The Sweet Scent of Death

(The beginning of the novel, Jaguar Child)



A vortex of flecks of fire, a fuego fantasma, forms in the street beyond me and drifts toward the noise of the plaza, trailing glittering debris. Through the cloth of my dress, I touch the copper sun hanging at my breast and stand, shivering, shoulders against the quinta wall, one cheek pressed against the fine shuck-work of the basket on my shoulder. The sweet scent of death—fragrant oils, wine, spices, and precious woods—eddies up our street.

I shiver, and draw my veil over my face with my free hand.

Tonight a fortune will be burned so it may go to the dead lands with the alcalde, Leon Ildefonso, the ruler of our town. In the distance, I can hear the funeral crowd roar, then roar again. They have lighted the pyre, its smoke and sparks turn the sky into glowing lizard skin. Drifting against the wind, a cloud of fantasmas, brighter than the dull red moons, speckles everything below them with lurid light.

On every major occasion, the fiery vortices come, leave drifts of the glass lentils we call witches’ eyes throughout our town. In Misericordia del Mar, the eyes are everywhere, decorating the gateposts of houses, heaped into play quintas by children, used as gamblers’ tokens, so common they sparkle in the dirt of our streets. Some say they bring good luck, others, bad.

No one is interested in me: time to go.

There will never be a better moment than this.


small Jaguar


Jaguar Child is now available for Kindle.

Paperbound coming in 2017.


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