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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3. Chapter Two: The 7 Roommates

 

‘Sir!’

          The door to Gopi’s office flung open, and there stood his colleague, frowning and slightly flustered.

          ‘Sir, have you seen the figures?’

          Gopi sighed. ‘I made the figures.’

          ‘This is a very expensive operation.’

          ‘It has been expensive already.’

          ‘Do you really want to continue?’

          Gopi did not reply immediately. Instead, he stood up slowly and turned to face the man, smiling.

          ‘Tell me, friend, do you believe in our cause?’

          The man nodded eagerly. ‘Yes, sir.’

          ‘You believe in the liberation of India?’

          ‘Yes, sir!’

          Gopi face hardened. ‘Then we will continue as planned.’

          His colleague opened his mouth to say something more, thought the better of it, and quickly left the room without so much as a goodbye.

 

It didn't take Arjun long to realise that he'd either end up serving fast food or collecting trolleys. No matter how hard he tried, he was almost instantly turned away.

                But being turned away so quickly gave him plenty of time in between interviews to inspect Melbourne city, and he was quite relieved to find it a little more like India than what he’d seen out the plane window.

                It was a tiny city, he thought, with hardly any traffic or pedestrians, but the amusing part was the fact that everyone seemed to think it was so busy. People would recoil if they were accidentally bumped into, and didn’t seem to be able to cope with the close contact that was considered nothing in India or Nepal. He found himself secretly laughing at the Australians – just a little thought.

                The friends regrouped for lunch and began sharing their stories, though Arjun was sure to leave out his opinions on Australia. He certainly didn’t need the others to loathe the place – especially not Josha or Suneep, the two troublemakers.  

                'Are you finding they turn you down straight away?' Arjun asked.

                Suneep shook his head. 'No. They ask me what I did for class 12. If I play piano. Then they ask me where I am from... then they get less enthusiastic.'

                'Same here!' Chandan piped up.

                'I think they think we are Chinese or something.' Suneep reasoned. 'They think we must be smart.'

                Arjun smiled, but did not say anything.

                'What have you got next?' Mehmet asked, gathering rubbish as he spoke.

                'Interview for accounting job.' Arjun replied.

                'You want?' Danny asked.

                'I want the next one.' Arjun shook his head, also gathering rubbish. 'It is secretarial job. Just a little more interesting.'

                Mehmet stood up, carrying all the rubbish. 'Then you have one more shot at working out how to get employed.'

 

As usual, the job interview did not go well.

                Arjun walked slowly out of the building, feeling low. He jumped when a girl - slightly younger than him - spoke.

                'Didn't get it?' She said, her occa accent coming through.

                Arjun nodded, and then frowned. 'No... yes?'

                'Either works, I reckon.' The girl replied. 'I don't know what it is. I mean, I've been to - like- fifty interviews, and all they do is listen to me for - like - about five minutes and then they - like - shove me off. I mean, it's almost like I'm - like -actually a criminal or something, know what I mean?'

                Arjun nodded.

                'Say, what's ya name?' The girl continued.

                'Arjun.'

                'Ar-what?'

                'Arjun. A-R-J-U-N.'

                'Right, what ev. I'll just call you Johnny.'

                Arjun frowned. 'What is your name?' He returned the question.

                'Amy.' The girl replied. 'A-M-Y-Y.' Arjun was intrigued, and the girl smiled. 'Amy Yates - double y.'

                'Pleased to meet you.' Arjun said, extending his hand. The girl burst into fits of  laughter.

                'Where are you from!?' She cried.

                Arjun's face showed how utterly confused he was. 'Nepal.'

                The girl laughed even more. Arjun marveled out her impressively wide smile, considering how tiny her oval face was. 'Who do you think I am!? The Queen of England!?' What are you shaking hands for?!'

                Arjun looked at his hand and then dropped it. 'It is polite.' The girl laughed even more. 'What?' Arjun asked. 'What's wrong? Is it not polite?'

                Amy calmed down and answered the question. 'You're so old fashioned! Its' cute-as!'

                'Cute as what?'

                The girl chuckled. 'Just cute.' She distractedly flicked back her long, dark blonde hair.

                Arjun blinked. 'I'm sorry, I am very confused.' With this he gave a nervous laugh -more like a giggle really.

