I consider Isabel Perez to be the character in Blood of My Brother around whom all of the other characters pivot. Lives and destinies change radically because of her. This passage gives the reader a glimpse into her life just before she meets Jay Cassio and they embark – unknowingly at first – on the journey to their own salvation.
“Do you know Juan Paredes?” Herman asked Isabel.
“You never met him, not even once? He considered himself quite attractive to woman.”
“I would tell you if I did.”
“He’s dead,” Herman said. “His head is in the suitcase.”
Isabel gave Herman one of her nothing looks, and then glanced over at Jose, who was smiling. She had heard that Jose beheaded his victims, but had been reluctant to believe it, even of him. She looked back at Herman, remaining silent, her face a blank.
“Would you like to see it?”
“We’ll show you anyway.” Herman nodded at Jose, who deftly flipped up the suitcase’s clasps and lifted it open. There, laying on a creamy white towel, was indeed a human head, the face pallid and ghostly, the long dark hair greasy, the raw, jagged flesh of the neck, where Jose’s machete had done its work, ringed with dried blood. Jose reached in, took his trophy by the hair, and lifted it, dangling it at eye level before Isabel, who looked from it to the still smiling Jose, not sure which face was the more ghastly.
“Take it away,” Herman said, “and say goodbye to Isabel. You won’t be seeing her for a while.” The facetiousness of this comment was lost on Edgar and Jose, but not on Isabel. They never said hello or goodbye, and everything in between they kept to the absolutely practical. She watched as Jose carefully—tenderly—replaced the head, closed the suitcase, and rose with Edgar. Ignoring her, Herman’s panthers, as he had taken to calling them, nodded to their master and left.
“Macho Juan was stealing from us,” Herman said when the Ferias were gone. “You will take his place.”