Lapierre leaned closer and fixed the heavy-faced Russian with his gleaming black eyes. He spoke slowly so that the words fell distinctly from his lips. “You cache that liquor on the Clearwater on Christmas Day. If you fail—well, you will join the others that have been dismissed from my service—see?”
Tostoff’s only reply was a ponderous but expressive shrug, and without a word Lapierre turned and stepped out into the night.
WHAT HAPPENED AT BROWN’S
It was the middle of December. Storm after storm had left the North cold and silent beneath its white covering of snow. A dog-team swung across the surface of the ice-locked Athabasca, and took the steep slope at Fort McMurray on a long slant.
Leaving the dogs in care of the musher, Pierre Lapierre loosened the thongs of his rackets, and, pushing open the door, stamped noisily into the detachment quarters of the Mounted and advanced to the stove where two men were mending dog-harness. The men looked up.
“Speaking of the devil,” grinned Constable Craig, with a glance toward Corporal Ripley, who greeted the newcomer with a curt nod. “Well, Lapierre, where’d you come from?”
Lapierre jerked his thumb toward the southward. “Up river,” he answered. “Getting out timber for my scows.” Removing his cap and mittens, the quarter-breed loosened his heavy moose-hide parka, beat the clinging snow from the coarse hair, and drew a chair to the stove.
“Come through from the Landing on the river?” asked Ripley, as he filled a short black pipe with the tobacco he shaved from a plug. “How’s the trail?”
“Good and hard, except for the slush at the Boiler and another stretch just below the Cascade.” Lapierre rolled a cigarette. “Hear you caught MacNair with the goods at last,” he ventured.
“Looks like it,” he admitted. “But what do you mean, ’at last’?”
The quarter-breed laughed lightly and blew a cloud of cigarette-smoke ceilingward. “I mean he has had things pretty much his own way the last six or eight years.”
“Meanin’ he’s been runnin’ whiskey all that time?” asked Craig.
Lapierre nodded. “He has run booze enough into the North to float a canoe from here to Port Chippewayan.”
It was Ripley’s turn to laugh. “If you are so all-fired wise, why haven’t you made a complaint?” he asked. “Seems like I never heard you and MacNair were such good friends,”
Lapierre shrugged. “I know a whole lot of men who have got their full growth because they minded their own business,” he answered. “I am not in the Mounted. That’s what you are paid for.”
Ripley flushed. “We’ll earn our pay on this job all right. We’ve got the goods on him this time. And, by the way, Lapierre, if you’ve got anything in the way of evidence, we’ll be wanting it at the trial. Better show up in May, and save somebody goin’ after you. If you run onto any Indians that know anything, bring them along.”