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Again the Instincts

I was coming home on a date and knew something bad was going to come down. Nobody had done anything. Nobody had said anything. But I saw three of them, preparing to get off the bus with us.

One got off in front of me, threw himself down on the ground, and then rose screaming that I had pushed him. A fight ensued. They were all trying to attack me. As the big guy got ready to throw a punch, the other two smaller guys got ready, too, in a half-hearted way. I had been boxing at the time–so I just kept stepping to the left and counter-punching each time the big guy threw a jab. As long as he didn’t land a punch and stagger me, these other two wouldn’t do anything. They were weasels.

Ultimately the big guy – who must have been on coke or something – got frustrated and ran off screaming to harass somebody else.

We left, getting to the corner of Haight and Ashbury under the light, when I heard him coming up screaming behind me. I turned around. He threw a hook, and I blocked it. But it felt like an awfully strong blow. When I stood back I realized with a chill that he had a bloody knife in his hand. And then he just ran away.

I walked down the street high on adrenaline ,going, “Oh, my god!” My girlfriend was terrified. I took a look. I wasn’t sure I had been stabbed. I just saw this ugly welt across my side and thought, “You know, maybe he missed me.”

But when I reached around further, my hands came up with blood. It really is a nightmare. You don’t know what’s happening, but you keep walking and getting weaker.

I walked into a record store, asked for help, then sat down on the ashtray and fell on the floor, and couldn’t breath, and ended up crawling like a rat, trying to hide myself behind the counter. It was ugly.

The medics got there, said my blood pressure was OK and gave me a little oxygen, and I perked up. What had saved me was the twisting. In boxing if someone’s throwing a hook, you’ll turn and drop your elbow. That motion drew the blade. It went in about three inches, between my organs and the outer wall, and made a nasty gash. But I wasn’t severely wounded, just having a normal faint reaction and feeling terrible.

In the emergency room it seemed ironic that there I was, a police and a crime statistician-analyst–a victim of violent crime. Once the emergency crew knew it wasn’t critical, we all had a giddy chuckle.

That’s when I realized you’re either all the way in the police force or you’re not. And I was sort of halfway. That’s really not a position you can stay in.

A Good Streak Ends

I was running on a good streak for eight years, every job a success. Babies were returned safe. People didn’t kill themselves, and bad guys put down their guns. Then I had a bad one, a wall street broker who was skimming money. When federal marshals came to arrest him at his posh thirty second floor apartment on 77th Street, I was the commanding officer of the 25th detective squad.

We started talking to him through the door.

He said, “Go away or I’ll jump. “

One senior official said, “Well, let his wife talk to him.”

She got up to the door and said , “Albert, you’re acting like an ass. Why don’t you come out?” Which completely flipped him.

We started telephone negotiations. I was talking with him, looking at him from another apartment across his terrace. He was facing a deal for him to turn hmself in. He knew he was going to be arrested, do ten years, be disgraced and lose everything, including his million dollar job.. He had nothing to live for. But I had him a few times.

He was saying, “OK, I’m going to come out now. I’m going to feed the dog, then I’ll come out.”

A good and a bad sign – good that they’re going to come out; bad that they start performing rituals. They just want to get washed. They just want to feed the dog. They just want to tidy up the loose ends, which happens a lot in suicides.

Tactically it was very difficult to get him. He was on a highrise terrace. Our team prepared to throw one of these cargo nets from the thirty third floor over the balcony to cops on the thirty first floor who would try to pull it tight against his ledge.

We talked for about seven hours, up and down. Yes, he was on my side. No, he can’t come because there was nothing to live for.

He had decided to come out three times. Each time I walked over to the other building and knocked on the door.

He’d say, “Who is it?”

I’d say, “It’s me, Gary. Are you going to come out now?” I’d walk all the way back, pick up the phone. “Why aren’t you going to come out?”

“Well, I don’t want to come out. What am I going to do?”

Again I talked about life, about all the things he had to live for.

We decided to move on him. We opened door slowly. He was in the living room. He ran out to the ledge. The net was dropped, pulled tight. With superhuman strength he squeezed out around it and dove thirty two floors to his death.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. They had to drive me home that night. You start to shake because you’ve been tense for seven hours and you wonder what you could have said.

More from Joseph JK . . .