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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34. Chapter Thirty-Three: The 7 Men

 

Suneep ran through thorn and thistles, if there were any, and did not stop running until he reached a village. At this point he had to stop, but – puffing heavily – he walked quickly.

                He looked at the child he was carrying and smiled. He was always slightly frightened of children, but at the same time he was strangely drawn to them. This child had his affection at once.

                'You're so cute!' He cried, going all soft and mushy. 'How old are you?'

                The boy held up three fingers.

                'You can speak English?'

                He nodded.

                'No, I don't think you can speak.'

                'I can!'

                'No you can't.'

                'I did!'

                'Is someone speaking?'

                The little boy had obviously hear this before, and replied, 'you are.'

                Suneep laughed, and tousled the boy's hair. 'Hey, what's your name?'

                'Zaddok.'

                'Zaddok? Like in the Bible?'

                The boy nodded.

                'So you are a Christian?'

                'Yes. Are you?'

                'Yes, I am. So do you have a nick-name, or are you always called Zaddok?'

                'I am called Zack.'

                'Pleased to meet you, Zack. I'm Suneep.'

                The boy smiled, but said nothing further. He simply leant his head against the man's chest.  'Thank you for carrying me.' He said eventually. Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

                Suneep felt a strange feeling of love, warmth, and protection overwhelm him, and was unsure as to what to do. He held the child a little tighter so that he wouldn't drop him and continued walking.

                'So cute.' He muttered again, smiling at the child's sweet head. 'Now where will I dump you?'

 

Suneep had run into a family he knew, given them a child to babysit, and run off. Almost as soon as he had he was dragged into a car. He supposed he must have been drugged, for when he awoke he was on a plane.

                He was on a plane.

                Suneep paled at once.

                'I have to get off!' He cried, trying to undo his seatbelt. Why wouldn't it come loose?!

                The man next to him frowned at him obscurely, but Suneep ignored him. 'Stupid buckle!' He shouted.

                'Suneep!' Came a voice.

                It was Mehmet's. 'Be Arjun!'

                Suneep frowned like the man next to him. 'Arjun is going to...' he paused, keenly aware of everyone else. 'You know. Where is everyone?'

                Mehmet nodded to the next section. 'Down there. But Suneep, if we are Arjun, we are unpredictable too.'

                'But what on Earth would Arjun do?'

                Mehmet frowned too now. 'Okay, I don't know. How about we be me instead?'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Does it involve singing?'

                Mehmet nodded, and the two loudly began singing out of time, deliberately.

                Meanwhile, the Australians were being as difficult as possible.

                'How long is it to Australia?' Josiah – the eldest – asked one of the air hostesses.

                'First we go to Singapore.' The woman began. 'And then...'

                'I'm sorry.' Stephen rudely interrupted. 'I don't understand your accent.'

                Liberty was nowhere in sight, so Vijay must have had his way. Ardi and Mikael were having a loud discussion about plane crashes and unsettling the other passengers. Arjun was nowhere in sight. Suddenly, there was a small sob. Suneep looked behind him and saw Alyssa.

                'Ally!' He cried. 'Why did you not say hello?!'

                'They took my children!' The girl wept. 'I could not fight them.'

                Suneep's face lit up, shocking his friend entirely. 'Is one named  Zaddok?' He asked, to which she nodded eagerly. 'Then they are safe! Or at least he is. I rescued him before. Actually, Arjun did. He was very worried.'

                Alyssa relaxed a little upon hearing this.

                'Get a move on!' A voice cried, and Arjun was pushed into view.

                'Arjun!' Alyssa cried, her face lighting up. Suneep figured he'd be excited to see his son's hero too.

Arjun's face also lit up, and he smiled at her in that peculiar way that he had used to. He sat down next to Alyssa, and they hugged one another tightly. Suneep raised his eyebrows when Alyssa clung on to him, afraid to let go.

                'Don't worry. Arjun will save us.'

                Arjun laughed bitterly. 'If we are saved it is by God, not by me.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows again. 'Do not worry. God will save us.'

                The plane began taxing, and Arjun knew what he had to do. So he didn't do it.

                Slowly, the plane began speeding up. A horrible though entered Arjun's mind.

                'What is my being unpredictable is predictable?' He whispered. 'They could have predicted I would do the opposite of what I want!'

                Suneep's face fell upon hearing this.

                'What is the plan?' Alyssa asked, not really believing there was one.

                Arjun was shaking. 'I must stay put. I must not do anything.'

                Suddenly, Chandan and Josha stood up.

                'Help!' Chandan screamed, as Josha held onto his head. 'He is having a stroke!'

                The air hostesses came rushing over, and things were going along smoothly.

                Alyssa turned to Arjun, whose face was aghast. 'This is your plan?' She asked slowly.

