people began to talk. But it didn't last long. One night, as every-one was playing cards, Suneep and Alyssa began arguing.

            'I didn't cheat!' Alyssa cried.

            'You did!' Suneep retorted.

            'Suneep, what does it matter?' Shaktiah asked.

            'It matters because she is lying!'

            'I'm not lying!'

            'Then explain how there are five fours in the pack.'

            'I put down four fours.'

            'Yes, and Arjun put one down too!'

            'Maybe Arjun cheated!'

            'I did not cheat!' Arjun replied quickly. 'I only cheat in cheat!'

            'Why don't you believe me?' Alyssa cried.

            'Because.'

            'What's that supposed to mean?'

            Suneep shrugged. 'I have no reason not to believe you.'

            'Then why are you calling her a liar?' Arjun asked.

            Suneep shrugged again. 'I'm in a bad mood, and she is my bhainee. She'll get over it.'

            Arjun was horrified at first, but then chuckled a little. 'I suppose I see your point.'

            'Suneep!' Alyssa cried, throwing down her cards. 'You've been in a bad mood all day. I don't know why, but if you don't stop, I'm leaving.'

            'Do not tease me, Ally. You get me excited.'

            'In that case I'll stay.'

            'In that case I'll make it so unbearable for you that you'll have to go.'

            'Suneep.' Arjun warned. 'She might be like your bhainee, but remember she is not your bhainee, and may not like having to put up with your moods.'

            Bikram chuckled. 'I can't even put up with your moods, Suneep.'

            Alyssa frowned at Suneep, who frowned back at her. 'Ouch!' Alyssa suddenly cried.

            'Did he just kick you under the table?' Bikram asked.

            'Yes!' Alyssa replied. After having put up with Suneep all day, her patience was beginning to wane. 'Suneep, you're the moodiest man I've ever met.'

            Here Suneep muttered something under his breath which only Alyssa caught.

            'That's it!' She shouted, suddenly switching personalities it seemed. 'I don't know what your problem is, Suneep, but you need to get over it. You have no right to treat anyone this way, and I intend to make sure you never forget that. Come with me now.'

            Suneep felt angry, but was curious as to what Ally would do. So he followed her. Bikram followed too, his face filled with pure delight.

            Alyssa led Suneep down the path to the far right of the BSI, where she dragged him into the chapel. The chapel was a huge building, with two levels, and many seats. The journey to the front was a long one, and Suneep wished Alyssa had taken him in the side door. Upon reaching the front, Alyssa promptly sat him down at the piano.

            'Play.' She instructed him.

            'No.' Suneep replied. 'I don't play piano any-more.'

            'That's stupid, of course you do. And if you don't, you should, because you're unbearable.'

            Suneep screwed up his face, and looked at Alyssa as if she were an ogre intent on killing him. 'I don't want to play!' He cried, standing up.

            'No, bhai, but you will!'

            Suneep gasped. 'Did you call me bhai?'

            'Yes, bhai, and I will continue to do so until you play!'

            'You are just like my mother and my older sister!' Suneep shouted. 'Bossy, bossy!'

            'Then why aren't you playing?' Alyssa returned.

            Suneep frowned, and sat back down at the piano. Bikram jumped, as there was a loud crash. 'I did it!' Suneep screamed.

            Alyssa frowned, and said nothing for a while. Then, hotly, she stormed out. 'I'm not putting up with you any longer!' She cried, leaving the room. Bikram giggled and walked after her.

            Suneep remained seated at the piano, angry as he had been all day. Occasionally he smashed the piano keys, as he realised it felt good. He didn't want to play. He only ever played when he wanted to please his parents, and it never worked anyway. He especially didn't want to try today, as he'd spoken to his parents that morning, and they did not believe a word he'd said about the improvement in his grades. They certainly didn't believe that he'd changed.

            Suneep was surprised Alyssa hadn't guessed what was wrong. Shaktiah had guessed, and carefully avoid her fiancé all day. But Alyssa hadn’t. And then she gave up on him.

            Something suddenly hit Suneep. This was a crucial moment. He could do one of two things. He could continue to throw a fit as he always did until he felt better, or he could get over it. Suneep realised that unless he chose option two, he hadn't changed at all.

            He took a deep breath and stretched out his hands. They were shaking, but after a moment of though, they stopped. Then Suneep played.

            It was a polonaise by Chopin – loud and aggressive. Every mote had to be attacked, yet restrained, or the piano would break. This theme continued for a while before entering into a sweet section. By the time Suneep reached the sweet section, he found he was more than ready to play it – and enjoy it too. The particular song he was playing he'd learnt only because Shaktiah had encouraged him to, and it brought back bitter-sweet memories.

            The piece ended too soon, Suneep thought. He sat staring at the piano and was surprised when Alyssa and Bikram came into view. They had been sitting in the back row.

            Alyssa smiled at him warmly, and then walked out for real. Bikram followed, more sensibly than Suneep had ever seen him act. He tore after the two, and caught up easily.

            'Ally!' He cried, catching the girl's attention. 'Didi, older sister, I am so sorry. I treated you very badly all day. Bikram, dai, I am very sorry. I know I have done the same to you.'

            Bikram's entire face lit up – an apology from Suneep was obviously the last thing he'd ever expected to hear.

            Alyssa only smiled lovingly. 'I forgive you, dai.' She replied. 'And you'd better call me bhainee. Otherwise people will think I'm bossy.'

            Suneep smiled too, and hugged his chosen little sister. Bikram felt a little left out, so turned it into a group hug. 'Brothers and sisters!' He cried, as the two let him in and formed a circle.

            'Bikram, you are so weird.' Alyssa laughed. She was often called weird herself.

