"Leave me alone, Marcus! I told you I never wanna see your face again!"
Two shots tore the air near the log wall Marcus was crouching behind, carrying the full extent of the sentiment.
"Listen, Slater, I'm sorry! I know it's not your fault you couldn't be there when the law came down. Please, let me try to patch things up!"
"You godforsaken scum, what sick game are you trying to play now? You show your face and you'll be the one needing patching up!"
Slater fired another shot. Marcus reflexively tightened his grip on his gun, but then almost instantly scolded himself for it.
It's tough to let things slide for someone who's spent his entire life solving problems with violence, but then this is what got him in this mess in the first place.
He was crouching near a half-destroyed wall of a run down barn, while Bob Slater took cover behind a large boulder outside.
Oil companies once bought plots of land by the dozens round these parts, but then discovered the deposits weren't nearly as rich as they at first thought.
It was a land that civilization has half-forgotten.
Those two men, now shouting at each other under the clear moonlit sky, were once the closest of friends.
At least Slater thought so when they were both teens; Marcus was always dead serious when it came to appreciating people and didn't want to use the word 'friend' lightly. Which is another way of saying he never used it.
Years have gone by and turned them into two men in their thirties screaming fury, anger, grief and blame at each other amid the ruins of an abandoned house not far from Slater's own farm.
Except Marcus knew the blame was his and the grief was Slater's.
He almost wished he didn't have to do this, but that woman was trailing him, and Lord knows that for what he'd done she had a bullet with his name carved deep into its shell,
and this also meant his father wasn't too far behind. The man was unpredictable on a good day, now it was anyone's guess what his plan was.
It was all a terrible mess. One where a man begins to wonder what friends he has left, cause he sure as hell needs all he can get.
"How's your kid?" Marcus asked, and saying those words out loud made him realize those were the absolute worst ones he could use.
"You...! You soulless piece of scum! You incorrigible bastard!" Shots fired through the air one after another. Slater always had a short temper, it was something both men shared.
Probably what made them friends in the first place, so many years ago, that on some level they understood each other's shame.
But then, two years ago, Marcus crossed a line that Slater wouldn't, and directed blame and fury onto his friend.
The memory fuelled Slater's anger, and that in turn guided his hand squeezing the trigger on the revolver, shot after shot,
hellish flame in the iron belly of the gun launching bullets one after another.
Until there were none left. Marcus darted around the wall, hoping to God his old friend wasn't carrying another gun.
"You seriously dare to ask me that," Slater bellowed angrily, not hearing the sound of footsteps on this dry soil, "you try to use my family against me again?!"
When he felt the hard shape pressing against the small of his back, he didn't freeze in fear, he trembled with fury.
Anger, betrayal, the shame and loathing that goes hand in hand with someone for whom you'd give your arm turning on you cause to them an arm is not enough.
All of those things he now would have to stick a pin in, not out of fear for his life, but for the safety of his wife and son back at his own house not far from here.
"Please," said the voice he knew all too well, "drop your weapon."
The tone struck more than a few chords in Slater's memory. Calm and confident, it was the efficient sound of a man who weighs even the air that comes out of his mouth.
That is how Marcus spoke when he was in control.
For a second there Slater wondered if Sarah took their son and ran by now, if maybe making this his last stand was worth risking turning around and taking a swing.
Crushing his old friend's temple with the butt of the revolver, pushing splintered bone deep into the skull,
lacerating at least one of those cold, dead eyes that only acknowledged you when you were useful. Oh, a man could dream.
But then of course the risk wasn't worth it. His wife wouldn't be too fast carrying a two-year-old. Besides, with a man like Marcus it doesn't matter how far you run.
Slater slowly laid his gun on a chest-high boulder he was leaning against. After a second, he heard the sound of shuffling boots. Marcus stepped back.
"Please, turn around, look at me and just listen to me." There was something else to his tone right now, but Slater couldn't tell what that was. He started turning as he was told.
"Honey, just say the word," Slater heard his wife call out from a patch of trees further ahead, "and I'll blow the bastard's brains out."
"Please!" Marcus pleaded. This was definitely new. Slater decided he would savour this moment. "Please, just talk to me, I'm begging you, please!"
He turned to see Marcus down on his knees, his expression... So this is what regret looked like on that face.
Up to this point Slater was only familiar with the hurt puppy look that Marcus used when he wanted you to do something, but couldn't make you.
The puppy that made sure you knew it was you who kicked it. It was gone now, though.
"Please, Bob, give me a chance, let me try to fix all this..."
"Alright, we can talk," Slater uttered slowly. "But you're not getting anywhere near my son, my wife, or my house, you understand?"
Marcus nodded, "I understand."
In his right arm, raised to the side, he was holding a small rock with a round protrusion. One that, when pressed against a man's back, could easily pass for the tip of a barrel of a gun.
It crossed Slater's mind that people change. Maybe no one is beyond redemption.
"I hope I'm not gonna regret this" he heard himself say.