                The girl giggled too and pulled out her phone. 'Here, let me give you my number. I can tots help you.'

                'Tots?'

                'Totally.' Arjun pulled out his phone, and the girl added her number. Arjun added his to her phone. '20?' The girl guessed.

                Arjun looked up. 'Me? Yes. You?'

                '19.'

                Arjun smiled. 'So little.'

                The girl looked up and laughed. 'You are the funniest person I have ever met. What is with you?'

                'My friends...' Arjun replied, with a gut feeling that was the wrong answer. 'Six friends. Seven of us in total.'

                Amy laughed yet again. 'I said what, not who! Hahaha, lol! Tots awks for you!'

                Arjun didn't even bother to ask what tots awks meant. 'I have to go.' He excused himself. 'Nice to meet you. I hope you get a job.'

                'Thanks. You too.'

                Arjun smiled and walked off.

                After a while, his mind drifted back to the job interview, and he wondered why he wasn't being employed. Suddenly, it hit him.

                'That's it!' He cried. 'It's got to be! It's the only thing Amy and I have in common!' With this, Arjun sped up and walked with a new resolve.

 

Mehmet smiled, and the interviewer frowned.

                'You're Indian?' He asked.

                'Yes.' He did not ask the man if he were American.

                'You're 23?'

                'Yes.' He also didn’t ask the man if he were 60 – he had a feeling this man with next to no hair was actually about 30.

                'Do you have any qualifications?'

                'I have a bachelor and a masters.' He really wanted to ask the man if he ever moved. He looked like he was stuck to his seat.

                'Of what?'

                'Divinity.' Stuck in his seat – in this tiny room in his tiny chair… far too tiny for him.

                'So you've never really had a job.'

                'Not really… I've had part time work. But I was a good student.' He laughed. 'I guess that's what they all say.' He wondered if the man could even smile.

                'Yes.'

                No, he could not.

                Mehmet grinned. 'Then I am a very bad student.'

                'And why's that?'

                'Because I always have to be different. The lecturer says one way, and I instantly want to write another.'

                The man smiled a little – he could smile! Sort of. 'So your grades were poor?'

                'No! I can argue about anything!'

                The man beamed. 'I'm dying. Sell me our premium package.'

                Mehmet nodded. 'Sir, I know you feel you don't need life insurance. That's because you don't. Your family does.'

                'I don't have a family.'

                Mehmet could believe that.

                'It doesn't matter, sir. Because regardless of whether or not you have a family, I do, and I need to look after them.'

                That was true.

                The interviewer's face lit up, and he burst into fits of laughter. 'You're hired!' He cried. 'You're brilliant!'

                And you’re fat, Mehmet thought, but he didn’t say it. Instead, he smiled. 'Thank you, sir. I do my best.'

 

'Arjun?' The secretary said, frowning. 'It is Ar-jun?'

                Arjun shrugged. 'Arjun. Kind of like a sh... with a z sound. Arjun.'

                'Oh, you mean like a French 'j'?'

                'Apparently.' There was an awkward silence.

                'Anyway, you may see the boss now.'

                Arjun nodded, straightened his tie, and walked into the room.

                'Good afternoon, Arjun...?'

                Arjun extended his hand. 'Call me John.'

                The boss turned his head curiously and shook Arjun's hand. 'Please, take a seat.'

                Arjun obediently did so.

                The man looked Arjun up and down before slowly speaking. 'Why John?'

                'Arjun. John. It was a friend's suggestion.'

                The man nodded. 'Where are you from?'

                'Nepal.'

                'Look, I don't need your family history. Just where you're from. Sunshine? Vermont?'

                Arjun flinched and the replied, 'Tullamarine.'

                'Near the airport?'

                'Yes.'

                'So have you ever been to Nepal?'

                'Yes.'

                'You like it?'

                'Yes, sir.'

                Definitely a lot more than Australia, Arjun added in his mind.

                'Been to England?'

                'No, sir.'

                He’d heard England was prettier than Australia too.

                The man leant forward and eyed Arjun curiously. 'How long have you been in Australia?'

                'Twenty-four hours, sir.'

                Some emotion danced across the man's face. Then it disappeared. 'So why do you want this job?'

                'Truly sir? I need the money. And I don't want to earn it pushing trolleys. I'm fully capable of this work, and quite qualified... or nearly.'

