Lee Nez is a nightwalker-a Navajo vampire-and a New Mexico state police officer. Investigating cop-killing smugglers who are bringing in jewels and silver from Mexico, Lee is teamed once again with sexy FBI agent Diane Lopez, who knows Lee is a vampire and is attracted to him nonetheless.
The smugglers are Navajo shapeshifters or skinwalkers-and the cop and the FBI agent must kill them all without revealing that the smugglers are werewolves or that Lee is a vampire. Complicating matters, Lee is being stalked by a pair of vampire assassins who want revenge on him for killing their leader.
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About the Author
The Thurlos are the authors of the critically acclaimed Ella Clah novels, most recently Tracking Bear and Wind Spirit, of a stand-alone novel featuring Ella's mother Rose, Plant Them Deep, of the Sister Agatha mysteries, and of The Spirit Line, a book for young adults.
The Thurlos live in Corrales, New Mexico.
Aimée Thurlo is co-author of the Ella Clah series, the Lee Nez series of Navajo vampire mysteries, and the Sister Agatha novels. Her other works, co-written with her husband, David, include Plant Them Deep, a novel featuring Rose Destea, the mother of Ella Clah, and The Spirit Line, a young adult novel. Aimée, a native of Cuba, lived in the US for many years. She died in 2014.
David Thurlo, is co-author of the Ella Clah series, the Lee Nez series of Navajo vampire mysteries, and the Sister Agatha novels. His other works, co-written with his wife Aimée, include Plant Them Deep, a novel featuring Rose Destea, the mother of Ella Clah, and The Spirit Line, a young adult novel.
David was raised on the Navajo Reservation and taught school there until his recent retirement. He lives in Corrales, New Mexico, and often makes appearances at area bookstores.
Read an Excerpt
A Lee Nez Novel
By David Thurlo
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2004 David and Aimée Thurlo
All rights reserved.
Hunting skinwalkers was risky at night, but what other choice did a vampire have? New Mexico state police officer Lee Nez, technically only half vampire, looked over at his companion, Diane Lopez, who was being bounced around the inside of the pickup like popcorn in a Dutch oven, struggling to maintain a safe hold on the barrel of her shotgun.
"Surprise me by trying to miss a bump here and there, will you?" Diane grumbled. "One more thump against the roof, and the button on the top of my cap will penetrate my skull." She'd come ready for action. Jeans, a loose T-shirt and dark jacket, and a black cap that kept her hair out of her eyes.
It was close to midnight and they were traveling through an isolated area of the Navajo Nation southwest of Shiprock, near Rattlesnake. "Hey, by Rez standards this is a good road." Complaining or making small talk was one way of putting up roadblocks against fear and hesitation. But Diane, a trained FBI agent, would make the right moves when the time came.
Lee remembered his father, a doughboy from World War I, telling him that the soldiers who claimed not to be afraid were either liars or stupid. The trick was learning how to make fear work for and not against you.
"This damn shoulder harness rubs a short woman like me right in the ... wrong places," Diane continued. "Designed by a man, no doubt."
Lee chuckled. Developing a bad attitude now would serve to get them in the right frame of mind for the wet work ahead. They were hunting one particular Navajo skinwalker — a human witch capable of shape-shifting into a black jaguar. Killing wasn't a possibility — it was a requirement. Skinwalkers were evil by nature and had to be destroyed.
"Getting this woman just isn't going to be enough payback for me."
"I understand. She killed your partner." Lee kept his eyes on the road, swerving to avoid a long, narrow rut. His ability to see clearly in total darkness allowed him to drive without any headlights.
"Not very much prey around here for a skinwalker pack, is there? Or do they keep a low profile around their ... dens?" Diane asked, doing her best to keep a watch out her side window, despite her lack of nightwalker senses. She'd brought a night-vision scope, but if she tried to use it now, she'd probably just end up with a black eye.
"They're very careful not to attract any attention. Other Navajos will shoot them if given the opportunity. At least we have a lead." He drove on, studying the dry terrain. "We're probably less than two miles from the Blackhorse house now. If we're lucky, my guess will turn out to be right and she headed here after escaping our dragnet."
"I hope she'll be in panther form when I see her again. That's the shape she took when she killed my partner and that's what I'd like her to be when I kill her."
"This one got away once and knows about some of my abilities. I just hope she hasn't had time to share what she's learned with the others," he said. "Just remember their scent-tracking ability and that they'll be especially tuned in to my nightwalker blood. Since there's a slight breeze coming in from the west, we'll have to stay on the north, south, or east when we make our move."
