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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22. Chapter Twenty-One: The 7 Brothers

 

 

Suneep was completely shaken, and feared he would backslide. He had just started to work out how he was mean to cope with all his grief and pain – he didn't want to end up right back where he started. He began causing trouble.

            'Who egged the Ping-Pong table?!' Dr. Ashwin cried, though he felt he knew his answer. From their hiding spot, Suneep and Josha laughed.

            'Dai.' Bikram said, making the two jump.

            'Ssh!' Josha hissed. 'You will spring us!'

            Bikram frowned. 'I know you say 'we were sprung', but I don't think you can say 'you will spring us'....'

Josha was just confused by this.

            Bikram had taken to wearing shirts since the 'cool' day, and particularly favoured blue, as that brought him the most complements. This fact began to annoy Suneep, though he wasn't sure why.

            'You should not be causing trouble.' Bikram cut to the chase.

            Suneep did not appreciate this. 'You used to want to join in.'

            'Only because I left out! Now I see that is a good thing. You only egg things because you are troubled.'

            'Since when are you better than us?' Josha asked. 'Arjun is the good one, not you.'

            'I'm not better than you. But I think we can all be better, with God's help.'

            'No, you think you are too good for us.' Suneep muttered, eyeing the man's shirt. 'So leave us alone.'

            'No, dai! I don't...'

            'Okay, then.' Suneep cut his friend off. 'Throw this at Dr. Ashwin as he passes.'

            Bikram's face fell.

            'You did it once before.' Josha pointed out

            'And I regretted it instantly!' Bikram cried.

            Arjun approached, and Suneep thought he'd try his luck. 'Throw this at Dr. Ashwin.'

            Arjun rolled his eyes. 'Do not do that, dai. Think what Alyssa would say.'

            Suneep reacted strangely to this. His face fell, and then hardened. 'Who cares!?' He screamed, jumping up. 'She is not God!'

            Mehmet walked up and laughed. 'You want to think of what God would say instead?'

'I don't care what He says!' Suneep cried, turning red. 'I don't want to listen anymore! If He is trying to teach me anything it is killing me! He will not listen to me, so I will not listen to Him! Or you, or Alyssa, or Shaktiah! Everyone is wrong, okay? Everyone is wrong!' He pulled off his beanie, threw it on the ground, and stormed off.

            Arjun was worried, but knew he of all people would only make things worse. Turning, to Josha, he cried, 'don't you dare throw that at Dr. Ashwin.'

            Josha scowled. 'I am not as angry as Suneep. But I don't want to listen to you either.' Saying this, he stood up, threw the egg with all his might, and ran off laughing.

            Dr. Ashwin roared as egg splattered all over his face. 'Suneep!' He roared. 'Josha! Chandan and Bikram better not be mixed up in this!'

            'We are not!' The two cried in perfect unison.

            Dr. Ashwin sighed exasperatedly and continued on his way.

            Suneep and Josha skipped every class but one, which they ruined.

            'So,' Dr. Ashwin was saying, 'what is the best thing to do in preparation for an exam?'

            'Write everything down.' Suneep called out.

            Dr. Ashwin turned towards the man and frowned. He was leaning back, his hands behind his head, and his legs crossed on his desk. He wore that smug face that Dr. Ashwin simply hated, as it told him Suneep meant a lot more than he was saying. 'Yes, very good, Suneep.' He decided to ignore the man's face. 'Arjun, can you tell me what the next step is?'

            'Memorization.' Suneep replied quickly.

            Dr. Ashwin scowled. 'Thank you, Arjun. Suneep,' he said, turning to Arjun, 'how do you memorise things?'

            'Like this sir,' Arjun began.

            Suddenly, Suneep began singing loudly. 'Predestination, Dr. Ashwin doesn't believe in it! If you disagree, you have two options! Write like Arjun, try and cover everything, or write like me and force your own opinion!'

            Dr. Ashwin's eyes flashed. 'Suneep!' He cried. 'That is quite enough!' Suneep smiled, his eyes alight with a nearly evil glint. 'I hope you fail your exams!' Dr. Ashwin roared, widening Suneep's smile.