                Arjun shook his head. 'My plan was the opposite of my plan: to do nothing.'

                Alyssa smiled. 'So Chandan and Josha are saving the day!'

                The plane was ascending steadily, and still had much more to go, when suddenly it stopped.

                Arjun frowned. 'Don't you think we are too low?' He asked.

                Suneep turned around and shook his head. 'I think the pilot knows what he's doing.'

                Arjun wanted to say something, and so he didn't.

                'We're going to make an emergency landing.' The pilot's voice came over the loudspeaker. Arjun panicked.

                Was this how it would happen? Would they crash and die now?

                The landing was smooth, and Chandan and Josha were led out quickly. Suneep finally managed to unbuckle his seat belt, and rushed out of the plane with all his other friends.

                'Something is wrong!' Arjun cried, as they left the airport, ignoring cries of, 'you will miss the flight!' 'We did not die!'

                An ambulance arrived, and began running tests on Josha. Smiling, Chandan came up to Arjun.

                'While in my abusive 'home' I learned a great skill: to not breathe when suffocated with drugs. So they thought I was unconscious and I heard their plan. They were relying on your doing nothing. They had someone working in the flight control tower who had given the pilot the wrong co-ordinates. He would have flown right into another plane. Supposedly they were going to be able to blame the wrong co-ordinates on you, but I don't see how that works. They mentioned the phone calls you made to the airport asking them to cancel flights or something... anyway, Josha and I worked together to come up with this brilliant plane, which involved warning the security guards and faking a stroke, and we are alive!'

                Arjun was still not at ease. 'Balraj said it would not end until we died. We must still die!'

                'No.' Josha stepped in. Looking around, the ambulance was no-where to be seen.

                'Knew the paramedic.' Chandan explained. 'He was in on it.'

                Josha continued. 'Someone must either die to end this, or it must all be exposed.'

                Arjun nodded. 'Yes, I say we risk going to jail.'

                'That is easy for you to say!' Suneep cried, worried.

                'No it's not.' Arjun returned. 'It is very hard.'

                'Who do we tell?' Bikram asked.

                'I know!' Brayna cried, surprising everyone.

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'The brain has an idea.'

                'The media!' Brayna cried. 'Say it's a leak!'

                Suneep was amazed, and high-fived the girl eagerly. 'Brain, you have a brain! That is fantastic! Then we will tell our stories and win so much sympathy... it is awesome!'

                Arjun was astounded. 'To think it was that obvious... it can even be anonymous!'

                Suneep and Mehmet were doing some sort of victory dance, and Bikram was giggling.

                Danny spoke up. 'There is much to be organised.' He pointed out the obvious. 'Why don't you organise everyone's lives, Arjun, and Bikram and Chandan can organise the article? They are good at creating sob stories.'

                Arjun laughed, relieved. 'Yes, okay, that is a good idea.'  The Australians raised their hands immediately.   'Yes?' Arjun asked David.

                'I kind of want to go home.' The man said, echoing all of the Australian's wishes. 'Can I get back on that plane?'

                'Yes!' Arjun cried, his eyes mirroring desperation. 'Go quickly!'

                The Australians bolted, shouting thank you as an afterthought. They must have made it in time, because they never returned.

                'Can I go home?' Mehmet's mother asked, completely confused. 'I don't even know how I got here.'

                'Yes.' Mehmet nodded. 'Go home.'

                Arjun felt a deep sadness set in, as he realised so many thing were uncertain. He would probably never see any of the Australians ever again. They wouldn't keep in contact with him. Mikael was following Ardi to Australia – they were probably the only two Arjun would ever see again. Calvin and Balraj? Well, there were two 'friendships' that were over. As for Vijay and Liberty, they had promised to keep a low profile. Arjun didn't even want to find them.

                Then there was Alyssa. Whenever he thought about her, all his fears whelmed up at once, and he was reminded of how he had felt watching that silly Bollywood romance.

 

'So?' Suneep smiled, addressing himself to Alyssa.  Arjun jumped, startled that anyone was speaking.

                The train trip to Nepal was a day and a half long, and most of the time was spent sleeping.

                Mehmet had escorted his mother home, and Danny had returned to Tamil Nadu for some unknown reason. Of course, Chandan and Bikram were still in Delhi, organising a newspaper article, so that left Arjun, Suneep, Josha, and the rest of their families.

                Alyssa turned to Suneep in surprise – she was in between he and Arjun – and gave the man her full attention.

                'You are married.' Suneep continued. 'I have a few questions for you. First of all, why did you marry in the first place?' Alyssa smiled, and Suneep raised his eyebrows at her particular expression. 'You love him?' He asked, pleased by this thought.

                The young woman laughed. 'Is it that obvious?'

                'Yes.'

