The Irish police force are facing controversy at the moment over the fact that over a five year period they recorded 937,000 breathalyser drink-driving tests that did not in fact take place, and the fact that during the same period 14,700 people were wrongly convicted over traffic violations.
Maybe it’s always been this way….
It was late evening in Tombstone. From the street came the whinny of tethered horses, and the occasional oozy splat as horse-poo hit street-mud. From the saloon came the teeth-grating sound of a honky-tonk piano, and an occasional tinkle of glass as a whisky bottle, slid along the counter by the barman, was missed by a customer.
In the Sheriff’s Office, Marshal Wyatt Earp set down the ledger, rubbed his weary eyes, and sighed. He looked up at the clock, and saw that it was time.
The front door opened, and Sheriff Doc Holliday walked in.
“You wanted to see me?” asked Doc.
“Yes,” said Wyatt. “Sit down.”
Doc sat. Wyatt stared at him for a long moment, wondering how to begin. “Quiet tonight,” he said, eventually.
Doc nodded. “Too quiet,” he said.
Wyatt’s attempt at calm evaporated. “What does that even mean?” he snapped. “It can never be too quiet. Quiet is good. And quiet, as it happens, is what’s been happening every night since I’ve been here. And every day.”
Doc shrugged. “Trouble comes in spells,” he said. “Sometimes we get quiet times.”
“Really?” said Wyatt. “Because I was sent here because you never get quiet times. I was sent here because you have more recorded crimes than any other town in the country. I was told to bring my two brothers as back-up, because the job I’d be taking on was so dangerous.”
“Maybe folks are behaving,” said Doc, because you and your brothers are here.” He looked at the ledger in front of Wyatt. “You’ve seen the records,” he said. “They were pretty un-law-abidin’ before that.”
“Yes,” agreed Wyatt. “I have seen the records. They don’t make pretty reading.”
“Sorry about that,” said Doc. “It’s my doctor’s handwriting”. (History seems to think that Doc Holliday was a doctor, which is odd, because the same History does not seem to think that Sheriff Bat Masterson was a bat).
“It’s not the handwriting,” said Wyatt. “It’s what’s written. I’ve had a look at some of the entries, and I’ve talked to some of the, well, let’s call them perpetrators.”
“Oh,” said Doc, looking worried for the first time.
“For example,” said Wyatt, “Jethro Watts. Arrested for Money Laundering. He says he was washing his pants and forget to take his money out.”
“That’s true,” said Doc, “but strictly speaking -”
“Next, Joe Bob Peters,” continued Wyatt. “Arson?”
“He has no job,” said Doc. “He just sits outside the hardware store all day.”
“Setting fire to stuff?”
“No,” said Doc. “He’s just Arsin’ Around.”
“That’s Vagrancy,” said Wyatt.
“Crap,” said Doc. “Never thought of that.”
“And Miss Amelia Trent, the school-teacher,” went on Wyatt. “Holding up a stagecoach.”
“Yes,” said Doc. “She stepped out in front of it and put her hand up.”
“That’s how you get on a stagecoach,” said Wyatt. “It’s called a bus stop.” He looked down at the ledger again. “Then there’s Caleb Hoskins,” he went on, “Forgery. I haven’t actually talked to him yet, but I’m guessing he’s the blacksmith.”
Doc nodded, then stared down at the floor silently. “Why?” asked Wyatt, softly.
Doc Holliday looked up, defiance suddenly blazing in his eyes. “Have you any idea what it’s like to be Sheriff in a sleepy little back-water like this? All I do is rescue cats from trees and help little old ladies across the street. Well, that’s not why I went to law-enforcement classes. That’s not why I shot off a toe trying to practice a quick draw. That’s not why I accidently invented the pierced nipple when trying to pin on my badge. I want to be remembered. When folk recall the heroes who made this country I want to be right up there with Pat Garrett, and all he ever did was shoot Billy the Kid -”
“In fairness,” began Wyatt, “that was pretty -”
“- and eat him,” continued Doc.
“What?” said Wyatt. “With fava beans and a nice Chianti?”
“Er, no,” said Doc. “With chilli beans and grits. That’s how you eat goat.”
“Billy the Kid was a goat?”
Doc rolled his eyes. “The clue’s in the name,” he said simply. “But Garrett spread the rumour that he had killed an outlaw, and now he’s a legend. Well, I want to be like him. I want the Sheriff of Tombstone -”
“I’ve been meaning to mention that,” said Wyatt. “Apparently the town’s called Norville. You got it changed two years ago.”
“Yes, well, no-one would remember the Sheriff of Norville,” said Doc. “I got the idea from Sheriff Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke.”
“Um, I don’t think the name of his town -”
“Who cares? That’s how he’s known now. And I wanted to be remembered as the man who kept peace in the meanest town in the West, so I made up a few things. But I must have gone too far, because they sent you.”
“It was the car thefts,” said Wyatt. “There’s no such thing as a car.”
“Well,” said Doc, “now that you’re here, what are you going to do about it? You can turn me in, or you can stay here with me and we can help make history, by making up history.”
Just then the door burst open, and Virgil and Morgan Earp rushed into the office.
“The Clanton gang are up at the OK Corral,” said Virgil. “They’re drunk, and they’re causing trouble.”
“Just leave them,” said Doc. “They’ll sleep it off, and be fine tomorrow.”
“They snatched Virgil’s hat,” said Morgan.
Doc and Wyatt looked at one another, then both stood and began to buckle on their holsters.
“Stealing a policeman’s hat?” said Wyatt. “Not in Tombstone.”
An hour later the four of them were back, flushed and exhilarated. “Well,” said Virgil, “we showed them.”
“Sure did,” said Morgan. “They won’t be causing trouble around here no more.”
Wyatt sat down in front of the ledger. “Better record it, ” he said. He took up his pen and began ‘tonight there was a fist-fight at the OK Corral’, then stopped and looked at Doc Holliday. They looked into each other eyes, into each others souls, for a long time.
He changed the word ‘fist-fight’ to ‘gun-fight’.