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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: a monologue (part two)

An hour passes, and then another. Rumors continue to fly about the Cow-Boys continuing to make threats against the Earps. Now the Cow-Boys have their pride to consider. Their members have been publicly shamed, and that sort of thing just doesn't stand.

Virgil is standing on the boardwalk outside the marshal's office and he's hearing these reports, and he's trying to sift the genuine evidence of danger from rumor. One citizen says he saw Tom McLaury with a gun hidden in his trousers. Another says that Ike Clanton had been down in the telegraph office, maybe calling for backup (the Cow-Boy gang had 300 members at this point). Wyatt himself reports that he'd seen Frank McLaury, and Ike and Billy Clanton inside Spangenberg's gun shop buying ammo. And George Spangenberg himself reported that Ike had tried to buy a gun, but George had refused him.

So there is this huge mass of reports that seems to suggest to Virgil that there is some legitimate trouble brewing. So Virgil goes to the Wells, Fargo office and he borrows a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun.

Meanwhile, the Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan is hearing about this situation as he getting shaved. Now, Behan has generally been categorized by history as a crooked politician and a Cow-Boy sympathizer. He and Virgil never saw eye to eye on where their jurisdictions overlapped in Tombstone. But Behan is a wise enough lawman to know that a showdown is on its way, and a showdown in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon in a town like Tombstone, buildings all close together, women and children all over the place, that's just bad for everybody. In a way, Behan is the one man in this story who has a vested interest in peace. He has no interest in vendettas or damaged honor. He just wants this to go away. So he runs across town still dripping wet from his shave trying to find the marshal, and his only thoughts were of his ten percent kickback on the fees he collects for gambling, liquor, and prostitution Tombstone, and he's thinking how if he allows a major shooting to happen on his watch, he's reelection chances are nil.

Finally, Behan finds Virgil on the corner outside Hafford's Saloon. And Virgil is in the middle of a mob of citizens who are just spewing rumor. There's a dozen different citizen vigilante groups that are there too to pledge their support to the Marshal. This thing is heating up

Behan says, "What is going on, Marshal?"

And Virgil replies, "Some sons-of-bitches have been looking for a fight and now they can have it!"

And an odd sound goes through this crowd, a kind of groan that's halfway between terror and anticipation.

The sheriff says, "You had better disarm them. It is your duty as an officer."

Because Behan knew that playing up to Virgil's sense of duty is the only way to counter this red mist he sees rising in the marshal's eyes.

But the marshal replies, "I will not. I will give them their chance to make a fight."

And there's another sound from the crowd. Behan realizes he's got to get Virgil out of this mob. They're just egging each other on. So he pulls Virgil into the saloon. He says, "Let me buy you a drink."

Virgil declines, but he does start to cool down a little bit. He says to Behan in a tone of compromise, "Will you help me arrest the Cow-Boys?"

Behan says "No, I cannot. Don't undertake to disarm that bunch, or they will kill you.". He is starting to take another tack at this point. He says, "They were just down at my corral having a gun talk against you and threatening your life. I will go down to where they are. They won't hurt me. And I will get them to lay off their arms."

Virgil agrees to this and Behan goes off.

But the rumors keep coming, news of Cow-Boy sightings, reports of threats against the Earps, just fueling the fire. Now these reports, at this point, were probably just delayed reports of events that had happened earlier in the day. But law enforcement in Tombstone just didn't have the ability collate all these reports. And frankly Virgil wasn't in much of a collating mood. Because from where he stood, peering down the street, tapping his foot for Behan's return, each report to him looks like another piece of evidence that the Cow-Boys are a clear and present danger to himself, his brothers, and the townspeople he has sworn to protect.

And it was then that out of the crowd walks John Henry Holliday, D.D.S. To Doc, it looks like the Earps are just getting ready to go somewhere. So he asks, "Where are you going?"

And Wyatt Earp, he looks at Doc and he takes a moment to process what he is seeing. Doc Holliday is wearing a brilliantly clean gray suit with a pastel shirt and a long gray overcoat. He has a beautiful silk tie tied around a crisp, crisp white collar, and he is carrying a silver-handled cane. If Wyatt had just seen him in the street and hadn't known him as one of the hardest motherfuckers in the territory, he would have just called him a dandy. Because nobody dresses like that in a town where most of the streets didn't even have wooden sidewalks. Doc Holliday was a character out of myth even to people who knew him well like the Earps.

Wyatt nods hello and he says, "We're going to make a fight." Because Wyatt doesn't trust Behan any more than his brother does, and he doesn't have to hide it.

Doc says, "Well, you're not going to leave me out, are you?"

Wyatt goes, "This is none of your affair." Essentially pulling rank on him.

Doc bristles a bit at this. He says, "That is a hell of a thing for you to say to me!"

Wyatt says, "It's going to be a tough one."

But Doc just puts his cigar back in his mouth and he says, "Tough ones are the kind I like."

As if Wyatt was expecting any other answer.

Virgil's nearby and he's thinking he can use another man that he trusts. So he gives the shotgun that he's holding to Doc Holliday. Now, Doc needs two hands to handle a shotgun, so he hands Virgil his cane in exchange. And this is fine with Virgil, because he doesn't really want to have to do any fighting. It might actually be a good play to have something in his hand that's not a gun.

Now at this point about twenty minutes have passed since Behan has gone to allegedly get the Cow-Boys to throw down their guns. And the Cow-Boys themselves have had several hours to leave town. It's clear from this nervous mob of townspeople that the Cow-Boys remain a threat to peace and quiet in Tombstone.

The moment has come for Virgil to put his credibility on the line, his credibility as an agent of the law. He turns to his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and to Doc Holliday who is standing with the shotgun under his coat, looking like a French duke completely out of place, and Virgil says, "Come along." And the four of them set out to put an end to this.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: a monologue (conclusion)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: a monologue (part one)