Montana by Gwen Florio Page A

Book: Montana by Gwen Florio Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gwen Florio
Tags: Fiction, Literary
“He smuggles it. At least, that’s what I think is going on. He’s been wandering more than usual. And he’s been flashing money around.”
    Lola thought he’d finally said something she understood. The Canadian border was so close. No matter the country, no matter which side of the border you were on, she thought, there was always something that sold for more money on the other side, and somebody was always scrambling to cash in on that fact. Entire tribes in Afghanistan supported themselves by hauling everything from opium to ammo to melons across the border. Booze was a prized commodity in all of those places, being theoretically off limits in Muslim countries. But here? She said as much to Wilson.
    “Only the worst drinkers go to the package store. Alcohol’s such a problem on the reservation that there’s a stigma to buying it in public.”
    “Why not just go to Magpie and drink there?”
    “Think about it. You can go to town with a lot of whitepeople in your face remarking about drunk Indians. Even though they’re sitting on a barstool right next to you, you nursing one drink for an hour while they have four or five, somehow you’re the one who’s the drunk. Or you can sit at home. What would you rather?”
    Lola didn’t know how to politely phrase her next question. “How’d he do it? I mean, if he couldn’t hold a job—”
    Wilson seemed to know what she was getting at. “How’s a dummy run a smuggling operation? Easy. He doesn’t. Somebody else does. Frank’s just a courier. The people who set him up know what they’re doing. They need an Indian, and who better than Frank? One who can’t think his way to why he shouldn’t do it, and won’t question why they’re only paying him half the money they’d pay somebody with a working brain.”
    “Why do they need an Indian?”
    The phone rang again in the other room. It stopped, and then a phone at Wilson’s elbow buzzed. “Just now?” he said into it. “Okay. Thanks.” He put it down and rested his hands on the table. They were stiff and twisted as old rope. Lola tried to imagine the diminutive bits of obsidian turning within them as he crafted the cribbage pegs. “Smuggling’s easier for us,” he said. “Stuff comes in from Canada. The reservation goes right to the border. And don’t forget, we’re a sovereign nation. Homeland Security might not like it, but we don’t need passports to cross the border as long as we’ve got our tribal ID cards. Frank’s contacts could hand over the stuff in Canada and he could bring it down here and sell it for twice what somebody’d pay in town. Tribal police have been watching him, trying to figure out who’s supplying it. But they’ve got to patrol the whole reservation, three thousand square miles. And they mostly deal with misdemeanors. The serious stuff goes to the FBI. And it gets even more complicated if a crime involves both a tribal person and a nontribal one, which is likely in this case. Then the county gets in on the action. When something crosses the border, you can add Customs and the Border Patrol to the mix. The confusing stuff falls through the cracks. And up here, everything is confusing. As you can see.”
    “Except for murder,” Lola said, trying to bring him back to the matter at hand. The last thing she wanted was a dissertation on reservation crime. “That’s pretty straightforward. What if Mary Alice found out who was behind the operation and they killed her? Or, better yet, got Frank to do it for them? Did the brain damage affect his aim?”
    Wilson rearranged the cribbage boards. “Doesn’t matter whether it did or didn’t. Frank didn’t do it.”
    “But he knew Mary Alice had been shot.” She told him about the first time she’d seen Frank, in front of the store, crooning “Poor Mary Alice.” And then again at the funeral.
    Wilson got up and walked across the room and rummaged through a stack of newspapers. He returned with a copy of the Express from

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