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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32. Chapter Thirty-One: The 7 Tools

 

 

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… but I don’t know what it is any longer.

          It is not aid - aid! From supposed ‘first world countries’. India does not need aid. If that was what it did need, then the first world countries would all be perfect little paradises, wouldn’t they?

          No, 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. What India needs is a common purpose – it is what the whole world needs. But they will only ever turn to a common goal when all else is lost.

          That is me. I have lost all.

          But I don’t know where to turn. I don’t know what to turn to.

          I stood for the liberation of India – I stood for its independence and the freedom of the people. I was going to be Gandhi, or Lincoln – I was trying to be the hero of India.

          I cannot even save myself. I have an entire organisation following me to possible death, and I can’t even save myself. It’s just that nobody else knows it yet.

          ‘We don’t have much time.’ He said, turning around to face his co-worker. ‘The minute our plans falls 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.’

          What personal reasons? Revenge? You are a fool to think that will satisfy you.

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

          Gopi growled a little out of necessity, to make his façade seem more realistic. ‘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.

          But his chai was just about freezing now.

 

Vijay jumped as three aggressive men walked into the room.

                'You believed him?' The first asked scornfully.

                Vijay panicked. 'His clothes were torn, and he was covered in wounds. Even his hair was a mess! Chandan is so particular about his clothes... I just figured he was for real.'

                'He was obviously relying on that!' The shortest man snapped. 'I mean, seriously, Vijay. Do you really believe he would want to join you?'

                'W-w...well.... there's not much he can do with what he learned.'

                'What did he learn?'

                'He learned about me, mainly. I told him everything I knew.'

                'Well that's a mercy.' The middle man, who had not yet spoken, sighed.

                Suddenly, several angry women burst into the room. 'He has taken her.' They cried.

                'Who?' Vijay asked tiredly.

                'Ardi!'

                'Yes, I gathered, but who has taken her? That Mikael fellow you mentioned?'

                'Arjun Mehtar!' The eldest woman replied, holding up a photo. 'Or at least this man. You wrote Arjun on the back.'

                'Yes, that's because his name is Arjun.' Vijay sighed.

                A phone rung and Vijay sighed when another man walked into the room.

                'Josha Saniv was seen with those 8 Australians that were stolen from us!'

                Vijay's eyes lit up. 'Where is he?'

                'We don't know. He's not at home.'

                Vijay sighed at the exact same time as another phone rung.

                'Vijay.' Liberty cried, running into the room. 'Suneep has taken the Australians, including Daniel and Stephen.'

                Vijay was appalled. 'Could this day get any worse?'

                Another man walked in, and Vijay realised it could. 'Sir, Danny has flushed out our H. Q.'

                'So.' He muttered. 'Arjun has kidnapped Ardi, Chandan knows all my secrets, Danny found H.Q., Josha rescued the Australians, and Suneep rescued the rest of them. What else is left? Bikram and Mehmet haven't been reported yet.'

                'These guys?' A woman asked, holding up the appropriate pictures. Vijay nodded. 'They were following Arjun.'

                Vijay sighed. 'Well, it looks like time to commence the next phase of our plan.'

                'Which Chandan knows about.' A man pointed out.

                Vijay nodded slowly. Then, smiling, he spoke. 'I know how to shake things up a bit.'

 

Chandan relayed his conversation with Vijay through his mind. He knew he couldn't get back to Arjun's house, or they'd all be together, and he'd decided he'd have to report everything over the phone.

                He'd been surprised when Vijay believed him.

                'Sir,' he had moaned, standing as if he were in great pain. 'I am tired of being followed and hurt. Please, just let me join you. I would rather help and be safe than rebel and be killed.'

                Vijay had been pleased. 'I always knew you'd be the first to come round. Please, take a seat.'

                Chandan had.

                'I'm not sure what there is for you to do, but, I don't know, maybe we've missed something. I'll tell you what the plan is, and you can decide.'

                Chandan nodded. 'Of course. And I know how to hurt everyone, because I have known them so long.'

                Vijay had begun explaining things. 'I joined them on the day of the picnic, because I wanted to protect my remaining relatives. I knew they would take the Australians, though I did not understand why at the time. I was angry when they killed my uncle, because they seemed to be breaking their promise to me. They apologised, but said it was necessary – they wanted to be able to accuse all of you of a crime. They said to make up for it I could marry one of the Australian girls, if I wanted. I don't know, I think they knew I was attached to Liberty. Then came that day when you all did such silly things – that sealed your fate you realise. They are very confident now.'

