Pete Robinson saw the tonfa in his partner’s hand gleam under the yellow street lights. A tonfa is a nightstick with a handle out the side at a right angle. Pete knew Tom Rosenthal was damn good with it.
But the wild-eyed shirtless young man standing between them, long brown messy hair swinging randomly as he looked back and forth at the officers on his right and left, an enigmatic smile on his face, appeared to be on something powerful. Or at least he had taken a lot of it. God only knew what he’d do next.
As Pete appraised the man, with thoughts, feelings, urges and sensations coming at him from all sides, from somewhere he heard his late dad yell out, “grizzly!”
Yeah. That was it. This felt just like surprising that bear in Alaska with Dad. Their Remingtons had been in their hands then. But crouched here now to the right of this man with the obscenely hairy chest, he left his Glock 9 mm securely in his holster. It was too soon for that. Pete and Tom had been trained in the twenty-one-foot rule, but they didn’t believe in just gunning a guy down if they could defuse things and get him the help he needed.
And everyone needed help.
From their cruiser, Pete and Tom had spotted the man on this wide Salt Lake City street a couple of moments before. Pete’s mind had been wandering like a drunk driver on a dark mountain road to unpleasant thoughts of his late Nona, to ambivalent thoughts of Mom, of death, of life, and of Becky.
The man outside the cruiser had been carrying on an animated conversation with no one. That hadn’t been so suspicious on its own. Pete had seen a lot of that over the years.
But it was as cold a March night as Pete could remember. And here’s this obviously disturbed guy wearing only shorts and sandals. They couldn’t just let him freeze to death. Besides, it was 2 AM. One of the first things Pete and been told after joining the force some ten years ago was, “nothing good happens after midnight.”
The man seemed calm as they approached. But after a few words were exchanged, the big KA BAR had appeared in the man’s right hand out of the waist of his loose shorts. That’s the side Pete now stood on: the grizzly’s right. The knife moved unpredictably. Pete’s hands were empty.
The man was black. So was Pete. Tom was mongrel mixed blood American, all of the mixture Caucasian.
Another officer had shot and killed a Hispanic teen just over a month ago. Salt Lake PD was pressing charges against the officer who shot the boy.
The scene was like a macabre swirling half yin-and-yang symbol. The crazed man-grizzly had unpredictability on his side. He was like the little white dot of aggressive yang growing out of Pete’s and Tom’s surrounding black swath of predictable, empty, yin. Or was the white chaotic Grizzly yang piercing their black receptive vacuum of yin?
Black and white, yin and yang, were flowing through Pete’s mind like smog. But he knew he could count on Tom.
The two had been partners for almost 3 years now. They knew the rules, they knew when to break them, and they knew each other. Once the knife had appeared, the officers had needed no words with each other. Tom’s nightstick had come out even as he spoke soothing words to the grizzly. Pete had called for backup and an ambulance to be on the safe side. Better to waste a little of the taxpayers’ money than someone’s life.
Tom and Pete discussed scenarios like this a lot.
Since the man was growing more and more agitated, they couldn’t wait him out. Tom would strike the man from his left with a jab from the tonfa. That would provide just enough distraction for Pete to get both hands around the wrist on Grizzly Man’s knife hand.
But Pete would have very little time to gain control of the KA BAR. For this Chinese ballet to work, they had to move almost simultaneously. Tom had to be out in front of the action just enough to grab the man’s attention.
Pete could tell Tom was ready. And as he always did in coordinated scenarios like this, Tom telegraphed his intentions just enough that anyone else who might be watching knew something was coming too. Grizzly Man was paying attention. He was already turning away from Pete.
When the two officers converged on the man like cogs on two spinning gears coming together, Pete momentarily lost sight of Tom’s nightstick, and also lost sight of the knife responding to it. He heard something clatter to the ground. Just then Grizzly Man’s knife hand started to swing back towards Pete. The knife was still in it. That meant -
For a moment, Pete saw nothing but that wrist. He seized it with both hands. Normally he would have expected more nightstick jabs from Tom to keep the man’s attention off the knife. But Tom was on his knees attending to a right wrist that was spurting blood into a growing pool in front of him.
Grizzly Man said, “I don’t need this knife ... you ... loser. How do you like that?” True to his word, he released the knife. Nothing was going as expected.
Pete felt his Glock being pulled from his holster.