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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4. Chapter Three: The 7 Alarmists

 

Betrayal, murder – the two things go hand in hand.

          Why did we do it, Gopi?, they ask. Why did I ask them to do it? Well, the answer is a simple one. The question should not even have to be asked.

          I did it because he was disloyal. He turned around to spite us the minute he thought we were not looking. So we got him back.

          And created a valuable tool by doing so.

          A tool that will never dare to leave. A tool that thinks he knows exactly what is going on, but really knows nothing.

          He is the one who will weld our entire plan together.

 

Arjun packed his things, and waited for the elevator.

                He usually did not look out the window to his left, because it upset him and made him long for his homeland. But he looked out today.

                It was sunny, and the Yarra River almost looked pleasant. The aquarium on the other side looked to be closing for the evening, and the sun set picturesquely behind it, casting purple and orange rays across the city.  

                For the first time ever, Arjun liked what he saw. He liked Australia… and he was happy to be here. He wanted to stay.

                As was routine, the elevator came as soon as two of his colleagues did. Arjun was again obliged to chat to them briefly, until they parted on the ground floor. He then proceeded to walk out of the building and sigh, half tiredly, with a miserable undertone, and half contently, with an amount of pleasure.

                It had nearly been a year since they’d come to Australia. Things were going well, and it worried him. Things were going too well.

                Arjun walked down Flinders’ street to the station, moving easily through the crowds. He didn't really pay any-one any attention, because he found he was finally able to enjoy the scenery around him. The strange coloured station, the run-down buildings he was passing on the other side of the road, the amusing mix of businesspeople, backpackers, and downright weirdoes – everything. For the first time he liked it all.

                His eyes moved contentedly over the city, drinking in the strange beauty that was Australia – including Federation Square, which he’d always thought was an eyesore, until they settled on one particular man.

                Suddenly, the world seemed to move in slow motion.

                Arjun's eyes followed the man, until he realised he'd turned around completely.

                The world sped up again.

                Arjun's heart began racing, and he ran. People stared at they passed, but he didn't care. He just kept on running. He ran to the train and waited impatiently for his stop. Then he ran all the way to the unit, where he burst in and cried, 'he's here!'

                The others - all sitting around the TV. - stood up.

                'No!' Dandin cried.

                'Already?!' Mehmet said, his eyes filling with terror.

                'It is too soon!' Chandan added, looking as if he were about to cry.

                'He's here!' Arjun cried again, his voice giving way to terror. 'It is happening.'

                For the first time, Suneep spoke. 'Did he follow you?'

                Arjun's face fell.

                The doorbell rang.

                Everyone froze.

                There was a knock, and the mutual consensus became clear: don't move.

                There was another knock.

                Suneep flinched, and Arjun warned him with a look.

                'But...' Suneep whispered, 'The curtains...'

                Everyone paled and looked at the window. They screamed.

                'Let me in!' The man cried. 'You know I am not the enemy! I have only come to warn you!'

                'That is bad enough!' Arjun shot back. As the others hid, he stood frozen to the spot.

                'Arjun,' the man called. 'I know everything. Come on, I was there for everything! Even if you don't trust me, you know you must go!'

                'No!' Arjun cried. 'It was all a dream! It cannot be real!'

                'It is real, Arjun!' The man cried. 'And it's happening now!' A deafening silence fell. All that could be heard was the steady dripping of a tap.  'You must leave.' The man said calmly.

                Finally, Arjun moved. He dropped his brief-case in terror.

 

Arjun was packing the car like a mad-man. Amy stood behind him, trying to be as difficult as possible.

                'You can't just go!' She cried. 'Who'll pay the rent?!'

                'We will.' Arjun promised. 'But we must go.'

                'Why!?' Amy continued. 'What's with that!?'

                'It is family emergency.'

                Amy raised an eyebrow. 'For all of you?'

                Arjun heaped yet another bag into the boot. Seriously, he thought, what did these men even pack? It’s not like they’d have opportunity to use most of it. Then, sighing, he answered Amy’s question.

                'Yes.'

                Amy burst into fits of laughter, her small face lighting up in amusement. 'You are the worst liar ever!' Then, suddenly, she sighed. 'Fine, then. Go. As long as you pay the rent, I'll be right.'

                Arjun stopped racing around and nodded. 'Thank you.' He said, bothering to look at the girl.

                Amy giggled. 'Have fun, whacko.'

                Arjun smiled and watched Amy as she walked off.

 

Suneep was quiet right up until he joined Arjun in the taxi. As soon as the car started moving, he started talking.

                'How do we know he is not lying!?' He cried.

                Arjun sighed. 'We do not. But I trust him.'

                'You trust him! You trust him? That's great! Well, I do not trust him. So why do I have to trust him too?! I should get out of this car right now...'

