Two Faces of the Jaguar

 

by George Dismukes

Many secrets are hidden within the darkness of the jungle. Behold this one about a man, a woman, a black jaguar, and an ancient Mayan legend.

When Andrea Granger was assigned to go to Honduras, ‘get inside and gather evidence’ against the DEA’s main suspect, she was determined to accomplish her mission with the same efficiency as in her previous assignments. But that was before she met her culprit, Brandon Shaw.

He melted her heart and her resolve, and so did Naja, Brandon’s 300 pound black jaguar and closest companion. She quickly discovered there was much more to Brandon Shaw than met the eye, and just as quickly, she found her mission in jeopardy. Instead of arresting him, she became determined to rescue the flawed man of the jungle. But could she successfully extricate him from the web he had tangled himself in?

As if that weren’t enough, she found that Brandon Shaw was somehow connected to a thousand year old Mayan legend which threatened to destroy everything. Unprepared, she found herself having to deal with an ancient spirit determined to kill her.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Bad Dawn in Sambala

 

Dawn broke peacefully along the north coast of Honduras. Small waves washed up onto a coral sand beach as if it were too much trouble to make the effort. The fronds of coconut palms barely swayed, slowly, gracefully, to and fro. Small fiddler crabs scurried about on the sand, outrunning each incoming wave. The coastal village of Sambala, nestled against the Caribbean Sea, slept.

That is, most of it. There was one exception to this pastoral scene. On a narrow dirt backstreet of Sambala existed a rectangular clapboard building painted dark blue with a rusting tin roof. The building rested on round pilings which suspended its floor five feet above the ground. A large half-moon shaped cement stairway and landing gave the building entrance a much grander entrada than it deserved.

It was the activity going on inside this structure which gave the whole place a sinister aura. The interior was designed like a primitive sanctuary. Two rows of pews lined each side with a center aisle leading to a dais at the back end of the building. Animal skulls were tied to the wooden pole rafters. Voodoo figurines made of corn husks and straw festooned the walls here and there.

A podium stood atop the dais, and adjacent to that, an iron barred cage, four feet wide by six feet long and four feet tall. A two-hundred-pound jaguar lay inside the cage. She was black as night, and her name was Naja. She was, much to her dismay, the instrument of this temple’s leader; a man who had the gall to call himself, “Smoke Jaguar.” That’s what he called himself, a royal name usurped from an ancient Mayan king of Copan.

Nobody knew his real name, and his origin was equally vague. He spoke with an accent that hinted of Jamaica. But he had never admitted to it. He was tall, thin, sported a shaved head, but not a shaved face. He wore, dark sunglasses, even when indoors, and dressed in an off-white muslin robe which fell to the top of his sandaled feet.

He stood behind the podium, adjacent to the iron cage, ranting like a madman. Most of his words were incoherent to all except him. Occasionally he would bring down a heavy walking stick hard on top of the cage, which infuriated Naja and elicited a furious roar from her every time. The thunderous sound within the small building had managed to reawaken those with the temerity to doze during Smoke Jaguar’s rambling diatribe.

Sitting on the second row of pews to the left side of the building was an exhausted Amer-Indian woman named Anna Maria, and her six-year-old son, Evaristo. Anna Maria cared less about what Smoke Jaguar was saying, even if she would have been able to understand him, which she couldn’t.

She sat there because her drunkard husband had staggered home from one of the palapa bars on the beach at about 2:00 a.m. He was higher than a Ceiba tree and in a romantic mood. After pawing her breasts way too roughly, and then demanding that she service him orally, she railed against his demands, grabbed her child and escaped out the front door.

She wandered aimlessly through the back streets of Sambala for an hour. Then, when she could walk no more, she spotted the open doors of the temple and wandered in simply because it offered a place to sit. She was so tired that she was even willing to put up with the nonsensical spewing of Smoke Jaguar. At least he wouldn’t be trying to run his hand up her skirt and force his fingers inside her.

Now, in slumber, Anna Maria became oblivious to all sights and sounds around her. Sleep took her blissfully away from her misery. Evaristo, on the other hand, was left to his own devices. He had napped, but the miracle of youth permitted him to awaken refreshed after an hour.

In ‘forma de six,’ he was curious, and enthralled by the majestic black cat in the cage.

No one noticed when Evaristo abandoned his mother’s side and made his way around the end of the pew. Like Anna Maria, what few visitors there were to the Temple of The Black Jaguar were asleep, even in the face of non-stop jabbering.

