Read The Lord of Opium Online

Authors: Nancy Farmer

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #General, #Family, #Multigenerational, #Science & Technology, #Dystopian

The Lord of Opium


Cast of Characters
The Dope Confederacy
The Land of Opium
1. The Oasis
2. The New Lord of Opium
3. El Patrón’s Private Wing
4. Cienfuegos
5. The Dope Confederacy
6. Mirasol
7. Major Beltrán
8. The Holoport
9. The Guitar Factory
10. Nurse Fiona
11. Feeding a Pet Waitress
12. The Long-Distance Picnic
13. The Opium Factory
14. Madness
15. Dr. Rivas
16. Dancing the
Huka Huka
Nueva York
17. The Fountain of Children
18. The African Child
19. Dr. Rivas’s Secret
20. The Bug
21. The Scorpion Star
22. The Altar Cloth
23. The Ruins of Tucson
24. The Biosphere
25. The Mushroom Master
26. The Brat Enclosure
27. Planning a Party
29. Night Terrors
30. A Visit to the Ajo Hills
31. The Party
32. Dr. Kim’s Experiment
33. Mirasol Dances
34. The Greenhouses
35. The Expiry Date
36. Going Rogue
37. The Funeral
38. The Mushroom Master vs. the Sky
39. María Learns the Truth
40. The Cloning Lab
41. The Solar Telescope
42. The Suicide Bomber
43. The Chapel of Jesús Malverde
44. El Bicho
45. Prisoners
46. Glass Eye Dabengwa
47. Happy Man Goes Hunting
48. El Patrón’s Advice
49. The Abandoned Observatory
50. The Secret Room
51. Uncoupling
52. The Ghost Army
Jesús Malverde
The Biosphere
The Healing Power of Music
The Mushroom Master
José Clemente Orozco
The Ghost Army
About Nancy Farmer

For Harold,
mi vida
, and for Richard Jackson, with deepest gratitude



Matteo Alacrán (Matt):
Once a clone of El Patrón, now the new Lord of Opium; age fourteen
El Patrón (deceased):
The old Lord of Opium
Celia, cook and
Matt’s foster mother
Tam Lin (deceased):
Matt’s bodyguard and foster father
Mirasol, also known as Waitress:
An eejit; age fifteen
Eligio Cienfuegos:
The head of the Farm Patrol
Daft Donald:
Bodyguard and best friend of Tam Lin
Mr. Ortega:
Matt’s music teacher and friend of Eusebio
Eusebio Orozco:
The guitar maker; an eejit
Major Beltrán:
Pilot working for Esperanza Mendoza
Nurse at the Ajo hospital
Dr. Kim:
Doctor at the Ajo hospital
Senator Mendoza and Emilia (deceased):
Father and sister of María Mendoza


María Mendoza:
Daughter of Esperanza; age fourteen
Esperanza Mendoza:
UN representative and foe of the drug trade
Nun at the Convent of Santa Clara; María’s foster mother


Recovering from being trapped in the boneyard; age fourteen
Leader of the boys; age sixteen
Age eight


Age seven
The Bug, also known as El Bicho:
Age seven
Age six
Dr. Rivas:
In charge of the hospital in Paradise
Dr. Angel and Dr. Marcos:
Daughter and son of Dr. Rivas; astronomers
Oldest son of Dr. Rivas; an eejit


The Mushroom Master:
Leading scientist


Glass Eye Dabengwa:
A drug lord; ninety-nine years old
Happy Man Hikwa:
Drug dealer working for Glass Eye
Samson and Boris:
Glass Eye’s Russian bodyguards


Birth of El Patrón:
Drug Wars:
Matt harvested:
Death of El Patrón:
Time period for
The Lord of Opium:



att woke in darkness to the sound of something moving past him. The air stirred slightly with the smell of warm, musky fur. The boy jumped to his feet, but the sleeping bag entangled him and he fell. His hands collided with sharp thorns. He flailed around for a rock, a knife, any sort of weapon.

