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Above him, the Buddha loomed like a ridge of gray matter. It slipped in and out of view. On the left was a dragon, long and serpentine, bristling with spikes. An amusement for kids, Kappel decided. He meant to sidestep it, but in a split second he was standing right in front of it gazing at its googly-eyed face and its gaping jaws with sharp incisors. And there was Bailey again, standing in a one-man line-up. So Bailey wasn’t dead yet. But he looked very stressed. He was growing paler and more stooped by the second. He didn’t even look in Kappel’s direction as he shuffled forward into the jaws and within the shadows he handed a ticket to an attendant who was hardly visible aside from his glittering brass buttons.
Kappel was atop the Buddha head where there was a sort of rooftop garden with pebbles underfoot and plants sprouting from timber boxes. From here the last nine would be easy. All around in a wide vista he saw the orange tile roofs of town. There was a highway with a strip of restaurants and motels, and beyond that lay the ocean. He could hear the surf crashing. Next time, he thought, I should bring a video camera. He saw the road and the white Caddy in the ditch with the red Camaro nearby and the first responders clustered around the cars. A row of emergency vehicles stretched along the road. Kappel detected an aura of silence and disappointment around them. He felt it was about time to get back to St. Pete’s.
Distorted off-station music blared from the public address system. Kappel made a mental note to tell the authorities to adjust the station. A gust of wind tossed some grains of sand at him. The grains turned to raindrops and where the rain hit the road Kappel saw red puddles spreading. There was thunder and lightning. Dark clouds rolled overhead, seething with inflamed rills and bulges, clouds so heavy and low that he could practically reach up and touch them. He felt an ache in his ribs. A quake rippled thru his body like an electric shock turning muscle and bone to rubber, he felt like a quivering jellyfish.
An attendant, a young man in a yellow slicker, emerged from the golf hut and scrambled up the rock pile, gesturing to Kappel. He had a clear, earnest face.
“Mr Hill, come down from the hill!” he called. That was what it sounded like he was saying.
I’m not Mr. Hill, thought Kappel. But he had to reply, he had to say something. “Don’t worry, son," he called back. "There’s nothing more to do.”