                Josha turned around, and Arjun wished he hadn't come with them.

                'Think about it, Arjun.' He began. 'How does he know unless he's part of it?'

                Arjun sighed. 'I don't know.'

                The driver tried hard to ignore the conversation, but was obviously listening.

                'Why do you trust him?' Suneep pushed. 'Why?'

                'Because.' Arjun said quietly. 'He was my friend.'

                'How do you know he still is?!' Josha cried.

                'I don't!' Arjun shot back.

                There was silence until they arrived at the airport. Suneep walked next to Arjun with difficulty, due to the suitcase he was pulling.

                Arjun liked airports – he tried to focus on that positive feeling. Perhaps it would enable him to be patient with Suneep and the other nags.

                'How old is he, huh? We do not even know that much!?'

                'You only have to ask, dai.' Arjun replied, trying hard to keep his temper in check. He liked airports… he liked the wide, open spaces. He liked the security of having guards around; guards who were not after him, and who did not particularly care about him. He liked the smell too – that strange, hospital-like smell.

                'Fine. I will ask.' Suneep returned. He walked briskly up to the tall Indian and asked, 'what was your name again?'

                'Balraj.' The man replied, giving an amused grin. He was famous for his wide amused grin that made his eyes light up.  'Balraj Mukul.'

                'Haan. I am Suneep. What is your age, please, sir?'

                The man smiled, very amused, as always. 'I am 29.'

                Suneep smiled back at him. 'Thank you, sir,' and dropped back to speak to Arjun. 'See?! He laughs at everything I say!'

                Arjun was very bothered by now. 'He always does that!' He hissed. Suneep opened his mouth, and Arjun cried, 'I don't know why!' Suneep closed his mouth.

                'So,' Josha said, rejoining the conversation. 'We are trusting the 29 year old Indian man - Balraj Mukul - all because you trust him, as you used to have dinner with him!'

                'That is a silly reason.' Suneep said at the same time as Arjun.

                Balraj turned around. 'Hurry up. You are falling behind.'

                After he turned back, Suneep mocked him in a high-pitched voice. 'Hurry up - Arjun he is annoying!'

                'Oh, that makes two of you.' Josha laughed. 'Sorry, three.' Arjun corrected himself.

                'Does any-one else actually trust this man!?' Suneep asked.

                Mehmet turned around abruptly and said, 'I do. Now come.'

                Suneep frowned, and picked up the pace.

 

'Sir, please exit the plane.'

                Arjun nodded. 'I will do so, as soon as my friend comes. He is nearly finished.'

                The air hostess raised an eyebrow and stepped away. She didn't dare take her eyes off Arjun.

                Arjun waited for about thirty seconds, looked around the empty plane, and walked up to the bathroom.

                'Hurry up!' He whispered desperately. 'Everyone else is gone, and the air-hostess thinks I am a terrorist!' Mehmet laughed for a reason only Arjun understood, and then abruptly stopped. Arjun winced, as all he heard was Mehmet throwing up. 'Are you all right?' He asked.

                'Yes.' Mehmet returned. 'Fit as a fiddle.'  The door opened, and Mehmet stood hunched over, looking half dead.  'What do you think, Arjun?' He groaned.

                Arjun winced again.

                The air-hostess approached. 'Sir, can I help you?'

                'Yes.' Arjun said, self-consciously stepping away from his friend. 'Do you have a bucket?'

                The air-hostess took one look at Mehmet and got the idea. She rushed off and promptly came back with a big, blue bucket.

                'I'm sorry I have to kick you off.' She apologised. 'But we have to stay on schedule.'

                Arjun nodded. 'I know. Thank you.' Turning to Mehmet, he handed the bucket over warily. 'Welcome to Nepal.' Suddenly, his eyes widened, and he panicked. 'Oh! My mother!'

                Mehmet glanced at his friend in confusion, and flushed the toilet.  'What about her?' He asked. The only reply he received was a steady gaze from Arjun. Now Mehmet understood. He burst into fits of laughter. 'Your mother!' He cried weakly. 'And your sisters!'

                'Oh no!' Arjun cried, clearly not having thought of that.

                'They will have to nurse me back to health!' Mehmet teased.

                Arjun frowned at Mehmet. ''Don't think like that, dai. My sisters are your sisters.'

                Mehmet laughed and held his stomach. 'Ooh, that hurts.'

                'Come, we have to leave.'

                The two exited slowly, Mehmet laughing the entire way. 'Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mehtar,' he would tease. Then he would pretend to throw up. 'Blaah!' More laughter. 'Talking about good first impressions, yaar.'

                Arjun seemed quite distressed by the thought of this, when they eventually caught up with the others. Mehmet was still laughing.

