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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14. Chapter Thirteen: The 7 Guests

 

‘How exactly?’ The young men fulfilled Gopi’s expectations perfectly. ‘How exactly did he kill our man?’

 ‘I think you mean why.’ The boss interrupted, picking up on Gopi’s frustration. ‘But if you were interested in how, he shot him.’

          ‘Yes.’ Gopi confirmed. ‘He shot our man because he was convinced we had killed his cousin. He was not even particularly angry with the man of ours that he killed. It was, however, the only man he managed to find himself alone with for a sufficient amount of time.’

          ‘We have to discipline men like those.’ The boss took over. ‘Though usually we do so by firing them.’

          ‘We needed to keep Vijay.’ Gopi explained himself. ‘We had given him a person – a valuable resource. We could not afford to lose him, but his brother was expendable. He understood what we were doing and why we did it, though he mourned.’

          ‘I am sure he has never been completely loyal to us since that day.’ The boss mused, and Gopi rubbed his neck uncomfortably.

          He thought about rebutting the man’s statement, but could think of nothing to say. So at last he said, ‘no. I think, that day, we lost him forever.’

 

'No!' Mehmet screamed, throwing his pen away exhaustedly. 'I did not kill him! Danny did! He died in Hindu attack! Mind, you are confused!'

                Danny ran over to his friends and began shaking him. 'Stop it, Mehmet! Stop!'

                Arjun ran in, and turned to Danny. 'What is wrong?' He asked.

                'I killed him!' Mehmet cried again, his face filled with terror.

‘Ssh!’ Arjun tried to comfort his friend. ‘You are very tired. Go to sleep!’

Upon seeing Arjun, Mehmet cried, 'It was me, Arjun, and Kannan. We saved the girls! He can't have died in Hindu attack...'

                Arjun froze, as did Danny.

                'Is he confused?' Danny asked.

                'No.' Arjun replied. 'We did save the girls.'

                'But... Kannan died in Hindu attack.'

                'Doing what?' Arjun suddenly asked.

                Danny's face froze completely. He looked as if he didn't know what to say. But he eventually did shout, 'Arjun, he is confused! He has confused two events!'

                Arjun shook his head. 'I can't remember it myself, Dandin!'

                'I killed him!' Mehmet screamed again.

                Danny's mind raced, and Arjun began pacing the floor. 'Kannan died that night.' He said, confused. 'I am sure of it.'

                'Kannan did not die that night!' Danny protested. 'Why can no-one remember?'

                Arjun frowned in utter confusion, as Danny began to shake. Suddenly, Arjun stopped and turned to Danny. 'What are you keeping from me?' He asked. Looking into Danny's eyes, an image of Kannan hanging from the tree near the dining room flashed across his mind. 'That was Kannan.' He realised. 'That man was Kannan! Danny, I am so confused! Kannan cannot die twice! Explain yourself!'

                Danny shook his head in fear, as he replied, 'do not ask me! Ask any-one else! Ask Alyssa! Ask Liberty!'

Arjun frowned, but left the room anyway.

                Danny sighed with relief, and turned back to Mehmet, who had fallen into a fitful sleep.

                He knew exactly why every-one was so confused. He knew how Kannan had 'died' twice. He supposed, really, Mehmet and he had both killed Kannan. But for the most part it was him. Because – unlike what every-one thought – the Hindu attack was far more than a Hindu attack. The men who came after Danny were gang members, drug dealers... and they knew him too well to leave him be.

 

Mehmet awoke half-an-hour later looking more exhausted than he had before he slept. He was surprised when Danny instantly said to him, 'I need to explain something to you. Something about Kannan.'

                Mehmet turned expectantly to Danny, who began his story. Both jumped when Arjun burst into the room.

                'It makes sense!' He cried. 'Why you were not depressed weeks after Kannan 'died'. He moved his fingers. 'Why you suddenly kept slipping away, and why you suddenly became closer to Liberty and Alyssa. Kannan did not die that night, did he?!'

                Danny frowned and nodded. 'Would you also like to hear my story?'

                Arjun nodded, and Danny invited him to sit on the bed. Arjun sat down, and Danny began.

                'As I told Arjun, I was a street-kid. I don't have a clue as to my family. So I grew up with my friends. We joined a group that took care of us. They made us sell things. We did not like these people, but they provided us with the bare necessities, so we put up with them. Eventually, when we were older, we started selling drugs for them. Occasionally we would take the drugs and use them for ourselves. They provided us with momentary relief from pain.