Lee stopped the SUV and turned off the engine. "A heads up: If skinwalkers are out here hunting, all bets are off. We won't be the hunters — we'll be the hunted."
They climbed out of the vehicle and took a long look around, weapons in hand, before moving any farther.
Lee's rifle was always loaded, but now he made double sure and flipped the safety off. The black panther they were after weighed at least a hundred and fifty pounds. Most skinwalkers he'd encountered in the past fifty-five years or so had preferred the endurance of a wolf, or the agility of a mountain lion. But the black jaguar could be a deadly hunter, especially on a night as dark as this.
Signaling her readiness, Diane gave him a nod, and they crossed a narrow dry arroyo, then walked in a northeasterly direction, parallel to the arroyo but on the east side. Fifteen minutes later they reached their destination. To the west stood a gray, stuccoed wood-framed house with a pitched roof. There was a simple corral constructed of peeled pine logs, and there were two steel water barrels beside the house, but as expected no animals were around. Fifteen feet from the front door was an old Ford pickup.
They moved closer, keeping watch, when suddenly a small dog started barking. Diane raised her shotgun, though it was still quite a reach at that distance with buckshot.
"Too small to be a skinwalker. That's the real thing," Lee whispered, lowering his own rifle.
The dog, a black Lab cross probably less than six months old, had apparently been sleeping under the wooden porch. The young animal ran out toward them a little farther, then stopped, but continued to bark at the top of his lungs, throwing his head back with enthusiasm.
A light came on inside the house; then they saw an old Navajo woman standing just inside by the half-opened door. "Who are you? What do you want?" She was wearing a long flannel nightgown and was barefooted.
"Sorry, ahdzah'nih" Lee said, using the Navajo word for "ma'am" as he moved closer and held out his gold shield. "I'm a state police officer. We were looking for a woman in her twenties or thirties we heard lives here with a man named Darvon Blackhorse."
"He owns this house and has been letting me rent a room. The Navajo police came by looking for him a few days ago, too. But all I know is that my landlord said he was going into the mountains to tend his sheep. Maybe the woman you're looking for went with him. His sheep camp is north of Narbona Pass. I don't know any more than that."
"His cousin, Clarence Atso, is he here?"
"He comes and goes. I haven't seen him for a week now, maybe more."
"Thanks for the information, ahdzah'nih. Sorry to disturb you. Good night," Lee said. Then they began to walk away, back in the direction they'd come.
"Something hinky's going on here," Diane said quietly. "I can't see a skinwalker herding sheep — the animals would be terrified once they picked up the smell of a predator."
"I know. I just want her and whoever's in the house to think that we're leaving," Lee answered. "We'll be coming right back from the north. Maybe we can avoid the dog on the replay. He didn't smell us, so he must have heard or seen us. This time we'll be extra careful."
"What about the woman? How does she fit in? Any ideas?"
"She could be a hostage or a close relative protecting her kin. But my guess is that she's a skinwalker too — and an old, smart one. She could be the alpha female of the pack."
"And the puppy ... it's just a dog, right?"
"Yeah. They probably use it just like we would, to keep watch. He's young enough to bond to whoever — or whatever — comes along, and they'd smell basically the same to him in animal or human form."
Once they were a few hundred yards from the house they circled around to the north, moving at a fast jog. This time as they crept toward the house, staying low to the ground, the young Lab neither saw nor heard them approach.
Lee got up close to the window and peered inside. Nobody appeared to be in the first of the two rooms. Diane, who'd looked in the window farther along the wall using her night scope, indicated that the room appeared to be empty too. There was an outhouse in the back, but the door was open and he could see it was unoccupied. They met at the corner of the house to discuss the situation.
"I saw the puppy curled up on the bed, asleep. If any humans are inside, they're in a basement or the attic," Diane whispered.
"The pickup hasn't moved. But they might have taken off — in animal form — while we were circling."
"Then they're stalking us" Diane said quickly, and studied the ground. "Oh, crap. Those are multiple animal tracks."
Lee studied the large impressions, which led down the road. "We'll take the bait, as they expect. Let's follow them," he whispered.
Moving away from the house, they walked beside the road for a while, then angled closer to verify the presence of the animal tracks. Lee spotted a set immediately in the soft earth between the wheel ruts. "They've already split up. We have two sets of tracks heading east, and the tracks of one big cat, moving right down the road like it knows exactly where it's going."