                Chandan nodded. 'Yes, we were very foolish.'

                Vijay continued. 'Look, as far as I know, this was the plan: get Vijay, Calvin, and Balraj, top spies. So they chose to hurt them through you. They want to be able to blame you for everything they do – which is why Arjun shall crash the plane.

                'They will kill all they have used because they are expensive to please. That includes me. They will kill you seven because they want to hurt Calvin and Balraj. They will kill the Australians through Arjun because he is loved by Balraj, and it will reflect badly on him. Because he works for the government, it will reflect badly on India – he will be forced to step down. And they said they would kill your families to beckon you back to India. Besides, they used Mehmet's family – they have to die anyway.'

                'So will they kill them?' Chandan asked.

                'I imagine so. It will make Balraj and Calvin seem even worse. Because I can assure you of one thing: Balraj and Calvin will not die. They will continue to be targeted until they surrender, like I have done.'

                'But you will die too!' Chandan cried.

                Vijay smiled a little. 'Look, at the end of the day I won't be hurt. I'll promise to say nothing, and walk off empty handed, and they will leave me alone. If I am lucky they will let me take Liberty. I hope they do.'

                These words pleased Chandan, and he smiled. 'So, at the end of the day, the only thing you get from all this is peace?'

                'Yes, after you are all dead. But I get another thing too.'

                Chandan was confused. 'What?'

                Vijay's face suddenly became twisted with anger and hatred. 'Revenge.' He said, speaking as if the word carried power in itself. 'Against you seven who killed my family.'

                'But we did not!' Chandan pleaded. 'You said so yourself, we were used!'

                'Yes, but if you had of just left us alone, my family would have been safe. You are still not innocent.'

                'We are innocent.' Chandan objected. 'I did not kill anyone! I did not!'

                Vijay turned around. 'Whatever. At any rate, none of this concerns you. You are all tools, being used in a game played by the government and its enemies. And – if you have seen the movies – you know what happens to the tools.'

                Chandan frowned. 'Yes, they die. But so do the enemies – they 'bad guys'.'

                Suddenly, Calvin and Balraj were dragged in.

                Supposedly, Calvin had been unable to resist the temptation to just check Vijay's house. He'd been spotted at the front gate, and he and Balraj (right behind him) were dragged inside, ruining Chandan's fun.

                His phone rung, and he was brought back to reality. 'Hello?'

                'Chandan? This is Liberty.'

                Chandan was astounded. 'You still have my number?'

                'Yes. Look, I have to confess something.' Her voice quivered, and Chandan knew she'd been crying. 'I wanted you to save the Australians – I really did. I gave you information... Chandan, I've been used! And I know.... I knew... if I didn't give them something in return, I'd die too.'

                'No! Liberty, Vijay loves you, he will save you!'

                'No, Chandan, I can't rely on that. I couldn't. So... I gave them some important information... about...' She paused.

                'About who!?' Chandan cried frustratedly.

                'About Alyssa!' Liberty replied, breaking down. 'I don't want to hurt her!' She sobbed. 'I'm so sorry! I don't know what I was thinking... I clearly wasn't thinking.'

                'Liberty, what did you tell them?!'

                'I told them she was married. They knew she married, because she told me. We kept in contact, Chandan. She told me a lot, but not enough to work everything out. Unfortunately Vijay knew the other half, and put two and two together... Chandan, he worked out where she is!'

                Chandan was amazed. 'Alyssa is married?'

                'Yes! And she has two small children! Chandan, I am so sorry, I didn't know Vijay knew so much!'

Chandan was angry, but knew Liberty meant what she said. 'It's okay.' He lied reassuringly. 'Everything will be fine. Thank you for telling me.'

                Then Liberty hung up.

 

Danny had learned so much in such a short amount of time. His friends were being used, forced to obey some men they knew nothing about.

                'Hanging Kannan was the worst.' Danny's favourite had choked. 'I am so ashamed. Our lives were at risk. But we should have been more brave and stood up for you.'

                Yes. They should have. There was so much they all should have done.

                They told Danny how they were told to show up every so often and give him a scare. They said they were powerless to harm him in any way – Arjun was meant to do that. Then the men had returned before         Danny could discover anything more, but he felt he had learned enough.

                His old friends were not his new enemies. After this was over, he could live in his hometown without fear of being hurt. He was hopeful.

                One call from Arjun ruined that hope.

