"An account opened for an imaginary man without his signature. I didn't know that could be done."
Slate laughed. "It's easy if the proper vice president calls down from upstairs and says do it."
"We need to be clear about this," Mankin said. "You want me to go out to that big Four Corners oil patch in New Mexico, look it over, see if I can find out how the pipeline system out there was used -- and maybe still is being used -- to bypass paying royalty money into the Interior Department's trust fund for the Indians. Does that about summarize the job?"
"That's a big part of it. The most important information of all is the names of those switching the stuff around so the money for it goes into the right pockets. And who owns the pockets."
"And the senator understands that this is likely to produce nothing. I presume it is one of a whole bunch of ways he's looking for some way to pin the blame, or the corruption, on somebody for that four- or five-billion-dollar loss of royalty money from the Tribal Trust Funds. The one the Washington Post has been writing about for the past month. The one the Secretary of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs honchos are in trouble over."
Slate was grinning again. "Was that intended as a question? What do the press secretaries say to questions like that?" He slipped into a serious, disapproving expression. "We never comment on speculation."
"The newspapers say that this ripping off the four billion or so of Tribal royalty money has been going on for more than fifty years. And they're quoting the government bean counters. Right? I can't see much hope of me finding anything new ..."
The foregoing is excerpted from The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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