                I like airports, he reminded himself. And Nepali scenery. And Australian scenery… I think. I think I do…

                He realised with a certain amount of surprise that he did like Australian scenery, in a strange sort of way that was strong – the type of feeling one would defend endlessly – and yet weak, as if a part of him still hated it. Perhaps that was the beauty the Australians had told him their country held.

                'What is his problem now?' Danny asked upon seeing Mehmet, who was still in fits.

                Mehmet laughed and extended his hand. 'Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mehtar. I am... BLAA!!!'

                Arjun flinched, and Balraj smiled. 'I did not think of that.'

                'Oh!' Mehmet continued. 'Nurse me back to health, Sara!' Arjun glared at Mehmet, and the latter smiled. 'That is her name, right?'

                Arjun's face looked violent, and Danny laughed. 'Stop it.' He warned. 'Or you may be hurt.'

                Mehmet laughed. 'Sorry. She is my bhainee. I must be nursed by some-one who is not Arjun's sister.'

                'What about Astha?' Suneep said quietly.

                Mehmet stopped laughing and turned to Arjun. 'Who is she?' He asked.

                'No-one.' Arjun replied, far too quickly. The group laughed, and Arjun turned desperately to Balraj. 'What are we waiting for?' He asked.

                Balraj smiled. 'Your father.'

                'You organised things?' Balraj nodded.

                'Why Arjun first?' Chandan asked, without a hint of venom.

                'Alphabetical order.' Balraj explained simply. 'Arjun, then Bikram, then you, then Dandin, then Josha, then Mehmet, then Suneep.'

                'I am last!' Suneep cried. 'As always!'

                Balraj chuckled. 'Mehmet, what is wrong with you?'

                Mehmet had suddenly gone very quiet. 'I think it was the fish I had before we left...'

                Arjun sighed, and Danny rolled his eyes. 'I told you not to eat that!' He cried.

                'It was great!' Mehmet shot back. Then he threw up.

                'It is not great now.' Danny replied.

                Balraj turned to Arjun. 'How will your mum take this?'

                Arjun didn't move. 'I don't know.'

 

Half-an-hour later, Arjun's family arrived. Every-one made introductions, while Arjun seemed nervous and tense. Eventually, Arjun's mother came to him.

         'What is the matter, Arjun?' She asked. 'Are you not happy to see us?’

                Arjun smiled down at his mother and marveled at how tiny she seemed now days. She had dressed up today to see him, and he could tell because she was wearing her beautiful, sleek long hair down. It was so long – had it been that long the last time he had seen her? Probably not.

                His mind drifted, and he thought of the only other girl he had ever known with hair nearly as long as his mother’s. A sweet, precious young woman, with hair such as he’d never seen before, light and like sunshine. He remembered running his fingers through her hair slowly…

                He shook himself and smiled. 'No, mother. I am very happy to see you all. But Mehmet is sick.'

                His mother laughed, and Arjun felt immediately relieved. 'Then we must take care of him!' She cried.

                Arjun sighed and felt many fears wash away. 'I am so relieved.' He admitted. 'The most relaxed I have felt for a long time.'

                His mother - with a little difficulty - reached up and patted him on the cheek.

 

Arjun sat in the back seat of the car watching Mehmet like a hawk. Mehmet was oblivious, and chatted happily to Arjun's eldest younger sister, Sara, who replied well. Mehmet laughed, and Sara smiled.

                'I am sorry I am sick.' He apologised, trying to hide the bucket. 'I hope I will be better soon.'

                'So do I.' Sara replied. 'That will mean less work for me.'

                Arjun smiled at his sister's comeback, and then frowned at Mehmet's.

                'Then I will get better very quickly for you.'

                Meanwhile, Arjun's younger brother, Akash, was chatting with Bikram. 'You are 17?' The latter asked.

                'Yes.' Akash replied. 'Sara is 18, and Brayna is 15.'

                Bikram nodded. 'Is Arjun good older brother?'

                Akash smiled. 'Yes!' He said, laughing - much like his brother did.

                Suneep was next to Brayna, and reluctantly spoke to her.  'You are fifteen?' He asked, having overheard Akash's remark.

                She nodded. 'How old are you?'

                '22.' Suneep replied.  There followed an awkward silence. Then, Suneep said, 'I'm sorry, I am no good at talking to children.' Brayna laughed and smiled.  'You look very much like Arjun.' Suneep commented. Brayna only laughed again. 'Only you are beautiful version.' He hurriedly added.

                Brayna couldn't help but laugh yet again. 'I am not small child.' She said. 'I just look young. I will be sixteen soon.'

                'Oh?' Suneep said, being to ease up a little. 'Is that so?' The two began chatting happily, and Arjun felt obliged to keep an eye on them too.