"Toward our car," she said. "Those who went east will be able to pick up our scents. Part of their plan?"
"Yes. They'll probably stay to the east of the road, too, in order to keep that edge."
"Let's pick up the pace, then, and not give them too much time to set up an ambush. How long did you say it took them to change back into human form?" "Leisurely, to save energy, it can take as long as ten minutes. Under duress, no more than two or three minutes. Think she or he's intending on stealing our SUV?" Lee asked.
"So far we're being played for suckers. We need to use our assets to turn the tables on them. How much time do we have, Lee?"
"Three hours, plus or minus, before sunrise. I'll have to get out of the light then but the sun won't fry a skinwalker. All it'll do is force them back into human form. They have the time advantage."
"So let's split up. We can come at them from two separate directions," Diane whispered.
"Okay. You take the rifle and get on the high ground to the west. That'll give you a little more distance from them, assuming they come at us from the east. Stake out the area around the SUV. I'll stay on the road and hopefully keep their attention on me. Use the night scope, and watch out in case one of them crossed the road again."
Lee watched Diane sprint off. She was in good shape and light on her feet, but no vampire. He hoped she wouldn't take any chances. A mortal confronting skin walkers hunting at night was at a clear disadvantage, and the night scope would only compensate so much.
Watching and listening, he proceeded slowly. After topping a low hill, he saw their SUV parked in the road where he'd left it. Though he couldn't see Diane, he knew she was around, watching, probably from behind one of the clumps of rabbit brush, or inside the arroyo looking out with the night scope.
As he got closer Lee saw a dark shape beneath the SUV. It was a crouched black jaguar. At night and hidden in the deep shadows under the car, it would have been virtually invisible to mortal eyes.
The big predator turned its head, looking quickly behind itself, then to both sides. Having spotted him, Lee reasoned, it was searching for some sign of Diane. Suddenly he heard an engine starting up. Lee did a half turn and realized a vehicle was coming up from behind him on the opposite slope of the hill, its lights out. It must have been a signal, because out of the corner of his eye he saw the jaguar explode from beneath the SUV, leaping toward him in long, graceful strides.
Lee ducked, and as he brought his shotgun up, a shot rang out from his left. The animal jerked slightly in mid-flight but kept coming. Lee fired as the cat reached him, but the shotgun was knocked from his grip by an extended paw.
The black panther hit the ground, blood running down its side from just behind the shoulder, pivoted drunkenly, then growled and attacked again, fangs bared. Lee was drawing his handgun when suddenly the panther swerved away.
Almost simultaneously the old pickup roared over the hill — actually off the ground a foot or more owing to the speed it had gathered. As it bounced to the ground only thirty feet away, Lee stood. Timing his next move carefully, he leaped straight up as the pickup reached him, and cleared the cab by at least a foot as it passed beneath.
Landing lightly, considering his eight-foot leap into the air, Lee turned to locate the panther, only vaguely aware that the pickup had swerved to avoid hitting the SUV. The panther came in from uphill, low this time, targeting his legs.
Lee stood his ground and lowered his pistol. A rifle shot came from somewhere behind and to his right and the panther shook in midstride. Lee fired a shot into the middle of the creature's back. It crashed into him just below his knees, knocking him over and onto its back as it passed beneath him. Lee rolled off the animal and hit the ground, losing his pistol as his elbow struck the ground.
Scrambling to his knees, he grabbed his backup .45 from his jacket pocket and looked behind him. The pickup had collided with a big clump of brush but continued on into a low, wide, sand-filled arroyo, tipping over onto the drivers side and coming to rest against the far bank of the wash.
Lee saw the black cat motionless in the road, and he knew the skin walker was dead. While the pickup was enveloped in a settling cloud of dust, Lee went to get his shotgun, automatically pointing the barrel down to clear it of any debris that might have entered the bore. Hearing movement to his left, he turned his head and saw Diane jogging up, rifle in hand.
"Something — a wolf maybe — jumped out of the passenger window and I lost sight of it," Diane muttered, breathing hard. She stopped and looked at the wrecked pickup, sweeping the area with the large, monocular night scope. Lee turned completely around, his back to hers while he checked back up the road and to the west.
"Are you okay, Lee? I've never seen a stunt like that outside a movie theater. Like a Hollywood ninja."
