Second Sunrise: A Lee Nez Novel

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9780765343673: Second Sunrise: A Lee Nez Novel
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New Mexico State Police Officer Lee Nez is a nightwalker, a Navajo vampire. Thanks to the quick work of a Navajo shaman, Lee can walk about in the day and prefers his blood refrigerated-but his vampire nature makes him a magnet for other supernatural entities.

Take his current cases. Lee suspects that the vampire who created him during World War II is back in the US, searching for a cache of stolen plutonium. And Lee's being stalked by the remnants of a pack of skinwalkers-Navajo shapeshifters-who are literally out for his blood.

When the FBI shows up, in the person of the very attractive Diane Lopez, Lee's problems only increase. He can't tell Diane that the case she's looking into involves skinwalkers or that its his supernatural abilities that make him such a great cop. And teaming up with Lee could be very hazardous to her health.

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About the Author:

Aimée and David Thurlo have been married for more than thirty years and have been writing novels together for nearly that long, in a variety of genres including romance, young adult, and mystery. They have three ongoing mystery series, the Sister Agatha series, starring a cloistered nun, the Lee Nez series, featuring a Navajo vampire who teams up with a female FBI agent to fight crimes that have elements of the supernatural, and their flagship series, the critically-acclaimed Ella Clah novels. Several Ella Clah novels, including Tracking Bear, Red Mesa, and Shooting Chant, have received starred reviews from Booklist.