            'You know I won't.'

            'I know! And it is so frustrating! Why can't you all just be like Arjun?' Arjun's face froze, and – where he white – he would have completely paled. Dr. Ashwin continued monologuing, telling the class how wonderful Arjun was, and as he spoke, Arjun tried to hide under his text book. 'He's not even smart!' Dr. Ashwin cried. 'B's, B's, always B's! Maybe A's! Maybe B pluses. He even failed Haggai.'

            Now Arjun was just embarrassed. 'Please, doctor,' he moaned, 'do not yell my grades. I know they are no good.'

            'See?!' The doctor cried. 'See how good he is? Suneep, why are you not more like this?'

            Suneep's face had hardened. 'I think you would rather Arjun were smart, like me. Then he could be the perfect student, perfect man- perfect. Just perfect.'

            'Arjun will never be perfect.' Dr. Ashwin replied, coming in close to Suneep. 'But you could come close. That is why you are so frustrating, Suneep. You may be smart, but you are a fool, throwing all your potential away. Why did you even show up to the class?'

            Suneep blinked. 'You should not insult Arjun.'

            Dr. Ashwin was surprised. 'Since when do you care about Arjun?'

            'Arjun works hard, he has made himself smart. Do not insult him by paying attention to me. Do not insult Bikram by forcing me to do well and ignoring him.'

            'Arjun always gets A's!' Mehmet called out, also feeling defensive.

            'No I don't!' Arjun cried. 'That is only on assignments. I always do badly in exams and tests.'

            Dr. Ashwin nodded. 'But I know he cannot do any better.'

            'Don't say that!' Suneep cried, flinging his legs off the table. His chair fell forward, and he came closer to Dr. Ashwin's face. 'Arjun can do much better, if he is helped! He needs to be taught!'

            'You need to be taught, Suneep.'

            'You need to be taught!'

            'Suneep, if you do not stop screaming, I will be forced to give you a strike.'

            'I don't care! Give me three! Expel me! Send me home! I hate it here! All anyone ever does is study, eat rice and curry, naan and curry, rice and chickpeas, chickpeas and poori, poori and rice, always the same! They only ever eat the same foods, study, sleep, or talk about God! I am tired of talking! Why does no-one ever do anything? Oh, of course, we have ministry on Fridays, and Sundays. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I am not tired of talking, because we are doing. Maybe I'm tired of you, and everyone telling me to grow-up. I'm tired, tired, tired! Tired of you, and tired of God!'

            With this, Suneep pushed his table over, knocked his chair to the ground, and stalked out, slamming the door as he left. Everyone stared at the door in shock and horror. Even Dr. Ashwin looked sick.

            'What have I done?' He finally muttered, sitting down.

            Arjun suddenly stood up and left the room. Mehmet followed soon after. Then, seeing as Dr. Ashwin had not blinked, Bikram asked, 'Sir, can we all go?'

            Dr. Ashwin nodded. 'As far as I'm concerned you can all just fail – all of you!' Then, sighing he added, 'class dismissed.'

            The students evacuated the room before the lecturer could change his mind.

 

Arjun found Suneep in his room, throwing things. There went a pair of Bikram's socks. Some underwear. Bikram's pillow.

            'Why are you only throwing Bikram's things?' Arjun asked, opening the door a little.

            'Because I have already thrown mine!' Suneep cried frustratedly.

            Arjun opened the door and beheld a massive mess. 'Wow.' He breathed. 'You are very angry.'

            'Yes!' Suneep screamed. 'Yes I am furious!' He began ranting on about something Arjun did not understand. 'I should play piano – I don't want to play the piano! I just want to stay this way! I don't want to forget this pain!'

            'You don't have to, dai.' Arjun pleaded. 'But you don't always have to feel it.'

            'I do!' Suneep shot back. 'Because it's my fault!'

            Arjun was frustrated. 'I told you it is not your fault! Now get over yourself and think of someone else for once!'

