Johnny Shoals swallowed a spoonful of ice cream and kept his eyes straight ahead. He had too much invested to tip his hand now.
Behind the counter, Elmer Hoskins stacked brown glass bottles and shiny tin pillboxes on dark, shellacked shelves. It was all snakeoil to Johnny, but he was glad for the diversion.
Not many towns that side of the Mississippi had a soda fountain, but then not many towns had a fat-cat glutton like Thomas Galloway, either. The infamous banker had followed the scent of gold west, and his chubby nose led him right to Sandy Springs.
Johnny had tracked that same stench because he knew the railroad always followed money. The first time he heard one of Frank Thatcher’s telegraph messages bipping through the air of Elmer’s shop, Johnny knew he had chosen well.
Thatcher was trying to expand into the northwest, and what better homebase than his old buddy’s adopted hometown? The railway man set about wooing Hoskins.
Thanks to his training with the Union army, Johnny was able to decipher the code by ear, and it would ultimately allow him to avenge his lost family, trampled by the hooves of Thatcher’s ironhorse.
And now, after three years of swilling ice cream he didn’t want, Johnny had the answers he needed. The gentle dit-dah of the telegraph spelled out Thatcher’s final plans.
Johnny stood and placed his spoon on the counter, then walked toward the front of the store.
“Sugar, don’t you want your ice cream?” Elmer called out to him, using the nickname Johnny had earned with every bite.
Sugar Shoals stopped in the doorway and answered without turning back. “Nope. Got a train to catch.”
And he knew an army of Shoshoni who would be more than happy to help him save their land.