                'What qualifications do you have?'

                'Sir, I can speak English, and I can spell. I also happen to know the alphabet.'

                The man blinked. 'Qualifications. Pieces of paper.'

                'Sir, I nearly have a bachelor.'

                'Of what?'

                'Does it matter, sir?'

                'Of course it does!'

                There was silence.

                'Sir,' Arjun finally said, 'I can speak 5 different languages. I've met one English person in my entire life, and yet I managed to convince you I was English. In India or Nepal you would have hired me already.' He wished he could just go back there and get away from this horrible country!

                'This is Australia.'

                'I am aware of this.' He was gritting his teeth a little. He wished he could forget this was Australia. Or perhaps wake up and find this was all a dream and the country was actually beautiful.

                'See that? You just avoided a contraction.'

                Arjun smiled. 'I don't think so.'

                'How are you going to correct my grammar when you're still learning?'

                Arjun thought for a moment, and then leant forward. 'Sir, can you tell me what a prepositional phrase is?'

                'I can't explain it, but I can pick it.'

                'Good.' Arjun replied, leaning back in his seat. The boss waited, but nothing came.

                'Well?' He finally asked. 'Isn't this the part where you say something that blows me away?'

                Arjun smiled. 'Why say? Everyone says things. No, doing is far more important. Any-one can say, but not every-one can do. Why say when you can do?'

                'Do what?'

                'The job, sir.'

                For the first time, the man gave a wide smile. 'John, you're hired.'

                Arjun's face lit up immediately. 'Thank you sir.' He replied.

                'What's your full name again?'

                'Arjun.' He replied. 'A-R-J-U-N. Arjun Mehtar. M-E-H-T-A-R.'

                'Middle name?'

                'Yes, sir, Deven.'

                'Ar-june Dev-en Me-tar?' The boss replied.

                Arjun winced. 'Call me John Stephen Metre.'

                The boss nodded. 'Will do, and thank you.'

 

Danny laughed. 'So are you dancing on street now? You got job?'

                Camel smiled. 'No, only if some-one else gets job today. Did any of you?' There were sheepish grins. 'No? Then you will have to sing nice songs to me - Camel!'

                'Arjun is not here yet.' Suneep pointed out.

                Meanwhile, Chandan was confused. 'How did you get the nickname Camel?'

                Mehmet smiled. 'Well, in Indian mythology, Camel is symbol of love, and...'

                The door opened, and in walked Arjun. He smiled. 'Do not lie, dai.'

                Camel was indignant. 'What!? It is true!'

                Chandan turned to Arjun. 'Why is he called Camel?'

                Arjun smiled. 'His last name is Jamil. Camel in Arabic.'

                Chandan laughed, and Mehmet frowned.

                'You got job?' Dandin changed the topic.

                Arjun beamed. 'Yes!' He cried. 'I worked it out! I worked out why I wasn't being employed! Amy helped me!'

                'Who?' Danny questioned.

                'A girl I met.' Arjun replied.

                'Ooo...' Suneep and Mehmet both teased.

                Arjun chuckled. 'She did not speak well.'

                'She was Indian?' Mehmet asked.

                'No, Australian.'

                Suneep laughed. 'Oh, I see. So what - you put on English accent and got employed?'

                Arjun nodded. 'I am called John.'

                Mehmet laughed. 'Come up with a name for me.' He asked. 'I keep being called Muhammad.'

                Everyone laughed, and Arjun thought hard.

                'Can we get dinner?' Josha interrupted. 'I'm starved.'

                Mehmet sighed, and the group left to get dinner.

 

The shopping centre was crowded – in Australian terms – with fake trees all over the place. What was the point of that? Arjun wondered. It wasn’t like the fake trees were going to do anything. If they were going to get rid of all the trees there was no point in pretending they hadn’t done it. His people weren’t dumb enough to do that.

                Mehmet placed a hat on the ground, and Arjun panicked. 'No, dai! Not here! Not now!'

                'Five minutes.' Mehmet replied. 'That is all.'

                'Just do the chorus, dai.' Danny smiled.

                Mehmet seemed relaxed, and prepared to dance. His friends backed away.