            'Like who? Who else is sad?'

            'Everyone!'

            Suneep fell silent. Then, sitting down, he dropped his head onto Bikram's now trashed desk. 'I cannot be angry at God. I'm a Calvinist. I know He has a plan.'

            Arjun smiled. 'That is good, dai.'

            'But I want to be angry! What do I have left? And don't say Christ.' He added as an after-thought.

            Arjun laughed a little. 'In that case, I say nothing, because you will refute everything.'

            Suneep made no reply, and Arjun looked around the messed-up room. Reluctantly, he began gathering Bikram's underwear and put it back in the man's drawer.

            'I cannot believe you touched these.' He muttered under his breath.

            'Yeah, well I didn't want my underwear all over the floor.'

            Arjun paused, and turned to look at his elder. Suneep turned his head just at that moment, and with one yes caught Arjun's gaze. Suddenly, the two began laughing.

            'That was ridiculous of me!' Suneep cried. 'I am such a drama-king!'

            Arjun laughed heartily, the most relaxed Suneep had ever seen him. 'Poor Bikram. If he only knew.'

            Suneep began laughing until he found he was unable to speak.

            Arjun put the last sock in the drawer, and laughed harder. 'Stop laughing, dai.' He pleaded, I can't stop!'

            'It's better than crying!'

            'Yes, you are right.'

            Arjun sat down on the floor in fits, and began lying down gradually. 'Dai, my tummy hurts!'

            Suneep laughed harder. 'Then stop! Ready, we will stop. One, two...'

            The two fell silent. Slowly, Suneep turned to Arjun.

            'Don't look at me, dai.' Arjun barked, looking away. Then he made the mistake of glancing at his friend, ever so briefly. The two fell back into fits, Arjun lying on the floor with his hand on his belly, and Suneep practically falling off his chair – or, rather, of Bikram's chair. It was then that Bikram walked in.

            'Brothers!' He cried. 'What is going on?' Then, horrified, he cried, 'Why are my socks on Arjun's head?!'

            Arjun laughed loudly (he had a cute laugh, almost like a nervous giggle) and cried, 'they are not! I put them away.'

            Suneep fell further into hysterics, and barely managed to say, 'no, bhai. You...missed... a pair, and now...' He fell into a long fit. 'They are on your head!'

            Arjun felt like he should have been more concerned, but he wasn't. Bikram did not see the humour in the situation, at all.

            'Why is everything on the floor?!' He cried.

            'Oh, please laugh, bhai!' Suneep pleaded. 'Your giggle is so funny!'

            'Don't!' Arjun pleaded. 'Then I will never stop!'

            Chandan and Josha had clearly been eavesdropping, for they suddenly ran in and pushed Bikram onto his bed.

            'Tickle!' Josha screamed. 

            Bikram screamed too, a little high-pitched, and wriggled like a small child. 'No!' He shouted. 'No, brothers! Do not tickle m...' he stopped speaking, and burst into fits of laughter. It wasn't long before he couldn't stop giggling.

            Bikram turned on his friends when they briefly stopped, and soon the three were having a very rough tickle-fight. Arjun and Suneep continued laughing, as the three looked perfectly ridiculous.

            Soon, Danny and Mehmet appeared at the door, looking very amused. They were very surprised when Chandan, Bikram, and Josha suddenly pulled them in and pulled off their shoes.

            'Not the feet!' Danny pleaded. 'Not the feet!'

            The laughter increased, until finally everyone was in so much pain that they could laugh no longer.             Everything fell silent.

            'My stomach hurts.' Suneep moaned.

            Arjun laughed, and stopped with a groan.

            'Let's play a game.' Chandan randomly suggested.

            'Another one?' Danny asked, popping his head up.

            'Yes! Let's play... truth or dare!'

            'Chandan!' Suneep groaned. 'That is for girls.'

            'No.' Chandan objected.

            Suneep sighed. 'Fine. Go.'

            'Okay. Suneep, you first. Truth or dare?'

            'Truth.'