                'I did not realise what a dangerous crowd I'd moved into until I became a Christian. I wanted to leave, but they said if I did, they would kill me. They swore on Krishna's name – I was not worried though, and went to BSI anyway. Each holidays I saw them, and one year they told me killing me would be useless. I was very happy they had decided this. Anyway, maybe through Facebook they worked it out, but they knew I was very close to Kannan. They made me talk of him often, and made me miss him very much.' He sighed, and looked up to see Arjun and Mehmet's confused faces. 'I thought Kannan had died, but when the ambulance came, they said there was still hope. He was not dead just yet. They took him to the hospital, and I went too. By the time I left, they assured me he would live. But on the way back I was surprised to see one of my childhood friends. He told me that the next time I walked down that street, I would die. And if any of my friends did, he would kill them. I was not worried, until he changed his mind and said if any-one else saw Kannan they would kill him. So I did not tell any-one. I would sneak around, and though no-one had noticed. Until one-day I left Kannan's room and saw Liberty and Alyssa staring at me. They had been suspicious, and Liberty had wanted to follow me. So, being a good friend, Alyssa had followed her once she realised she couldn't stop it.'

                Arjun smiled, obviously not surprised by these characterisations.

                'I tried to convince them not to see Kannan, and explained everything. I told them once Kannan was better he would go back to BSI, and would be safe. Eventually, Alyssa convinced Liberty not to see Kannan, though they both said to thank him very much.

                'That night, I received a message from my friend saying that Kannan would die. I told him no-one else had seen him, and they said they did not care. They were worried I would turn them in for drug dealing. I promised I wouldn't, but they refused to believe me. So the next day, very worried, I rushed to see Kannan. I wanted to save him. The girls followed me again, so I let them visit him. He appreciated this very much and made Liberty promise to marry him, against her will. He could not trap Alyssa into promising, that is why he chose Liberty. He saw her as second best.' Danny chuckled sadly, as the situation was typical of every-one. 'He was very happy after that meeting, because, of course, they left eventually. I do not think he knew many girls.' Danny added, laughing. 'I teased him of it at the time, and he only teased me back.

                'Anyway, I tried to convince the hospital to let me take him, and they would not let me. I tried to convince them he was in danger, but they obviously though I was crazy. I decided not to leave his side. But, of course, I could not be next to him all day. I literally left him for one minute, and when I came back he was gone. I looked everywhere all day, and checked the hospital again before I left. I asked how could they let him leave, and they said they thought the men were with me, and just granted their request because they were sick of my nagging.

                'So I came back to BSI. It was mad house! Every-one everywhere screaming 'Hindus!, all thinking that's what they were. Well, that's not all they were. Only Liberty and Alyssa knew, but they were not too worried. They knew if they just stayed hidden, they would be safe, unlike in the Muslim attack. Because these men were only out to hurt me – hurt me through one person.

                'I walked in and saw everything. Suneep crying, screaming next to some dead person – a girl, I think – and I was worried he would be hurt too. But when my former friends saw me, they ignored him. They pointed to the tree, and watched to see my reaction. You all know what I saw. Yes, Kannan was well and truly dead now.

                'As I screamed and cried, my terrorists ran off, leaving the damage behind. Alyssa passed me, crying, and I asked her if she had seen it. She had a bruised face, and nodded. She told me she had heard them coming, because Kannan had been screaming. She had come out, and they recognised her, so started telling her what they were going to do. She said as soon as Kannan saw her, he stopped screaming and started being smart, telling the man to hurry up and finish him off. He told her she should have said she would marry him, because it would have only made him happy. She would never have to do it.

                'He winked at her and smiled as they tied the rope around the tree. She ran forward, screaming at them to stop, and fought well, until one of them hit her across the face and she fell over. This is when Suneep notice, and ran over, crying and upset. He screamed at the men to stop, and told them not to hit women. He fought them, but they soon had him bleeding and writhing in pain on the ground,. Alyssa tried fight again, seeing it bought Kannan time, and did well until one of the men simply held her tight. You know how small she was. So they hanged him in front of her, though he shield and was very brave for her, like he had been for us.' He blinked back tears and continued. 'She said the men turned to her, and she would have been in trouble, if Suneep had not intervened with all his might. Then you, Arjun, came and took her away, while they pushed Suneep to the ground. She said the last thing she saw was the other half of their group kill the girl, and Suneep go running over to her screaming.'

                There was a long pause, as each man struggled not to cry.

                'So that is my conclusion.' Danny finished. 'And that is why I killed Kannan, and no-one noticed there was an issue. Every-one else was so upset; nothing made sense as it was.' Danny frowned and stopped speaking. He sniffed quietly, as he stopped crying.

                Mehmet spoke thoughtfully. 'Her name was Shaktiah.' He remembered. 'At least, that was what Suneep was screaming when I found him.'