                'Well,' Alyssa said, smiling so softly that dimples appeared, 'I escaped and ran for my life. I ran through forests and mountains and ended up in a crowded market place. I had no idea where I was, and then I saw him. He was very kind, and helped me. I couldn't leave the country – it would not be safe, as they monitor the airports – but I did not want to stay in Nepal illegally. So he offered to marry me.' She paused, and her eyes dimmed. 'I often wonder if he was just doing the right thing.'

                Suneep frowned. 'I doubt that. You are not hard to like. He probably feels fortunate that you had to marry him. Or, he could be worried that you were only using him. Were you?'

                'Of course not.'

                'Not even at first?'

                'No! I certainly hope he does not think that poorly of me.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Look, I think he would be worried, but if he has said nothing it is because he knows it is ridiculous. You would not use him.'

                Alyssa perked up a little. 'Thank you, Suneep.'

                'You're welcome.' The man replied condescendingly, making Alyssa laugh.

                'So,' Suneep started again, 'after this is all over will you stay in Nepal or go home?'

                'Are you asking if I'm going to leave my husband?' Suneep raised his eyebrows playfully. 'Suneep, sometimes I hate you. But come, enough talk about me. Let's talk about you – your favourite subject. Where'd your ring go?'

                Suneep looked away sadly. 'I sold it to a taxi-man when we arrived in Australia.' Alyssa's face looked crushed. 'Ah, it is a good thing.' Suneep sighed. 'I needed to let go.'

                'Suneep...'

                'I know, I know. But you know what else I know? As long as I wore that ring I made myself accountable to Shaktiah. But without it, I had to be responsible for myself, accountable to God. So you see? It is a good thing.'

                Alyssa smiled warmly. 'You are wise, Suneep.'

                'Not yet, bhainee.'

                'You will be soon, dai.'

                'Only if I die and go to Heaven, bhainee.'

                Alyssa laughed. 'So what do you want to do after this?'

                Suneep relaxed thoughtfully. 'I want to be a minister, like I did before, but with a twist. I want to teach music at a boarding school and be a chaplain.'

                Arjun seemed as surprised by this as Alyssa. 'With children?' The two asked in perfect unison.

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Yes, I know. But they fascinate me.' He turned to Arjun. 'What do you want to do, bhai.'

                Arjun seemed embarrassed, and looked away timidly. 'I still want to be a minister.'

                'Ah, you are keeping something from me.' Suneep teased. 'Which means there must be a girl. Is it Astha?'

                The man flinched violently. 'No.'

                'It is!'

                'It is not!'

                'Who is she?'

                'She is not Astha.'

                'So there is someone?'

                'Y... yes.'

                Suneep couldn't believe his luck. 'Who?!' He cried. 'Who, if not Astha.'

                'Nobody.'

                'You said there was somebody! Please, tell me, is she beautiful?'

                Arjun blushed a little, and clenched his fists. It was better if his friends did not see he was shaking. 'Very sweet and lovely.' He answered.

                'Ooh!' Suneep cried delightedly. 'Describe her to me, Arjun. What colour are her eyes?' He laughed. 'That is a silly question, of course they are brown. Do not bother describing her to me. Tell me about her character.'

                'Suneep, stop.' Arjun pleaded.

                'Why? Look, Alyssa will not be so upset if I ask her about her husband.' He turned to his friend and found she was already blushing, which made him laugh. 'Come on, it is not so hard, is it?' He teased. 'Is your husband handsome? Describe him – though I assume he has black hair and brown eyes.'

                'Yes.' Alyssa confirmed. 'He has black hair and brown eyes, and dark, creamy skin. He is very handsome, but sort of cute and sweet as well.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Cute? Is that a good thing?'

                'Yes. Especially when coupled with being called handsome.'

                'What am I?'

                Alyssa smiled. 'In confidence?'

                'You know what you tell me is never told another.'

                Despite the fact that Suneep was teasing, Alyssa knew it to be so. Suneep was very good at keeping secrets.

                'You are cute.' She began. 'And cheeky. But when you dress up and are serious you are very handsome.'

                Arjun's face had turned to stone – probably in an attempt to hide his embarrassed emotions brought on by Suneep's teasing – and he muttered, 'I'm sure your husband would not appreciate such remarks.'

                Alyssa shrugged. 'My husband has called other women beautiful. How could he mind?'

Arjun eyed Alyssa strangely, as if ordering a death warrant for her in his mind. In fact, he looked very unhappy, but Suneep could not be bothered to ask why. Instead, he turned to look out the window and slowly drifted to sleep. He could hear Alyssa and Arjun speaking in soft whispers, in a language he recognised but could not understand, and wondered what they were saying. Were they arguing? Suneep laughed at the ridiculous thought and let sleep encompass him.

 

 

 

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