 

Arjun threw himself on his bed. He was exhausted. Between calling everybody, destroying their hope, and trying to shut-up Ardi, he hardly had any energy left.

                'Arjun!' Bikram screamed, strangely high-pitched. 'She's attacking!'

                Arjun sighed. Not even two minutes.

                He walked back into the lounge room, glad his family was not yet home. As soon as Ardi saw him she stopped giving Mehmet and Bikram a hard time.

                'Ardi,' Arjun groaned. 'Please, just stop.'

                'You know what I told you!' The girl screamed.

                'And you know what I told you!' Arjun shot back. Ardi scowled.

                The phone rung and Arjun rushed to answer it. As soon as he knew who was on the other end, he rushed outside.

                'He is up to something.' Bikram observed.

                'Um...' Mikael interrupted. 'I'm getting married in two days. What do you suggest?'

                Bikram nodded thoughtfully.

                'The truth?' Mehmet suggested.

                'I can't do that 2 days before the wedding!' Mikael objected.

                'What can you do?' Mehmet returned. 'Die?'

                'You can confess to elopement.' Ardi said flatly.

                Mikael frowned. 'What?'

                'Well, you were in India shortly before your father arranged your wedding. You recently returned, and have been missing for a while. You could have married the first time, and if you want to look good say you did it to save the girl from having to marry a druggie.'

                Mikael gulped. 'I can't lie.'

                Ardi shrugged. 'You're not.'

                Mikael shook. 'B-but... I...' He stammered.

                'Yes, I know. You didn't mean to do that. You did it, Mikael. I warned you.'

                Mikael sighed. 'I am an idiot!' He cried.

                'No.' Ardi objected. 'Just mixed up in the wrong crowd. Look, I wasn't going to let you marry me until I realised you knew Joy. I only had to hope you'd run into Bikram.'

                'Wait,' Mehmet interrupted, 'Mikael, you are married to Ardi?'

                Mikael nodded.

                'So what's your problem then?!' Bikram cried.

                'I've used him.' Ardi explained. 'So he's in danger too. The last thing he needs is to appear in society with me by his side – it'll get him killed.'

                'No.' Arjun objected, re-entering the room. 'We will only be killed if we are all together, and that will never happen.'

                Ardi raised an eyebrow. 'What. We just never meet up again?'

                'No. We end this.'

                'How?'

                'I have a plan.'

                'I can't just call off a wedding!' Mikael cried, still on the previous topic.

                'I will come with you.' Bikram offered.

                'No, that's terrible.' Mikael retorted. 'I will go myself.' With this, the man stood up and left the house. He returned moments later. 'I need Ardi.'

                Bikram frowned. 'In that case, one of us must escort you.'

                Mikael frowned too. 'I choose Arjun.'

                Arjun sighed, and followed the two out of the house. Bikram cheekily ran after them, leaving Mehmet confused and alone.

 

Any good opinion Arjun had had of Ardi – however small – was completely gone. He had spent the past three years of his life worrying about the girl and feeling guilty for losing her, and what does she tell him when he finds her?

                He had bounded down the steep steps into the backyard where she was, his face positively shining.

'Ardi!' He cried, when he was nearly directly behind her. The girl was watering some plants, and dropped her watering can in fright.

                She had turned to leave.

                'Ardi!?' Arjun cried, holding her back. 'I've come to rescue you!'

                'I don't want to be rescued!' She screamed, trying to free her arm. 'Leave me alone!'

                Arjun's face fell. 'What? What have they done to you!? I'm rescuing you, returning you to freedom!'

                'I don't want freedom!' The girl shot back.

                Arjun's heart had stopped beating, he was sure of it. Ardi had always been the most independent girl, no matter where she was. To even imagine her saying those words was ridiculous, let alone actually hearing those words come from her mouth.

                'What have they done to you?' Arjun finally muttered, afraid.

                'Nothing, Arjun! I love it here. I'm a slave, sure, but they can't hurt me. I don't know why, but I'm valuable to them. No-one cares about the quality of my work – if I'm not kicking up a fuss, they're happy. They give me jobs, and walk off if I throw a fit. In the end I'm obliged to do most things, or else they don't get done. Arjun, there is freedom in slavery!'

                Arjun was astounded. 'I don't believe you. You must have been brainwashed.'

                Ardi laughed scornfully. 'Arjun, surely you have asked yourself this question: why did I not scream?'

                Arjun's face fell further.

                'Yes, that's right.' Ardi continued mockingly. 'You have. Well now you know the answer: I hate freedom.'