            'Okay. Have you ever had a girlfriend?' There were groans.

            'That is stupid!' Bikram cried. 'We all know he hasn't!'

            'Okay... some-one think of something better then.'

            'Have you studded at all for the exams coming up?' Arjun offered.

            'Yes.' Suneep replied. 'My turn.' Danny and Mehmet were trying hard not to look interested, and were failing. 'Arjun.' Suneep began. 'Truth or dare?'

            'Truth!' The others cried.

            'No!' Arjun objected.

            Suneep smiled. 'Truth, then. Let me see... Arjun. Are you in love?'

            Arjun looked a little too embarrassed to pull the answer off. 'No.'

            'Ooh!' Mehmet cried. 'Bhai! Why do you not tell me, room-mate? What is her name?'

            'No, I already answered the question.'

            'Yes, but you were lying.' Chandan smiled.

            'Fine, yes!'

            'What?!' Mehmet cried, as everyone fell silent.

            'Are you for real?' Danny added.

            Arjun shrugged. 'I don't know. You have confused me.' There was laughter, and the group relaxed.             'Chandan,' Arjun began. 'Truth or dare?'

            'Truth.'

            'Not again!' Danny cried. 'Truth is for girls!'

            'See, I did not pick truth.' Arjun replied, sitting up.

            Danny laughed, and Chandan answered, 'but I do.'

            Arjun thought for a moment and then asked, 'Chandan. Are you scared of the dark?'

            Chandan paled, and Arjun wondered why.

            'Yes.' Josha teased. 'Every night he sleeps with a torch – I have seen it.'

            'Dai!' Chandan called, surprisingly upset.

            Josha's face fell. 'Bhai... I am sorry...'

            Arjun felt bad, and moved the game on. 'Chandan, it is your turn.

            'Fine. Mehmet, truth or dare?'

            'Dare!'

            'Okay, I dare you...'

            'No, truth.'

            Danny was disappointed. 'What?'

            Mehmet laughed, as his friend gave him a playful slap. 'I am scared of what he will dare me to do.'

            Chandan quickly thought of a question to ask. 'Have you ever killed some-one?'

            Mehmet seemed disturbed by this question, probably because he felt responsible for Kannan's death. 'Yes.' He replied. 'Indirectly.'

            'I told you.' Danny muttered. 'You did not kill Kannan.'

            Mehmet ignored Danny and turned to face him. 'Truth or dare?'

            'Dare!' Danny roared.

            'Ha ha, cool. Okay. I dare you.... to sing Sunshine Mountain at dinner tonight.'

            Danny laughed. 'Sure, okay. My turn. Bikram! Truth or dare?'

            'Dare.' Bikram surprised his friends.

            'I dare you to ask Joy to go out with you.'

            'What?' Bikram cried, some-how surprised by this.

            The group laughed – Arjun nervously – and waited to see Bikram's reaction. 'But....' he stammered.

            'She is Nepali.' Suneep pointed out. 'And I think you like her.'

            'Why?'

            'Because. You cannot talk to her.'

            'Stop! I do not like her! Besides, she is smarter than me!'

            'I dare you.' Danny teased, all smiles.

            Bikram frowned, but did not really seem too upset by the idea of going through with the dare. 'Isn't she taller than me?' He asked.

            Suneep laughed. 'That just shows you have not spoken to her properly. She is 2 inches shorter than Alyssa at least!'

            Bikram perked up a little. 'So she is a lot shorter than me.'

            'Yes.' Danny said, amused. 'So will you do it?'

            Bikram thought about this for a moment and then nodded. 'Okay.'

            There was laughter, and Bikram thought of his question. 'Josha, truth or dare?'

            'Dare.'

            'Okay. I dare you to smother tonight's dinner in peanut butter and serve it to...' he paused. 'Braj Vikash.'

            Josha smiled. 'Why Braj?'

            'Because you are scared of his brother, who will be watching.'

            'Maybe that's not a good idea.' Arjun reasoned. 'Vijay has had a rough time. Sanjay died only yesterday.'