Something huffed. The musky odor became stronger. Matt’s hand felt a metal bar, and for an instant he didn’t know what it was. Then he realized it was a flashlight and turned it on.

The beam illuminated a large, doglike face at the other end of the sleeping bag. The boy’s heart almost stopped. He remembered, long ago, a note Tam Lin had written him about the hazards of this place:
Ratlesnakes heer. Saw bare under tree.

This was definitely a
. Matt had only seen them on TV, where they did amusing tricks and begged for treats. The bear’s eyes glinted as it contemplated the treat holding the
flashlight. Matt tried to remember what to do. Look bigger? Play dead? Run?

The flashlight! It was a special one used by the Farm Patrol. One button was for ordinary use, the other shone with ten times the brightness of the sun. Flashed into the eyes of an Illegal, it would blind the person for at least half an hour. Matt jammed his thumb on the second button, and the bear’s face turned perfectly white. The animal screamed. It hurled itself away, falling over bushes, moaning with terror, breaking branches as it fled.

Matt struggled to his feet. Where was he? Why was he alone? After a minute he remembered to switch the beam off to save the battery. Darkness enveloped him, and for a few minutes he was as blind as the bear. He sat down again, shivering. Gradually, the night settled back into a normal pattern, and he realized that he was at the oasis. He cradled the flashlight. Tam Lin had given it to him, to protect him from animals when he was camping.
You don’t need a gun, lad,
the bodyguard had said.
You don’t want to kill a poor beastie that’s only walking through its backyard. You’re the one who’s trespassing.
Matt could hear Tam Lin’s warm Scottish voice in his mind. The man loved animals and knew a lot about them, even though he’d been poorly educated.

Matt found the campfire he’d banked the night before and blew the coals into life. The flaring light made him feel better. In all the years of camping here, he’d never seen a bear, though there had been many raccoons, chipmunks, and coyotes. A skunk had once burrowed into Matt’s sleeping bag in the middle of the night to steal a candy bar. Tam Lin had burned the sleeping bag and scolded the boy for foolishness.
Leave food about and you might as well put a sign on yourself saying “Eat me.”
Matt had been scrubbed head to toe with tomato juice when they got back to the hacienda.

Matt heaped the fire with dry wood from the supply Tam Lin had always maintained. He could see the familiar outlines of an old cabin and a collapsed grapevine.

Tam Lin wasn’t with him. He would never come here again. He was lying in a tomb beneath the mountain with El Patrón and all of El Patrón’s family and friends, if you could say the old drug lord had friends. The funeral, three months before, had been attended by fifty bodyguards dressed in black suits, with guns hidden under their arms and strapped to their legs. The floor of the tomb had been covered with drifts of gold coins. The bodyguards had filled their pockets with gold, probably thinking their fortunes were made, but that was before they drank the poisoned wine. Now they would lie at their master’s feet for all eternity, to guard him at whatever fiestas were conducted by the dead. Matt drew the sleeping bag around himself, trembling with grief and nerves.

He would not sleep again. To distract himself, he looked for the constellations Tam Lin had shown him. It was early spring, and Orion the Hunter was still in the sky.
Heed the stars of his belt,
said Tam Lin.
Where they set is true west. Remember that, lad. You never know when you’ll need it.
They had been roasting hot dogs over a fire and drinking cider from a bottle Tam Lin had cooled by submerging it in the lake.

What a grand existence it must be,
mused the bodyguard, turning his battered face to the sky,
to roam the heavens like Orion with his faithful dogs at heel.
The dogs, Sirius and Procyon, were two of the brightest stars in the summer sky. Pinning Orion’s tunic to his shoulder was ruby-red Betelgeuse.
As fine a jewel as you’ll find anywhere,
Tam Lin had declared.

Matt hoped Tam Lin was roaming now in whatever afterlife he inhabited. The dead in Aztlán came home once a year to
celebrate the Day of the Dead with their relatives. They must be somewhere the rest of the time, Matt reasoned. Why shouldn’t they do what made them happiest on earth, and why shouldn’t Tam Lin?

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