                Arjun blinked. 'You are a psychopath.'

                'Let me go.'

                'You put me through all that guilt for three years!' Arjun cried. 'Three years, and you just let them take you! Well, you are the most selfish girl I have ever met! Your family has been worried sick!'

                'You saw them in Australia?'

                'Very often, and thanks to you I found it difficult to ever look at them.'

                'Well, Arjun. It was not your fault I was kidnapped. Now let me go.'

                Arjun angrily let go of her arm, and eyed her hatefully.

                'See, Arjun.' Ardi continued. 'When I am a slave I don't have to worry about living up to people's standards. I just do what I'm told – simple tasks. Not nearly as complicated as trying to please everyone all at once. I'm free from that here.'

                'No you're not. While you are here, I worry about you. Your friends worry about you. Your family worries about you. They cry because of you. You are not free from hurting them – you are bound to it.'

                Ardi scowled, and anger rose in her suddenly. 'Leave me alone!' She had screamed, walking away.

                Arjun had frowned bitterly, and caught her easily. That was, of course, when the chase had begun.

                Arjun couldn't bring himself to tell everyone what Ardi had told him, though he figured Mehmet, Bikram, and Mikael must have worked things out by now. The only person he told was Alyssa, Ardi's introverted cousin. The girl seemed upset, judging from the sad face in her text, but did not sound overly surprised.

                One thing made no sense to Arjun.

                'Ardi, ' he began as they approached Joy's house, 'why did you want someone to find you?'

                'What?' The girl snapped.

                Arjun hardly even blinked. 'You said you used Mikael hoping Bikram would find you. Did you want freedom?'

                Ardi scowled. 'I don't know, Arjun. I like my life as it is. But as you said, I have caused so many people grief. I hoped to at least reassure them of my safety.'

                In spite of his strong dislike for the girl, Arjun felt good opinion slowly creep back in. Ardi utterly confused him, he would never like her. But he wanted to see a little good in her. Then, to his surprise, the girl continued talking.

                ‘I want you to know exactly what it is I’ve done, Arjun. I want you to know just how bad I am.

                ‘Arjun, when I met Mikael, he was touring Mussoorie. I was only occasionally distracted by the idea that people back home were worrying about me, but when I met Mikael… he asked me where I’d come from, and I replied that I’d been living at the BSI. He instantly asked if I knew Joy, and as soon as I heard they were engaged…’

                ‘I just had to tell some-one Arjun, and I wasn’t given access to internet and stuff. So I went out of my way to get Mikael on my side, and when he asked to marry me, I considered it a job well done. I guess… I guess I was trying to redeem myself. Make up for all the worry I’d caused everyone by sending an indirect message through Mikael.’

                The girl took a deep breath, keenly aware of how Arjun was staring at her. Yet she refused to turn and look at him.

                ‘My guardians let it slip that you seven were back, so I did what I thought I had to. I told Mikael to come back here and call things off with Joy. It was a long battle, but it looks like I won just at the right moment. He came back and met you here… though I believe it was his fifth attempt to tell Joy what was going on, so it wasn’t really that much of a fluke.’

                They were at the house now, so Arjun had no time to reply. As Mikael took Ardi's hand and led her to the front door of Joy's house, the girl did not even glance back at the man she had been talking to. Fair enough, Arjun thought. She knows what I think anyway. She doesn’t need to see the anger and disapproval written all over my face.

Arjun and Bikram obligingly watched from the exchange from a distance. Mikael knocked nervously on the door, and Joy’s father answered. He instantly called his daughter over, and that was when the explanations began.

                It was interesting to watch their reactions. Mikael slowly became more confident, and Ardi played the part of the confident, sweet, and friendly young bride. Joy seemed ecstatic, but at the same time tried not to smile too much. Her father frowned bitterly, and looked most disappointed. At the same time, though, he seemed to understand.

                'Good man.' Arjun could work out on his lips. Something about doing the right thing.

                Mikael and Ardi walked happily back to the two friends when things were arranged – or, rather un-arranged – and Arjun could make out one word from Joy to her father: Bikram. It was said as a question, to which the father hesitantly nodded. The girl gave a small, suppressed jump for joy and clapped, throwing her arms around her father shortly after. The man smiled lovingly, and shut the door to his house.

                Arjun smiled, warmed by this scene, and turned to see if Bikram had witnessed the ordeal. The sadness that filled his face, causing him to turn away, told Arjun that he had, but confused him at first. Then he worked things out.