            Bikram shook a little at the sound of Sanjay's name. 'Yes. That was my fault.'

            'No it wasn't.' Suneep objected. 'But I think your idea is fine. Why peanut butter?'

            'Oh, I know Josha hordes the stuff.'

            Josha smiled. 'Everything tastes better with peanut butter.'

            Arjun smiled too. 'When did you work that out?'

            'Months ago now, when the Australians arrived. I had never heard of it until they showed me. Now I love it.'

            The dinner bell rang, and the group stood up to leave.

            'Ask!' Danny hissed to Bikram as they left. 'Ask before dinner! You know Dr. Ashwin will let you out whenever!'

            Bikram giggled. 'I do not look decent...'

            'You look fine, dai.' Arjun encouraged his friend.

            Bikram smiled shyly and nodded. 'Okay, okay. I will.'

            Joy was one of the quietest girls on campus, as well as the kindest. She had always gotten along well with Shaktiah, though the two had never been close, as they were very similar. She probably could have been great friends with Alyssa, but found the girl equally shy upon first meeting – and so they had never progressed. Joy's friends were primarily outgoing, blunt, and at times a little domineering, but the girl certainly had a personality of her own. She knew everyone around her, even if they didn't know her. She was very intelligent, but not cocky and obnoxious.

            She was also very beautiful. Joy was a fair-skinned girl, with a brown tinge. She was, in fact, only a few shades lighter than Bikram who was fairly pale himself. She had a cute button nose, large, shy, brown eyes, and long, dark brown, curly hair. She braided her long hair, but strands always managed to find their way loose, and framed her sweet face. She was short, delicate, and feminine.

            Bikram did not contrast greatly to her. He had a rather sweet face too, and big, expressive eyes, though - fortunately for him -  he lacked the long, dark eyelashes that accompanied Joy's. He had a fairly typical Nepali nose (angular, like and Englishman's, and a little squashed at the front) and it suited his face, though whether it made him look handsome or cute was detectable. Bikram's hair was naturally curly, and – as he hadn't cut it for a few weeks – was getting a little long. His hair naturally spiked at the front when short, and when longer it rolled. In fact, the front of his hair was one of his most unusual features, as it was naturally high-lighted an obvious shade of dark brown. Bikram was short for a man, though stocky as well, which he was grateful for. He would have hated to be short and skinny.

            Joy did not pay much attention to the man until he walked right past the first dining room. She briefly wondered what he was doing, then figured he must have left something behind in the main building and continued walking with her friends.

            Her two friends were chatting furiously, and – as usual – she had no role in their conversation. Turning around distractedly, Joy noticed that Bikram was walking very quickly – nearly running. The closer he came, the more she became convinced he was looking right at her.  She panicked, though she didn't know why.

            'What have I done?' She wondered, over and over. She began to worry maybe Bikram was going to ask her to play in chapel.

            'Hello, Joy!' He greeted her when he came into earshot. The girl had fallen behind, and her friends continued obliviously to the second dining room.

            'Hello, Bikram.' She replied, a little surprised that the man knew her name.

            'How are you?' Bikram asked, holding his head oddly.

            'Good thank you, dai. How are you?'

            Bikram laughed strangely – not quite a giggle – and answered, 'good I guess. Actually, a little nervous.'

            'Why?' Joy asked, really beginning to worry.

            'Because, I have come to ask you something. I am not really sure how I am meant to do this... so....' he was holding her gaze intently now, and the atmosphere was incredibly awkward. There was laughter, and Joy turned her head towards the sound.

            Danny was in fits, as were his five friends. Joy could not tell where they were looking, and she only hoped Bikram was not doing something stupid. Then again, Arjun was not laughing, so maybe it was okay.

            Bikram realised Joy had been distracted, and turned around himself. He seemed flushed when he saw his friends. 'Oh.' He muttered. 'They are very happy.' Then, smiling, he turned back to Joy. He was rubbing his hands incessantly, which only worried the girl further.

            'I should go.' She tried. 'Can this wait?'

            Bikram was not sure. 'Ah... in theory.'