 

Arjun liked his home. It was clean and comfortable, and it felt good to have his room back. He stood in it, admiring the view from his window, drinking in the beauty of Nepal. The glorious mountains, the clear blue skies, and the lush green foliage – Nepal had it all. But, to his surprise, he found he wasn’t comparing it to Australia the way he had compared Australia to Nepal. Perhaps it was because there nothing to compare. Or perhaps, more accurately, because the two could not be compared. They were each wonderful in their own way. He knew that now. Or did he just believe it? No, he saw it. Beauty truly was in the eye of the beholder.

                'Hieee, Arjun!' Arjun jumped, making Chandan giggle. 'I scared you?'

                Arjun smiled. 'Only a little, dai, only a little. I did not hear you come in.’

                Arjun's father appeared, and was confused. 'Why do you call Chandan dai? He is not your brother.'

                Arjun nodded. 'He is. In...'

                There was a scream.

                Chandan ran out of the room, whereas Arjun and his father strolled out. Suddenly, fits of laughter could be heard.

                'Where you get this from?!' Brayna was crying. 'It's so cold!'

                Suneep raised an eyebrow. 'Found it in the fridge. But guess what?'

                'What?'

                Suneep smiled and took his hands out of his pockets. 'There are more!' Brayna screamed as Suneep put 5 ice blocks down her back.

                Arjun frowned at the scene, and glanced at his father, who just smiled. Turning to Chandan the latter said, 'now you have heard Brayna's scream.'

                Chandan smiled too, while Arjun stood a little straighter. 'Where is Sara?' He asked.

                His father shrugged. 'Probably with Mehmet and Dandin.'

                Arjun sighed. 'That is not good.'

                His father only laughed. 'Do not worry, Arjun. They are friendly. You are too paranoid. Is something wrong?'

                Arjun panicked. 'No!' He cried. 'Nothing is wrong!' Then, slowly, he smiled. 'Just promise me you will never go to Australia.'

                His father raised an eyebrow. 'Why?'

                'Because. It is not for you. And you would hate the scenery.' With this, Arjun went off to find his sister. He found her on the verandah, with Mehmet and Dandin. They were laughing, and seemed very relaxed.

                'Arjun!' Mehmet cried, as if he were drunk. 'Join us!'

                There was laughter, and Arjun frowned. 'What are you doing?' He asked.

                'I am keeping an eye on Mehmet for you.' Dandin chuckled.

                Sara smiled sweetly at her brother. 'He tries to tell me why he is called Camel.'

                Arjun's eyes snapped towards Mehmet. 'You tell her that lie?!'

                Mehmet laughed. 'It is not lie! It is just not only reason!'

                'I don't know any-one who calls you Camel for that reason.'

                'Ardi did.' Mehmet replied quickly.

                There fell a silence.

                Sara frowned. 'Who is Ardi?' She asked.

                Arjun was slow to reply. 'No-one.' He said at last. 'She is no-one.'

                'She?' Sara repeated meaningfully.

                Arjun turned to his sister. 'Come, I have present for you.' Sara smiled and skipped happily after her brother. Arjun led her to his room, where he closed the door.

                'You are angry, dai.' Sara suddenly said.

                Arjun threw his suitcase on the bed and shook his head. 'Not with you bhainee. With Mehmet.' He unzipped the case. 'He is cruel.'

                Sara chuckled. 'I know he is being silly, Arjun, if that is why you are scared. He's just trying to annoy you.'

                'He is inappropriate.'

                'That's what Dandin told him. He just laughed.'

                Arjun sighed, and pulled a present out of his bag. Turning to his sister, he smiled lovingly. 'For you.' He said, placing it in her hands.

                Sara's eyes lit up excitedly, as did Arjun's, and she tore the package open. Inside was a beautiful sari.

Sara smiled. 'You can get these in Australia?!' She cried.

                Arjun nodded. 'I thought it would look very beautiful on you. Green is your colour.'

                Sara smiled and hugged her brother. 'Dhanyabad, dai!' She cried.

                Arjun smiled and hugged his sister back. 'You are welcome.'

                Sara took a step back and watched as Arjun zipped up his suitcase. 'So...' she said quietly. 'Did you get one for Astha?'

                Arjun gave a minimal response. 'No. She is not my sister.' Turning around, he met his sister's teasing gaze. He began to chuckle nervously. 'How did you get these ideas?' He asked, shifting uncomfortably. He began to leave the room, when his sister giggled.

                'I got ideas when you visited last. Always smiling at her.'

                Arjun shook his head as if to say, 'nonsense', and put his arm around his sister. 'I smile at you too.'

                'Did you not hear? Suneep knows of Astha!'

                Arjun tensed. 'I said nothing. He shouldn't know anything.'

                Sara smiled. 'Like what, Arjun?'

                Arjun laughed nervously and walked out with his sister. 'Nothing, nothing.'

 

 

 

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