Ordinarily, this type of situation would have been handled with a couple rounds of fisticuffs behind the saloon.
But this was no everyday skirmish among friends, this matter that boiled up between Levi Wright and Sam Robson over the past few days.
Hell, truth was, this pot of trouble had been simmering for years, ever since they were boys in Copperhead.
Back then, Levi was the straight-laced farmer’s son who walked to town for school every morning and Sam was the village troublemaker.
Still, the boys had formed a fast and uneasy friendship.
For every pit of snakes Levi helped Sam avoid, there were three more they both charged into at fullsteam.
Levi’s parents had been relieved when Sam disappeared one night when he was 16 — their boy could go about building a respectable life.
Eventually, Levi landed a job as a deputy, and the hangman, in Crag.
Then one night, a scraggly stranger sauntered into the town saloon while Levi sat nursing his whiskey. Sam recognized his old friend right away, and they took to reliving shared stories over beers.
Before long, their remembrances grew raucous, a few locals got riled up, and a tussle broke out.
In the dustup, Levi and Sam found themselves backed into a dark corner by the sheriff. When the lawman drew his six-shooter on Sam, reflexes took over, and Levi dropped his boss with a single shot.
The reunited friends stared at each other in the dark as the tavern mob descended. Awful truth spread between them like an oil spill.
Now, after a quick trial, the two locked eyes again.
“It’s alright, partner,” Sam said. “This is how everyone always knew I’d end up.”
Levi swallowed hard and choked back tears as he slipped the noose over his buddy’s head.