                Arjun nodded sadly. 'Very beautiful girl. Sweet too. Sweet as they come.'

                Danny – for the first time – asked, 'why was he so upset?'

                Arjun shrugged. 'I suppose it is just another secret.' The other two smiled, as Arjun rose to leave.

                'I cannot wait to hear yours.' Mehmet teased.

                Arjun smiled very little, and left the room quietly.

 

It was painful to watch Ramuk try so hard to please his guests. He wanted to keep every-one happy, so showed two separate groups around his country. The poor man must have been completely exhausted by the end of the day.

                He ensured happiness over dinner by taking two groups out for tea, which meant he himself had his dinner in two parts. The seven friends went out of their way to seem pleased, and – by the end of the day – felt as exhausted as Ramuk. They were actually relieved when it was time for bed.

                Ramuk had a five bedroom house, and only occupied one. Dr. Ashwin and his wife had been given another, leaving three for the men.

                Danny and Mehmet had automatically put their belongings in the same room, and no-one had bothered to contend their decision. Arjun had been very surprised when Bikram had deliberately followed him, Josha, and Chandan into one room, and claimed the third bed before Arjun. As the three seemed quite happy with their group, Arjun had simply left, and resigned himself to sharing a room with Suneep. Walking into the room, Suneep looked up sadly from his bed.

                'Hello, bhai.' He muttered.

                Arjun closed the door, and began arranging his things. 'Did something happen between you and Bikram? He seemed to avoid you.'

                'Bikram is my follower. I cannot lose him.'

                'Yes, that is what I thought. But he stole my bed.'

                'In that case, I do not know what I have done.' there was a long pause, which Arjun eventually broke.

'What did you do?' He asked.

                Suneep shrugged. 'Honestly, nothing different. I think – I think he just felt uncomfortable with me. I was not myself.'

                Arjun nodded, taking off his shoes. 'You have not been yourself all day. Why did Dr. Ashwin upset you so much? Is it because he is right?'

                Suneep shook his head. 'I have heard it before. It hurt very much the first time, too. But it changed me – a little. For a while, I was different. Then I changed back. Arjun, I am so confused!'

                Arjun nodded. 'Dai, we all are.'

                Neither man said anything more, and soon the house was dead quiet. The traffic outside continued, and was loud, but the house itself was silent.

                Arjun awoke at midnight after having strange dreams involving a pianist. Once he had woken up                 properly, he realised he actually could hear piano music. He sat up and instantly noticed two things.

                'It's downstairs.' He muttered. Then, looking around the room, he pieced things together. 'Suneep is not here.'

                Arjun sneaked downstairs as quietly as possible, and followed the soft sound to a small room. Opening the door, Arjun walked in and quickly closed it behind him. The music immediately stopped.

                'Arjun!' Suneep cried. 'Did I wake you up?'

                'No, dai.' Arjun replied. 'But do keep playing.'

                Arjun took a seat and waited for his friend to begin again. At first, Suneep was reluctant. But after a while, he began playing again. At first he played mechanically, obviously disconcerted about being watched, but the further he progressed, the more it seemed as if Arjun was not even present; only Suneep and the piano existed, and they were one.

                Arjun was amazed. Not only did Suneep demonstrate perfect mechanical quality, but he poured an amazing amount of feeling and emotion into his pieces. He listened to a bright, happy fugue by Back, filled with energy and enthusiasm, followed by a dream, reminiscent sonata by Mozart. These were followed by a despondent piece by Chopin, which was instantly followed by a much brighter etude by the same man. Arjun was astounded as Suneep switched easily between styles and emotions, finally finishing with the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, which was so depressing, it made Arjun want to cry.

                Suddenly, Suneep stopped playing. Looking closely, Arjun could see silent tears rolling down his cheeks.

The man wore pajamas, but sat in so dignified a manner, he could have been wearing his suit. His tears, therefore, did not seem so pathetic, but dignified.

                'They were all beautiful.' Arjun said softly, afraid of shattering the mood.

                Suneep nodded. 'Beethoven is my favourite. He provides, order, clarity, torture, happiness, rebelliousness, and complacency. His works follow rules, but begin to break them. Yet, he always knows how far he can push things. That is why no-one liked him.'

                Arjun nodded. 'I see. I understand now.' Suneep did not reply. 'Suneep, will you please tell me about Shaktiah? About Alyssa? About everything?'

                Suneep quickly shook his head. 'No, bhai. Not unless you tell me something in return.'

                Arjun seemed disappointed, but nodded. Slowly, he stood up. 'Are you coming to sleep?' He asked quietly.

                Suneep nodded, looking very flat.

                Arjun opened the door carefully, and the two sneaked cautiously back to their room.

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