            Bikram smiled. 'Thank you, bhainee.'

            'So, guess what, dai?'

            'What?'

            'Guess what I can say?'

            'In Nepali?'

            Suneep interrupted. 'Since when did you start learning Nepali?' He asked.

            'Since day two.' Alyssa replied. 'Bikram, dai, is my Nepali teacher. '

            'I taught her the word bhainee.' Bikram put in. 'We are very close.' He added, putting his arm around her. Alyssa eyed him with an amount of concern, and he laughed. 'Mafgarnus,' he aplogised. 'Mailay garnai parnay. I just had to do it!' He repeated in English, just in case she hadn't understood.

            Suneep laughed too. 'And... about my peino. Kasailai pani?'

            Alyssa nodded. 'I will tell no-one.'

            Bikram saluted. 'And nor will I, dai.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows at his friend – obviously on a sort of high – and the man began giggling nervously. His two friends walked off slowly, and Bikram began following. As soon as he did they ran.

            'Walk!' he cried after them.

            Alyssa stopped at the dining room, but Suneep kept going. 'Ma heddai cah!' He yelled. 'I am walking!'

Bikram laughed, and ran after his friend.

            Needless to say, every-one was extremely confused when the three came back, puffing and laughing happily.

            'What was that about?' Arjun asked, unusually outspoken.

            Suneep shrugged. 'April fools.'

            'It is not April.' Arjun returned.

            Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'I was born in April.'

 

Suneep awoke to the sound of a loud bang.

            'Bhai, what is happening?' He asked, rubbing his eyes. Bikram stood staring out the window in horror.

            The main building was on fire, and lit up the night sky eerily. There were men everywhere, some with guns, others with torches, and still others with long sticks.

            'Muslims.' Bikram eventually managed to stammer.

            Suneep's face fell, and he grabbed a hold of Bikram's hand. Then he ran, dragging Bikram behind him. The two ran to the wall, where Danny was with a ladder.

            'Are the girls over?' Suneep asked, pushing Bikram – who was completely stunned – over the wall. Fortunately for him, Chandan caught him on the other side.

            'Shaktiah is.' Danny confirmed. 'And Arjun, Mehmet, and Kannan have gone to get the others.'

            'I should go too...'

            'No! You will ruin their plan!'

            Suneep knew it was true, and felt torn. Then, before he could change his mind, he scrambled over the wall. The night was boring after that.

 

Every-one was depressed for weeks after the Muslim attack. So many people had died. Suneep and his friends particularly mourned Kannan.  But, one day, after not being able to find Alyssa or Liberty, he overheard Josha and Chandan speaking.

            'Danny does not seem sad.' Chandan whispered. 'It is strange!'

            Josha nodded. 'He is probably just in shock...'

            Suneep realised this was true, and wondered that he hadn't noticed.

            After dinner, Alyssa and Liberty suddenly re-appeared... around the same time as Danny did. Surprisingly, they no longer seemed sad either.

            'What have you been up to?' He asked.

'Nothing.' The two replied, mocking him by raising their eyebrows.

            The two went missing again the next morning, and came back after lunch. Danny remained missing all day. Then, just as the sun was beginning to set, the unthinkable happened.

            'Hindus!' Some-one screamed.

            Suneep stopped weeding (as it was manual labour hour) and froze in horror. 'Not again.' He muttered, as the men began attacking the BSI. People were screaming, and running around madly. Instinctively, Suneep ran to find Shaktiah, Alyssa, and Liberty. He found all three huddled together at the main gate.

            'Are you worried?' He asked. Alyssa and Liberty shook their heads.

            Suddenly, more men walked through the gates, carrying a tall, dark man. Alyssa's face fell, and she began walking after them. Shaktiah finally panicked, and ran away – towards the confusion.

            'Shaktiah!' Liberty screamed, running after her. Suneep also panicked, and followed Liberty.

            Shaktiah ran towards a family, with five little children. They were struggling to keep an eye on them all and were moving far too slowly. Suneep did not feel so frustrated with Shaktiah when he realised she was only helping.

            'Stop! Stop!' He heard a girl cry. It was Alyssa.

            Turning around, he saw one of the men hit her to the ground. In an instant he was furious, and tore over to the man, beginning to fight with all his strength.

            'Stop it!' He screamed. 'Don't you dare hit a girl!' He added.

            The men hit him back, but he ignored the pain. That was until he was hit in his weakest spot – his stomach. Falling to the floor, he doubled over in pain. Alyssa ran back into the fray and fought very well, until one of the men simply held onto her.

            Suneep knew he had to help, and struggled to his feet. Suddenly, Arjun came tearing past, and Alyssa was gone. The man that had been holding her was on the ground. Looking over, Suneep saw Arjun racing away with the girl, and so, smiling, he began fighting again.

            There was a bang.

            The world seemed to move in slow motion.

            'No!' Alyssa screamed, fresh tears coming forth.

            Suneep turned around and saw Shaktiah fall to the ground. 'No!' He screamed.

            The man Alyssa had been defending breathed his last, and the men began to leave. Suneep ran towards Shaktiah, praying that she was all right.

            'Shaktiah?' He cried, kneeling beside her. 'Shaktiah?' When he received no reply, he tried C.P.R. He continued this for several minutes, until an entire hour had passed. People were still running around madly, and Suneep was more or less ignored. 'Shaktiah!' He cried, glancing at his watch. His face fell, as he realised it was too late.

            Shaktiah was gone.

            'No!' He screamed, beginning to weep. 'No! Shaktiah! Shaktiah!'

            Apparently Danny had returned that instant.

            Apparently the police arrived too.

            Suneep didn't notice anything.

            All he could do was cry.

 

 

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