                Clearing his throat, he began singing. 'Zoobi doobi, zoobi doobi pum para. Zoobi doobi param pa. Zoobi doobi, zoobi doobi naache... que plagal stupid man!' He continued in this manner for a while, all the time dancing. Then, finally, he stopped. 'No money.' He noted, putting the hat on.

                'People are staring.' Arjun whispered.

                Mehmet turned around and met many eyes. 'Hey! Thank you!' He cried. With this, everyone went about their own business. Arjun chuckled, and Mehmet beamed. 'I could become Bollywood star.'

                'Haha, tots.'  A voice behind them said.

                Arjun turned around and found himself face to face with a bright eyed young girl – woman? 'Amy!' He cried. 'You are here?'

                'Yeah, I live round here. Fancy seeing you in the same line at the same take-away... thing-o.'

                Arjun chuckled.

                'This is Amy?' Mehmet questioned, turning to Arjun.

                Arjun smiled sheepishly. 'Yes.' He said, in between nervous chuckles.

                'Did you get a job?' Amy asked.

                'Yes.' Arjun replied. 'Did you?'

                'Yeah. Got a job at a clothes shop.'

                Arjun laughed, and only Mehmet understood why.

                'So who's your friend?' The girl continued.

                'This is Mehmet. We call him Camel.'

                'Sure thing, pleased to meet you, Cam. I'm Amy.'

                Mehmet extended his hand, and the girl laughed. 'You guys are so weird.'

                Mehmet was taken back. Suneep took this opportunity to join in the conversation.  'You are racist?' He asked.

                Amy smiled. 'Yar. Who are you?'

                'Suneep. Give me five.' Amy went to give him a high-five, and he pulled his hand away. 'Squid.'

                Amy laughed. 'I like you - you're cool.'

                Suneep didn't flinch. 'I know.'

                'Aren't I cool?' Mehmet asked.

                'You're a camel.' Amy returned.

                'Camel is symbol of love.'

                'What?'

                Arjun laughed.

                'So,' Amy continued, 'I've met Johnny, Cammie, and Sunny. Wait, I'm sorry, that's kind of a girly name. Gotta last name?'

                'Of course. It is Vadin. Suneep Vadin.'

                'Then you're tots Wade.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'Okay.'

                'You said there were 7 of you.' Amy said, turning to Arjun.

                'Yes.' Arjun replied.

                'I am also one of them.' Danny cut in. 'My name is Dandin Kinton.'

                'Pleased to meet you, Danny. I'm Amy.'

                'I'm Chandan Sanee.'

                Amy's face fell. 'Well... you can't be Danny too.'

                'I have middle name.' Chandan offered. 'Chandan Lajrus Sanee.'

                Amy smiled. 'Lazarus? Then you're Laz.'

                Chandan smiled. 'That is so cool.'

                Josha jumped in. 'I'm Josha.'

                'Zosha?'

                'Yeah. J-O-S-H-A.'

                'Woah, woah, wait. ‘J’? You're totally Josh then.' Josha just laughed.

                Bikram finally edged in. 'Bikram Tapan.'

                Amy actually shook his hand. 'You're Ram.' She looked around, and re-capped things. 'Johnny, Cammie, Wade, Danny, Laz, Josh, and Ram. Pleased to meet you all. I'm Amy.'

                'How old are you?' Bikram asked.

                Amy was taken back. '19. Yous?'

                '22.' Bikram replied.

                '24.' Danny answered.

                '23.' Cammie offered.

                '22.' Suneep put in.

                '21.' Came Josha's answer.

                '21.' Chandan piped up. 'Younger than him.'

                Bikram cut in. 'Suneep is younger than me.'

                Suneep was not impressed. 'Not by much.'

                'It's three months, bhai.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows.

                It was Arjun's turn. 'I am nearly 21.' He said quietly.

                Amy laughed. 'Baby of the group, hey?'

                'Yes,' Bikram answered, 'he is our bhai.'

                'Bay? What?'

                'Little brother. You wanna be our bhainee?'

                'Little sis?' Amy guessed. Bikram nodded. 'Sure.' Amy replied. 'So what're you?'

                'I am your dai - older brother.' Bikram answered.

                Amy nodded. 'Cool-i-ohs. Hey, you're next.'

                The friends turned around and bought dinner before sitting down together.

                'Need a place to stay?' Amy asked.