                'We will end this.' He promised. 'We will be safe.'

                Bikram didn't even acknowledge his words.

 

Mehmet felt a little awkward about being left behind at Arjun's house, and so began cleaning. It was a little useless, as Arjun's house was always spotless, but he didn't want anyone to walk in and find him doing nothing. He began wiping down the bench, and jumped when the door opened. In walked Sara and Akash.

                Akash smiled when he saw Mehmet. 'Friend!' He cried. 'How are you?'

                'Good, thank you.' Mehmet returned. 'Are you?'

                Akash nodded. 'And so is Sara.'

                Mehmet smiled, and laughed. 'That is good to hear.'

                The three began chatting, the conversation was easy. For the first time in a while, Mehmet felt blissfully happy.

 

Chandan didn't like being with Calvin and Balraj, and was relieved when Danny offered to join him. The two met in Delhi, and were unable to shake the two 'spies'. In the end, they decided to be grateful the men followed from a distance.

                'So,' Danny began, 'what do we do now? Wait to die?'

                Chandan shrugged. 'Hope Arjun works something out. It's pretty much all in his hands. Now we know what they're up to it shouldn't be so hard to stop them.'

                Danny didn't seem to believe this at all.

                Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a group of men jumped out and smothered the mouths of the four. They struggled at first, but soon collapsed. They were then dragged away, without as much as attracting attention.

 

Suneep led the nine Australians to his house, where they received a warm welcome.

                Daniel and Stephen were finally convinced that they weren't Indians, and had even started referring to themselves as Daniel and Stephen, which was a relief.

                'Guess who else is here?' Suneep's sister cried, making his imagination run wild.

                'Who?' He asked.

                Josha stepped out, followed by 8 Australians.

                'Friends!' Suneep cried ecstatically. 'Josha, why have you brought them here?'

                'We were seen.' Josha explained. 'So I did not want to risk going home.'

                Suneep nodded enthusiastically. 'That is brilliant!' He cried. 'Now I must visit Arjun.'

                Josha shrugged, as Suneep left the house.

 

 Suneep reached Arjun's house an hour later, and was a little embarrassed driving up in a Ferrari. Still, his friends knew him now. What did they expect?

                Pleased at how much shorter the trip was by car, Suneep jumped out of his car, sunglasses masking the glaring sun. There was a cool breeze, and his hair and short-sleeved, blue checked shirt blew in the wind. It was unbuttoned, as always, with a white T-shirt underneath. Suneep had finally taken to wearing tailored jeans, and looked like a cool, neat, rich kid instead of a cool, lazy, rich kid.

                'Suneep!' A sweet voice called, and he turned around.

                'Brayna!' He cried back. 'How is my brain?' He put his arm around the girl, and she smiled.

                'Fine, thank you. Nice car.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Thanks. It was a present.'

                Arjun's father and mother were right behind him, and Mehtar tried hard to walk past the vehicle.

                'You must be very rich.' He remarked.

                Suneep nodded. 'My father anyway. Not me.' He paused and turned around, letting his arm slide naturally off Brayna's shoulder. 'Would you like to drive it?' He asked.

                Mehtar laughed nervously. 'No!' He cried. 'No, thank you! I wouldn't dare!'

                Suneep smiled, and raised his eyebrows playfully. 'It's absolutely ridiculous.'

                Mehtar continued to shake his head. 'I still say no, thank you.'

                Suneep chuckled, put the keys back in his pocket, and continued inside the house.

                'Namaste!' Mehmet cried as the four entered.

                'Jaimashi.' Suneep corrected automatically. 'You are Christian. Where is Arjun?'

                'Oh, he, Bikram, Mikael, and Ardi went to cancel a wedding.'

                Suneep nodded, whereas no-one else knew what he meant.

                'Just nod.' Akash teased.

                At that moment, the aforementioned people walked in.

                'Suneep!' Arjun cried upon seeing the man.

                'Arjun!' Suneep cried back. 'I have come to speak to you.' He slipped his sunglasses onto his head, and looked the taller man in the eyes.

                Arjun nodded. 'With the others?'

                'Yes, that's okay. I would have asked Josha to come, but I thought he should keep an eyes on the Australians.'

                Arjun smiled at the mention of the Australians. 'Good idea. Come on, Bikram, Mehmet. Mikael, you may as well come too.' Then, as an afterthought, he added, 'and Brayna.'

                Suneep chuckled – or giggled – triumphantly, and Brayna pumped her fist.