Little Evaristo approached the dais and stood in front of the cage watching the huge cat from scant inches away. Naja saw the child, but he represented no threat to her, so she dismissed his presence and laid her head on her paws. Evaristo, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why she didn’t roar at him. 

After watching for several uneventful minutes, Evaristo reached over and seized the large walking stick from where it rested against the side of the cage. Heavy in his small hands, Evaristo didn’t possess the size or strength to bang it down on top of the cage. Instead, he slipped one end of it through the bars and jabbed as hard as he could at the ribs of Naja. 

Like everyone else present in the temple, with the possible exception of Smoke Jaguar, Naja felt exhausted. Because Smoke Jaguar had left her alone for a while, she dozed. But the shock of a foreign object being jammed into her side awoke her in surprise and fury. She roared loudly and sprang backward to try and escape the invading object. In so doing she set two things into motion.

(1) The offending stick cantilevered between the bars of the cage. The large end of the stick was below Evaristo’s arm. The force of the stick now launched him, flinging him through the air like some child’s doll. He landed hard against the wall of the building. The impact knocked him unconscious and he slumped to the floor.

(2) When she sprang backwards, trying to escape the stick, Naja’s flank hit hard against the old rusty door of the cage. It was as if providence itself intervened, when horrifyingly, the latch gave way and the door creaked slowly open. The event got Smoke Jaguar’s immediate attention and caused him to finally shut up. He turned his attention to the cage. Seeing the door swing open, and seeing Naja turn toward that door, the seemingly fearless Smoke Jaguar started to panic. His eyes grew wide with fear.

Meanwhile, when Naja realized what had happened, she turned toward the door and moved to it slowly, cautiously. It was at this precise moment that Smoke Jaguar gave in to his fear. He screamed a blood curdling alarm, jumped down from the dais and scrambled toward the front of the building, pausing only a moment to grab a straw basket sitting on a small table, containing several bills of money.

The terrified attendees, including Anna Maria, followed him, having been roused by the ruckus, to say nothing of Smoke Jaguar’s horrific scream. Men and women poured out the front of the building, down the steps and onto the dirt street. Smoke Jaguar slammed the old wooden double doors shut and tied them with a rope which fit through holes where knobs would normally be.

He then had the presence of mind to call for assistance from some of the male followers. He told them to go quickly on both sides of the building and close the wooden shutters which were hinged at the top and held open by prop sticks. Several men responded with surprising alacrity and speed. Within moments, they secured the building. The mayhem was contained, but now what? Smoke Jaguar’s mind raced. “What next?” He wasn’t sure.

He leaned back against the double doors, clutching his straw basket of money tight against his chest. He had fucked up badly, and he knew it. He needed time to think. His narcissistic mind was already seeking remedies for this mess. How could he get out of this with minimal damage control?

The first issue was, of course, the little problem of a three-hundred-pound jaguar loose inside his temple. Naja did not like him, so it wasn’t as if he was going to be able to go in there and call to her by saying, “Here kitty-kitty!” Given the chance, she would use her razor claws to turn him into thick sliced bacon.

Dawn was bringing light to Sambala. The sun peeked over the horizon. Now that Anna Maria spent a few moments waking up and gathering her thoughts, she began looking for Evaristo. She didn’t see him, so she called to him. Then, the horrible truth hit her. Evaristo was still inside the temple… with the black jaguar!

Horrible confirmation of Anna Maria’s fears came a moment later. Naja roared so loudly that the building vibrated. At the same time, Evaristo screamed a prolonged, terrified scream. After that, only a deafening silence came from inside the temple.

Witnesses surrounding the front of the building had heard it all. Their eyes grew wide in disbelief and horror. Anna Maria went into shock. She had heard her child’s scream. She tried to hold her arms out, but they felt like lead. She sagged down onto the concrete steps, held her face in her hands and began to sob.

There was one person present at the gathering whom no one had noticed. He had been passing by en route to his morning errands when the stampede out the front doors of the temple drew his attention. His name was Julio. He was fifteen, born and raised in Sambala. He was skinny, burned dark brown by the Central American sun, a thick mass of hair on his head. He was an intelligent lad and it only took him a moment to size up the severity of the situation.

He knew for sure there was only one person alive who could defuse this situation. He needed to run fast and find Brandon Shaw. There was not a moment to lose if wholesale bloodshed was to be averted in his village. Julio turned toward Cuyamel and ran like the wind.

"Two Faces of the Jaguar"

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