David Thurlo was raised on the Navajo Indian Reservation and later taught school in Shiprock, also on the Rez. Aimée, a native of Havana, Cuba, has lived in New Mexico for more than thirty years. The Thurlos share their home with dogs, horses, and various pet rodents. They have written more than fifty novels which have been published in more than twenty countries.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1
State Policeman Lee Nez shifted into high gear as his shiny black Chevy department cruiser topped the hill preceding Mesa Montañosa thirty-five miles east of Fort Wingate. The army had an ordnance storage facility there, beside the railroad tracks, where bombs and shells were kept in rows of bunkers.
As the war in Europe raged on, the enlistment of regular state police officers into the military had left many vacancies open and had given him the opportunity he’d dreamed of--an appointment as a state patrolman. Trained on the job, he was the first Navajo state policeman.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that his mother and father had connections in Albuquerque, where both taught at the Indian School. Lee knew that it was their association with the pueblo governors and politicians in Santa Fe that had made the difference.
Now Lee was training a newly appointed officer, Patrolman Benito Mondragon. Benny was tall and thin, nearly six feet four, a full four inches taller than Lee. Benny, a full year younger than Lee, had a wife and young son and was quiet on the job except when asking a question about work, or occasionally bragging about his boy. From what Lee could tell so far, Benny’s greatest asset was that he was a quick study.
It was a cool March evening, and the ground was drying out from a late-winter snowstorm. The worn, rutted narrow asphalt highway was dangerous to drive over forty-five in many stretches now, especially the closer one got to Fort Wingate, which had its share of large army convoys.
“Officer Nez?” Benny’s voice was a bit high-pitched, and Lee had advised him to lower it by an octave whenever possible when speaking to the public so he’d sound older and more experienced.
Lee glanced at the rookie. The cap with the shiny black bill was the same as his, but only served to make him appear even taller. His size and build were imposing, something that would serve the patrolman well when he was out on his own.
“Do you think we’re ever going to get the authority to stop drivers from going over the posted speed?”
“That all depends on the governor and the state legislature. Right now, all we can do is report them to their local rationing board, which has the authority to keep them from getting any more gas ration cards.”
“But if the driver is related to the local head of the board, like that trading-post operator near Gallup, the whole thing falls apart,“ Officer Mondragon replied.
“What I hate most is investigating cases like a local farmer who had his farm equipment’s gasoline siphoned off. You go into it knowing what happened. The gas got stolen so a black-marketeer could sell it, say, in Albuquerque.”
“My cousin’s neighbor discovered he can make more money selling gas than by planting corn or beans.”
The Chevy was running hot tonight. Lee could feel the heat coming through the thin fire wall. That always seemed to come with being low man on the totem pole--a phrase his bilagáana(white) sergeant used to remind Lee why he usually got the worst-maintained equipment.
He thought about the canvas water bag they carried on the front bumper. It provided radiator water almost as much as drinking water lately, and it wasn’t even the hot time of year yet.
“Always make sure your vehicle is in good shape and ready for emergencies before you go out onto the open road. In the winter, or during the rainy season where so many low spots are filled with water, it could mean your life,“ Lee said.
Most state patrolmen were on their own, with backup maybe hours away. Telephones in the scattered communities blessed with phone service were their only method of communication. State police cruisers were going to be equipped with radios after the war, so the rumors went, but that could take another year.
Lee loved his job and the opportunity to get off the Reservation and mix with the bilagáanasand his pueblo brothers farther down the Rio Grande River. Navajos and Mexican-Americans were treated like second-class citizens in bilagáanaareas, but with the war going on, local racial tensions had taken a backseat to other nationalities currently at the top of the hate list, like Krauts and Japs.
A police officer wearing the well-known charcoal black uniform with gray pockets and stripes down the pants, with a .45 Colt revolver on his hip, commanded respect. They were exceptions, of course. Drunk G.I.s on a weekend pass could become belligerent, but most locals, him included, usually gave them the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to appear unpatriotic.
Coming around a sharp curve in the road, Lee slowed to twenty-five.
“Deer-crossing area, right?” Benny asked.
Mule deer crossed here from the thick juniper and piñon forest down to the marsh along the arroyo bottom to his right, the north side of the narrow highway.
“Whoa!” Lee slammed on the brakes just in time as three does bounded down the hill onto the road. The last one darted to the side, narrowly missing the left fender of the cruiser.
“Navajo Ways tell us not to climb a hill or the deer will see us. I think he saw us.”
“Saw us? We almost had venison tonight.” Benny laughed.
“I’m just grateful I don’t have to explain the crumpled fender to Sergeant Burkholder, or worse, scrape meat on the hoof from the seat cushions while picking windshield glass from our foreheads.”
Glancing into his rearview mirror, though he knew heading into the curve that no vehicle had been close, Lee shifted down into low gear and picked up speed from the lugging engine.
“Damn bladder. I never should have had that second cup of coffee in Grants.” Benny moaned, stretching his legs in agony.
“Rookie,“ Lee said, chuckling. He waited until he was on a straight and level stretch of highway again, then pulled over. He hadn’t wanted to be the first to complain, but the truth was, he had to go himself before he exploded.
“I’ll get a flashlight.” Benny grabbed the light from the glove compartment, then opened his door and left in a hurry.
Lee took a quick glance around before deciding to step outside. After hours spent staring through the twin cones from his headlights onto the empty road, his night vision was poor, and he waited for his eyes to adjust.
The road looked clear in both directions. Except for the railroad tracks a few miles to his right and one adobe farmhouse several miles back, this section of New Mexico was desolate, occupied only by a few head of cattle, mule deer, and rabbits.
Noting where Benny had gone by the beam of the flashlight, Lee climbed down the road embankment until he was behind a large juniper twenty feet away from the other officer. Nobody could see them from the road, even if they happened to come along at this late hour. It was nearly eleven-thirty, he knew by estimating their travel time from Grants.
When he was done relieving himself, Lee turned and climbed back up the slope to the cruiser where Benny was standing, waiting.
Suddenly there was a loud pop, and the screech of tires somewhere east, coming from the direction of Fort Wingate. Several more loud bangs could be heard, echoing down the low valley from the nearby mesas.
“What the hell was that?” Benny said, looking down the road.
“Gunfire,“ Lee said, jumping back inside the cruiser. “Hurry up. Let’s go.” As Benny climbed inside, Lee heard the rattle of automatic weapons fire.
“Hijacking?” Benny asked, his voice higher than before.
Lee shrugged. “Maybe it’s black-market hoods. I wish we had a two-way radio or a telephone nearby.”
Now that Prohibition had been repealed, Lee had heard that some of the gangsters had taken to stealing government supplies. Instead of selling booze, they stole gasoline and anything else that could turn a profit. But they wouldn’t dare hijack an army truck this close to a military post, would they?
As he drove down the highway, Lee decided against using the emergency lights and siren. “We’re going for a silent approach because we need an advantage, and I’m keeping our headlights off so we’ll keep our night vision. Take your extra ammunition out of your belt loops and put it in your pocket where it’ll be handy.”
Rolling down the window, Lee drove as fast as he dared, listening for the sounds of gunshots, trying to gauge their distance. They were much louder now, and more than one automatic weapon was being used.
Mentally adding up their combat potential, Lee knew he and Officer Mondragon each had twenty-four rounds for the Colt New Service revolvers, and there were another sixteen rounds in a bandoleer for the twelve-gauge shotgun under the seat.
He’d give Benny the shotgun, and stick to his own unofficial .30-30 Winchester lever action that he kept rolled up in a blanket in the trunk. He was a crack shot, and that would help their odds.
What Lee feared most was that by the time they arrived, only the bad guys would still be standing.
* * *
Lee knew they were close when he heard shouts as clearly as the bursts of gunfire. Lee had been in a gunfight before, but it was with a drunk miner who’d just shot his wife and her boyfriend. The sum total of Benny’s on-duty experience with violence was being roughed up in a bar melee his first week on the job.
Lee killed the engine, put the car out of gear, and coasted to a narrow cut in the road flanked by high ground covered with junipers.
Lee held up his hand, signaling the rookie to remain quiet. The shooting had stopped for the moment and stealth would be their greatest asset. Both of them checked their jacket pockets again for extra pistol rounds and the rookie hooked a flashlight int...

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