                The group went outside, where they began tossing ideas about what to do next.

                'I tried to cancel all flights out of Nepal.' Arjun said. 'But it did not work.'

                'I'm not surprised.' Suneep said, trying not to smile. 'I have an idea.' Arjun smiled, but let Suneep continue. 'I think we will end up together and on that plane no matter how hard we try. So we need to work out what to do then. And you, Arjun, must to the exact opposite of what you want.'

                Arjun nodded. 'Yes, that is true. But this could take years! This is not a solution at all!'

                'I think we should get together.' Suneep concluded. 'It will hurry things up, and we know their plan. They cannot surprise us anymore.'

                Arjun tensed. 'Yes they can. It is a bad idea.'

                Suneep frowned. 'I did not think it was that bad.'

                'You have not thought things through. We must not do that. It is far too dangerous.'

                'I like it.' Bikram and Mehmet said at the same time.

                'I think we should just wait.' Ardi put in, and Mikael agreed.

                Arjun turned to Brayna, who replied hesitantly. 'Why not take the initiative?' She asked. 'Find them, arrest them.'

                Suneep smiled. 'I like that.'

                Arjun did too.

                'She is a brain.' Mehmet said, making Bikram giggle.

                'So who do we arrest?' Suneep asked.

                'Vijay.' Ardi said decidedly. The others nodded.

                'Should we just call the police?' Mikael asked. 'Why has no-one done that already?'

                Arjun looked away, and Suneep paled. 'There were not enough witnesses.' He stammered. 'We should be safe.'

                'There could be false witnesses.' Arjun muttered.

                Brayna frowned. 'So? What stupid things did you do that landed you into this stupid game of hide and seek?'

                Suneep smiled. 'I told you mine.'

                'It is bad,' Arjun continued, 'because a court case would become messy. They would be attacked and guilty, and we would be attacked and guilty.'

                'We are not innocent.' Mehmet muttered, wishing they were.

                Arjun sighed. 'I do not think we should attack them unless we are willing to keep hostages. We must not involve the police. That is understood on both sides. To do so would be fatal for everyone involved.'

                Brayna was disturbed, but did not press her brother to explain. 'So you'll wait?' She asked.

                'Well...' Suneep began. 'They don't have anything to drag us together.' Arjun tensed, and Suneep frowned. 'Do they?'

                'N-no... assuming our families stay safe. And, of course, Alyssa by herself, with her children. I am afraid what Vijay will do to them.'

                'I think he was bluffing.' Suneep answered Arjun. 'Trying to upset his wife, and us. Don't worry.' Arjun nodded, slightly relieved. 'So,' Suneep continued, trying to lighten the mood, 'seeing as Chandan and Danny are miles away, shall we go for a picnic with the Australians? I know a lovely place up in the mountains.'

                Mehmet was uncertain. 'Rain is forecast.'

                Suneep shrugged. 'It is sunny now.'

                Arjun smiled. He seemed to like this idea.

                'Yes!' Brayna cried happily. 'Let's go!'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows and called home. 'Hey,' he said, as his mother picked up the phone, 'want to go for a picnic?'

 

Arjun looked around and smiled. All the Australians were present, with the obvious exception of Liberty and Alyssa. His entire immediate family was present, as was Suneep, Josha, and Bikram's. Mikael made friends easily, which was good, as he was completely surrounded by new people.

                This was the perfect place for a picnic. It was isolated, high up, green, and the views were beautiful. Arjun sat on the side of a hill and enjoyed the warm sun and cool breeze. His eyes feasted on the miraculous view of the Himalayas lit up by the noon day sun, and green vegetation blowing in the wind. Lower down were people and villages, and the sounds of traffic, now inaudible. It was paradise.

                Sitting on top of a mountain in quiet contemplation, Arjun felt a strong sense of peace. Looking down at people it became clear how small they were, and – looking up at the majestic mountains – it became clear that people were nothing really, not even in comparison to the Himalayas. But they had all been made by one Being, far greater than all of them put together. Arjun sighed happily, as he remembered God was in control of all things. Not him, not Vijay.

                There were black clouds approaching fast behind Arjun, but he managed to ignore them. He knew it would rain eventually, but that would wait. For now he would be happy.

                Hours passed before the sky darkened.

                'We should probably go.' Mehtar suggested, standing up.

                Arjun nodded, and brought himself to reality. He regretted it has soon as he had done it. For at that moment, a car pulled up.

 

 

 

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