tagNovels and NovellasWolf Creek Ch. 16

Wolf Creek Ch. 16


Sun Li was masterful throughout that night and for the next two nights Ada spent in the Genting Highlands. And in succeeding months, he proved that he was inventive and capable of surprises as well. Their greatest challenge was in finding opportunity and location to carry on their affair. But somehow they managed through the next three years. If Stanfield suspected anything—if he noticed that Ada had taken on a special glow when he returned from Washington or that she had turned to painting mountain fast scenes with cascading waterfalls that he had to assume came entirely from her imagination—he said nothing. He was too much in love with his wife and not unaware of the impediments his own inability to perform sexually presented. And beyond the bit of adultry, Ada was the perfect wife, hostess, and intellectural foil for Stanfield.

As 1940 moved into 1941, that gathering storm in the outside world began intruding into Ada and Stanfield's idyllic paradise. Stanfield spent more and more time at the embassy in increasingly frustrating problem solving in a corner of the world that was slowly being isolated and beleaguered by the rising sun of the Japanese empire. For her part, Ada remained sunny side up to the Kuala Lumpur international community, but her true feelings could be seen in her painting. This would forever be known as her "gray" period. She was still painting the lush foliage of the Malayan jungle, but her painting was now being done in monochrome—in white and shades of gray and black. Just like a photograph; just like those other photographs, the one on J. Harvey Kincaid's nightstand and the ones she was receiving of Hugh's family. And, like the photographs, her paintings were study of subtle but clearly understood concern and fear for the future as much as the present. In all of this, Stanfield was her intellectual touch stone and Sun Li was her sexual release.

It wasn't only world events that had brought Ada to this period of her art. The early part of 1941 had also brought personal sadness to her from the far distance. In April she received a letter from her Aunt Martha informing her that her father, the Reverend Henry Albin, had died peacefully while taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon, after having given a rousing sermon to a handful of parishioners in his Natoma, Kansas, weather-beaten wooden church. Ada mourned the news, but she didn't mourn the loss of her father so much as she mourned her father's life—the life he'd never really had; the life he had denied himself.

She had hardly kept in touch with him after she had left his side, learning of his activities—or lack of them—from Aunt Martha. And now all she could feel for him was the sadness of what had never existed between them—or for him. The Reverend Albin had lived to be eighty-eight. Ada, who had always been told her dominate characteristics came from her father's side, could take comfort from his longevity. However, she told herself that, if she had the choice of living quietly to ninety or to live life to its fullness and die decades earlier, she'd choose the shorter life for herself without hesitation.

What had really brought her grief and had slapped her in the face with the trouble that was brewing in the world, however, happened the following month, in May. An experimental aircraft Quentin Hopewell and his wife, Estelle, were very publicly taking on an around-the-world adventure on a National Geographic assignment disappeared off the tracking charts in a group of Japanese-held Chinese islands off the coast of Hainan Island. A storm had put the aircraft significantly off course; it wasn't scheduled to go anywhere near those islands. But the reporting from Estelle had abruptly stopped and they didn't make their next scheduled landing. Soon thereafter they had planned to stop in Kuala Lumpur to visit Ada, and the Walkers had already laid on all sorts of media-covered events for them. But they simply disappeared. The Chinese authorities noted that they themselves had no access to the islands even though they supposedly were Chinese territory—and they used the opportunity to somewhat acidly point out to the Americans that they'd have to contact the Japanese, whom the Americans seemed to be ignoring were slowly gobbling up the world from the east. The Japanese government, when queried, simply said it knew nothing of any such flight—that their permission had not been requested for any such overflight of the islands and that permission would have been denied if it had been requested.

Stanfield, who had never liked Estelle and who certainly was repelled by Quentin's very public National Socialist leanings, commiserated with Ada's grief, but he also couldn't resist the opportunity to point to the irony of the possibility that the famously National Socialist apologist Quentin Hopewell had been brought to ground by the Japanese allies of National Socialism and shot as an American spy. Ada saw the irony but wasn't, in the slightest, amused that Stanfield had succumbed to his little joke.

The first week of December, 1941, was the worst in Ada's life. Although Stanfield told her to keep up appearances as best as possible, he also told her that war with Japan was becoming ever more likely and to quietly start packing their valuables for a quick evacuation. He also began to go around to the Americans in the international community in Malaya, cautioning them on the sly to prepare to be evacuated as well. Ada could tell that the tension and the burden of his responsibilities were wearing Stanfield down. He was moving slower and the worry was painted across his face during his every waking moment—not that his nightmare-tormented nights brought him any relief.

Regardless of the years of warning and days of planning, Ada and Stanfield were as shocked as the rest of the international community in Malaya when they were awakened on the morning of the December 8th to the news that the Japanese were attacking Singapore, that great Chinese merchant city at the base of the Malay peninsula. They actually heard of this assault, because it was so much closer to their current home, before they received the news that the Japanese had attack the U.S. bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii almost simultaneously, on December 7th on the eastern side of the International Dateline.

The 9th and the 10th were spent sending plane after any sort of plane that could be had stuffed to the edge of endurance with American citizens off to Australia as the Japanese began a relentless invasion up the Malay peninsula with only token resistance. With each plane departure, Stanfield begged Ada to get on board. But Ada staunchly refused, saying she would take the last plane with Stanfield—when the last American who wanted to go was on board a plane.

There was no last plane for the Walkers. The Japanese seized the Kuala Lumpur airfield before the Walkers could evacuate, although, thanks to Stanfield's perseverance and preparations, nearly all American nationals who were willing to leave had done so—and most, but not all of the evacuation planes had made it safely to Australia.

The last hope of escape having escaped them, Ada and Stanfield calmly returned to the American embassy compound to await whatever would be their fate. Stanfield looked exhausted from his weeks of tense activity and collapsed into a bamboo chair in the garden before he could make it to the house. Ada went for a glass of water. The house was deserted; they had convinced all of the servants that they must dissolve into the countryside and not reveal they had been working for the Americans. When she returned, Stanfield was draped in the chair, both of his arms in his white linen suit dragging over the chair arms toward the patio stones, and his head lolled to one side. Ada knew before she reached him that he was gone. She placed the glass of water on a table and sat in a bamboo chair beside him and waited, waited as the light of day dimmed and as the din of the approaching Japanese army grew louder.

The noise Ada eventually heard outside her garden gate, however, wasn't the Japanese. It was a voice that she knew so well and melted to on a regular basis. She rose from her chair and out of her lethargy and rushed to the garden gate, unlatched it, and flew into Sun Li's arms. He was dressed in the garb of a Malay peasant and had other, similar clothing in his arms.

"I've just heard you didn't make it out," he said through heavy breathing. "I've come to take you and your husband up into the mountains, where you will be safe at least until we can figure out how to get you away from here. Here, you both must put these clothes on so you won't be so conspicuous."

Ada broke down at that point and, pointing to where Stanfield was seated in his final repose in the garden, said it was too late for them.

Sun Li, sizing up the situation immediately, merely swept Ada up into his arms, ignoring her protests that she couldn't just leave Stanfield like that, and headed for the waiting carriage out on the road.

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