"I suppose all it takes is the right motivation." He continued to scan the area for more skinwalkers, but couldn't see any creatures at all, human or animal.
"Nice shot on the black cat. Did you know she was under there?"
Diane shrugged. "I saw something under the SUV, but I couldn't tell what it was until it made a move. My first shot was either high or missed completely, but on her second pass she came in slow enough for me to get a good hit."
"So much for the skinwalker who killed Agent Thomas," Lee said.
"Burt can rest in peace now," she said, her voice a bit unsteady. "He deserved a better end, but I've evened the scales for him just a little." Sorrow was laced through her words, but she pushed those feelings away. "Let's see who's in the pickup."
"Okay. Cover my back, and I'll cover yours." Lee walked closer to the cab of the truck then moved toward the windshield so he could take a look inside. Diane followed, watching behind them.
"It's the old woman. She's still alive and trying to shape-shift so she can heal herself," Lee said, keeping a firm grip on his shotgun.
They stared in amazement as the bloodied face of the woman, resting against the driver's door of the cab, slowly lengthened along the nose, forming a muzzle. Dark hair began to sprout from her face, her eyes began to lighten and change shape, and her ears began to taper as they lengthened.
The shape-shifter howled, throwing her head back as it cried out in pain, trying to stand up. The creature weaved back and forth drunkenly, then slumped back. The animal features receded quickly, and blood flowed from the woman's nose. Her eyes closed, and she slowly sank down onto a heap like a discarded rag doll.
"I think she's dead."
"Then let's track down the other one," Lee whispered. "It was a wolf, right?"
Diane nodded, keeping her back to the wreck as she looked out into the dark. The brush made it difficult to see more than fifty feet.
"It's out there somewhere, hiding." Lee stood beside her, watching for signs of movement. His night vision was complete, but the colors were still faded toward the gray. A wolf or panther could also see quite well at night, he knew, but skinwalkers in animal form had one tactical advantage over the animals they mimicked. They thought like humans, and recognized the danger of guns and other human weapons.
"Think it'll come to us? I hate the idea of moving through Ambush Central half blind. This night scope is so limited." Diane had been using the device again, but now placed it back into her pocket.
"You need to stay in the open so it'll have to expose itself at the last minute before it reaches you," Lee said, moving away from the overturned vehicle onto the road. "Take the shotgun, for close-range firepower."
"No, you'll need that if you're closer to the brush. I prefer my pistol at close range. I'm more familiar with it. I'll sling the rifle over my shoulder. You keep the shotgun." Diane walked out into the middle of the road, looking up the hill as she adjusted the sling, placing the rifle on her shoulder.
Excerpted from Blood Retribution by David Thurlo. Copyright © 2004 David and Aimée Thurlo. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"Filled with plenty of excitement and intrigue, with enough vampire lore to keep fantasy fans happy and enough thrills to keep mystery readers turning the pages."Booklist on Blood Retribution
"Deft plotting keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. Vampire aficionados will enjoy a look at nightwalkers from a unique cultural viewpoint, and mystery fans will relish the action and clever resolution."Romantic Times Bookclub on Blood Retribution
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
He is a nightwalker, a Navaho vampire who because he is only half Nosferatu has the strength not to succumb to the allure of the dark side of his nature. He is a New Mexico state police officer who is often teamed up with beautiful FBI agent Diane Lopez who not only knows what Lee Nez is but accepts him for his good heart. Right now they are trying to infiltrate a smuggling ring made up of skinwalkers (Navaho witches) who can shape shift at night and still retain their ability to think like a human.---- These smugglers known as the Silver Eagles go to Mexico in animal form, meet with their suppliers, and return with silver and turquoise for jewelry suppliers who get their products at black market prices. The two cops seek to arrest humans who are part of the smuggling ring and kill the shapeshifters so they no longer can carry out their evil plans. While Diane and Lee stalk the Silver Eagles, they are hunted by a vampire who wants to kill them because they murdered her nest including her husband and brother. They remain on guard at all times because beside each other they don¿t know who they can trust.---- Once again the Thurlos provide readers their interpretation of the vampire mythos unique to the Navaho culture. Lee can stay in sunlight provided he uses sun block while his speed, strength and night vision make him a better police officer. In the Thurlos world, skinwalkers are unredeemable evil creatures who must be killed; a variation on the hapless victim werewolf legend. BLOOD RETRIBUTION is a fantastic horror thriller that readers of both genres will want to read.---- Harriet Klausner