And so the story ends with Jim Letten riding off into the sunset.
Cue the moseying soundtrack, the jangle of spurs.
Slung over Cowboy Jim's saddle are the hides of the vanquished, a legion of bad guys who menaced the townsfolk to no end – until he slew them.
Yet what an odd silhouette his shadow casts.
He sits tall in the saddle. Still wears the white hat.
The entertainer's credo goes: Always leave the audience wanting more.
By that measure, Jim Letten exits the stage a success. We do want more of what he did, most assuredly.
Yet he is, in the end, humbled. Humiliated, even.
In an oh-so-21st century dust-up, Letten went down not gloriously amid a barrage of bullets, but moronically in a snarky barrage of chat room gossip and puffery.
The towering self-regard of his top two aides-de-camp proved Letten's eventual undoing.
In the same manner that Letten will remain a symbol of justice, honor and – in the end – sacrifice, Jan Mann and Sal Perricone will forever represent the folly of hubris, the corrosion of cynicism.
And the false promise of Internet anonymity.
Finally, what matinee such as this is complete without a comic foil, a town jester?
Enter Edwin Edwards, so sadly writing himself into the final script.
Congenitally unable to resist a microphone or camera placed before him, the Cajun King could not pass on a chance to skewer a former nemesis.
Nor to refrain from his trademark delivery of the well-practiced spontaneous quip, the clever retort, the erudite bon mot.
Which, this week, came in the form of: "Sit by the river long enough. I did."
In the stage business, this is known as a "callback", and refers to Edwards' comments after his conviction at the hands of prosecutor Letten in 2000.
That time, he said, "The Chinese have a saying that if you sit by the river long enough, the dead body of your enemy will come floating down the river."
I'm not so sure Letten fits the role of the dead body here.
Defeated, yes. But the real casualty here seems obvious: The public trust takes the fall as the credits roll.
Now, somebody please: Turn this movie off.
What a dud.
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