                'Yes,' Arjun answered. 'Why?'

                'Cause I wanna move out. Live with some friends. But the only place good enough is sortta 2 units... and the parentals won't let us have it unless we fill it up. We can't afford it though. Want it? It's the flat behind us. Good place. Lots of room.'

                Mehmet seemed thrilled. 'That sounds wonderful! Where is it?'

                'In the city. I'll show it to you some time.' The girl scrunched up her rubbish and threw it at a bin, completely missing. Grudgingly, she stood up and fixed the problem.

                Arjun wasn’t even thinking about how strange rubbish bins were, and how annoyingly paranoid Australians were about littering. In fact, he seemed blissfully happy for the first time in a long time. 'That would be good.'

 

Two months later, Arjun lay awake in bed with his hands on his head.

                'Parties, parties! Always parties!' He moaned. He tried to think of the positives. With three big bedrooms and one little one, each man had his own space in the unit. The place was cheap, and close to work - by now every-one had jobs, which was a good thing. They needed them desperately.

                Arjun rolled over and stared out the window. He was in the tiny room, all by himself. He had been more or less banished by every-one, even Chandan. 'Just like old times.' He muttered.

                The party finally stopped at 1 a.m., and Arjun sighed with relief. Rolling over, he figured he'd better get some sleep.

                Suddenly, there was a scream.

                Arjun sat up, and listened as the screams continued. Soon there was weeping too. Then, 'Stop, stop! Please stop!'

                Arjun's eyes widened. 'Chandan!'

                He threw the covers off and rushed out of his room. Rushing up to Chandan's room, he saw Suneep sitting next to him in a complete panic.

                'He won't stop!' Suneep cried.

                Arjun raced into the room and jumped on the bed. 'Chandan!' He cried. 'Dai, it's alright!' He put his arms around his friend, as if he were a child, and began repeating, 'it's all right.'

                'He won't stop!' Chandan cried, tears streaming down his face.

                'Chandan, there's no-one there.' Suneep pleaded. 'Please.'

                Chandan cried in terror. 'He's not stopping!' He repeated, in complete hysterics.

                Mehmet rushed into the room, followed by Dandin. They were followed shortly by Bikram and Josha.

                'What's wrong?' Mehmet asked, sitting in front of Chandan.

                'He won't stop crying.' Suneep replied, as Arjun continued rocking him back and forth.

                'What's wrong?' Mehmet asked again, this time to Chandan.

                'He won't stop!' Chandan screamed in terror.

                'Who?' Dandin asked. 'Who won't stop?'

                'Don't ask!' Arjun suddenly screamed, pulling Chandan closer. He clung to Arjun like a child to their mother.

                'He's killing him!' He screamed.

                'Who?' Dandin asked again.

                'Silence, fool, silence!' Arjun screamed again.

                Chandan suddenly stopped screaming and. broke down crying.

                'He's awake.' Josha noted.

                Arjun turned to see Chandan's face. 'Are you all right?' He asked.

                'No.' Chandan sobbed. 'I am not.' Arjun held his friend close, and he continued sobbing. 'I am not all right. I am not. I'm just not.'

                Arjun tried hard not to cry too, and the others looked at their feet. Then they walked out, leaving Arjun to deal with Chandan.

 

Arjun woke up early, and looked down at Chandan. In the end, the young man had forced him to stay, and had fallen asleep on him while sobbing. Arjun carefully slipped away, and walked to the kitchen. The first person he saw was Danny.

                'He is just like a little child.' Danny muttered scornfully.

                'Do not say that!' Suneep snapped. 'He is sweet! He was innocent!'

                'He is still!' Mehmet reasoned, sniffing the milk. 'That is why he cannot cope.'

                Arjun sighed, and stared at the sink. Suneep approached slowly. 'I am sorry.' He whispered. 'He just started. I didn't know what to do.'

                Arjun turned around and nodded. 'It is all right.'

                'Arjun!' Came a terrified cry.

                Arjun panicked and raced over to Chandan. 'Yes?' He asked.

                Chandan's face flooded with relief. 'You are fine.'

                'Yes, I am fine.' Arjun reassured him. 'Every-one is fine. Come, you must get ready for work.'

                Chandan nodded, but did not move. Arjun took the hint, and left him alone.

 

 

 

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