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Pete didn’t need to think. At times like this you do what you’re trained to do.

Almost before the barrel had even cleared leather Pete went through the twisting motions he had practiced so many times. The moves that, if executed properly, no one’s wrists could withstand. Pete regained control of the pistol in both hands.

The problem was, Grizzly Man was now wrenching at the forearm above Pete’s gun hand painfully with both beefy hands. Pete had never, in over fifteen years of assorted martial arts and hand-to-hand combat training, ever had this much force applied to his arm. He needed to do something now.

Sirens were approaching. But they would not get here in time. His grip on the pistol was loosening.

It’s game over if you lose your firearm.

His right hand going numb from the twisting grizzly paws, Pete hesitated. Oddly, for an instant of eternity, he felt he had all the time in the world. He knew less than ten seconds had passed since Tom’s advance and jab with the nightstick. But it had seemed like ten minutes’ worth of impressions, judgements, actions.

For a split second Becky’s eyes were squinting at him, her pink lips mouthing the words “Be care-

Pete pulled the trigger.

He couldn’t be sure from the feel of the snapping Glock - what feel at this point? - whether the slide had run into Grizzly Man’s hands gripping his gun hand. If it had, the gun might not have completely cycled another round into the chamber. The single shot might have been Pete’s last cheer for the home team.

But he was sure of one thing:

The man had dropped partway to a sitting position and was pulling Pete toward the ground.

Another unpleasant realization assaulted Pete like a coordinated panzer attack: The Grizzly’s grip had not loosened after taking a round in his right shoulder. If anything, the man’s grip had tightened.

Pete’s tunnel vision let up for a minute. He stole a glance in Tom’s direction. He couldn’t see spurting blood anymore. But Tom lay on his side unmoving.

Pete knew some ground and pound moves, but couldn’t use them without his hands. He had to keep his hands on the gun.

As Pete bent his knees to create a stable stance that would keep him on his feet, he instinctively shot a glance at the man’s eyes to gauge him. He saw fear.

Was it desperation? Had Pete inadvertently made the situation worse by cornering a Grizzly into do or die? Pete had de-escalated by getting control of the gun - no knife in the man’s hands either - but then re-escalated with a pull of the trigger. Why hadn’t he just flung the gun and used some jiu-jitsu?

The sirens seemed to be no closer than the last time he noticed them … damn, they seemed miles away.

The man’s weight was too much. Pete started falling forward. This was the last chance to prevent the situation from getting totally out of hand - expecting one shot to stop this guy had been stupid - keep firing till movement stops is the safe way.  Pete thrust out his left foot in a hopeless attempt to stop his fall.

The numbness was almost complete - it almost felt as if the Grizzly-grip was loosening though - but Pete couldn’t even tell at this point whether his finger was on the trigger and he needed to pull that trigger - but the Grizzly’s grip seemed to be loosening - but that had to be the numbness - it was almost too late - Pete imagined squeezing his hand again and again and just willed it and blessedly heard a string of shots ring out as the Grizzly paw sliding down Pete’s arm knocked the gun skidding away and Pete was standing up with a bounce and the man had dropped on his back harmlessly.

****

Pete moved quickly to Tom’s side, his shoes making “splet” noises in the pool of blood.

 He kept man he had just shot in his field of vision.

Tom had somehow managed to tie a tourniquet made from a handkerchief above the gash with his good hand. The little bit of blood that still managed to flow out was pumping. So Tom’s heart was still beating.

This wouldn’t do. Tom might bleed out.

Pete got a large bandage from the cruiser and tied it on the wound. Slowly releasing the tourniquet, he didn’t see his bandage get soaked in blood. Thank God.

Too many flashing lights from a horde of police cars sent Pete’s mind flashing back to a childhood outing to the carnival. Mom let him walk ahead but he ran into a huge hunchback with a sword and the beast was bellowing laughter at him and Pete had to get out of there and his chest exploded as he shrilly screamed “mommeeeee!”

Get it together, Pete.

Pete did not get it together. The seeming days at the crime scene answering questions and the long night in the hospital at Tom’s side all misted together inside the same drunk-driven car that had been leading his mind into an obscure black night of philosophical and spiritual conundrums just before this mess had started.

He ate nothing for the next 36 hours but his chest and throat felt like he had acid reflux.

The man Pete had shot was in critical condition. Touch and go.

At least Tom was alive.


To Continue to the Third Story in this series