            'Okay, then. I will go.'

            'No, it cannot wait.' Bikram suddenly said blatantly. Joy cringed, and stayed back, while Bikram continued stammering for a while. 'I...ah... I need to ask you...'

            Joy sighed. 'Could you please hurry up?' She asked, unusually blunt.

            Bikram took a deep breath and nodded. 'Sure. Okay. I have come to ask if you will go out with me.' He began to speak very quickly. 'I am not sure how this works. Do I have to see your father? If so, does that mean I have to wait until the holidays to ask you? Should I not have asked you?'

            'Why are your friends laughing at you?' Joy asked, beginning to tremble.

            Bikram began shaking too. 'Probably because I am so nervous.' He muttered.

            'Is this a dare?' She questioned, showing just how bright she was. 'If so, why me?'

            Bikram was embarrassed now. 'Actually, it is a dare...'

            Joy cut him off. 'Okay, then, good night.' And she began to leave.

            'No!' Bikram panicked. 'You must hear the end! They chose you because they know I like you!'

            Joy turned around slowly, a little amused. 'How can you?' She asked. 'This is the most we have ever spoken.'

            Bikram nodded, his head bobbing up and down repeatedly. 'Yes... but I hear what people say about you, and see you. Always good things.'

            Joy smiled shyly, and Bikram wondered what that meant. 'Well, thank you for your complement.' She began, and Bikram could feel an answer coming. 'But I do not know if you are for real or not. At any rate, if you were you would have to speak to my father. He is visiting tomorrow – he always comes just before exams and stays with me so that I have someone to go home with.'

            Bikram nodded, a little more hopeful. 'Yes! I have seen you with him before. You were on the same train last year.'

            'Yes.' Then, shyly, Joy asked, 'you were staring at me for most of the trip, weren't you?'

            Bikram blushed. 'Probably.'

            Joy laughed a little – a very quiet laugh. 'Bikram,' she continued, 'you surprise me. But like I said, if you are for real, you have to speak to my father.'

            'It is real.' Bikram assured her. 'I had promised myself I would ask you on the train this year at least. I am glad my friends pushed me. But tell me, is it worth talking to your father? Are you only going to say no to me?'

            The girl smiled. 'I do not think you are meant to ask that, dai.'

            'Oh, do not call me brother.' Bikram teased. 'That is like saying no.'

            Joy chuckled, and began to leave. 'I have to go, Bikram,' she said, deliberately sing the man's name. 'Have a good night.'

            'Will you come to cards?'

            The girl paused thoughtfully. 'Maybe.' She finally replied. Then, gracefully, she disappeared into the shadows.

            Bikram smiled, though he was a little unsure as to what he was meant to think. He walked back to his friends as calmly as possible, but lost it a little when Mehmet cried, 'what did she say?!'

            'She said I had to speak to her father.' Bikram replied, a little scared and excited.

            'That is as good as yes!' Danny reasoned, perhaps incorrectly.

            'Do not tease me.' Bikram replied. 'And it was not nice of you to laugh.'

            'Arjun did not laugh.' Danny helped.

            Arjun smiled at his shorter elder. 'It was very funny, dai.'

            Bikram didn't mind Arjun's teasing, and led the way into the dining room.

            'How old is she?' Chandan asked. 'She looks 16.'

            'She is 18 this year.' Bikram answered.

            'When?' Josha asked.

            Bikram shifted a little. 'December.'

            Chandan laughed. 'So she is four years younger than you?'

            Bikram frowned. 'Three.'

            'Three and a half.' Arjun helped.

            'That is big.' Suneep did not help.

            'No it isn't.' Danny did help.

            'I think it's fine.' Mehmet agreed. 'Good age gap.'

            'Guys.' Bikram interrupted. 'Stop! I still have to speak to her dad! Now come on, Josha, how will this peanut butter thing work?'

            Josha chuckled, and Suneep spoke. 'We are partners in crime.' Holding up a jar of peanut butter he added, 'peanut butter crime.'

 

 

 

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