TRAGEDY IN LAS VEGAS by Keith Bettinger

It is Tuesday October 3. I spent part of the day in the parking lot opposite the Mandalay Bay hotel helping my friends in the Fraternal Order of Police feed and hydrate the first responders working at the murder scene.  Police officers are working twelve hour shifts, yet they are friendly and professional.  They never pass up a chance to thank us for coming to help them.  It was also the day I found out the lady I was trying to locate the night before, is one of the fatalities.

The community of Las Vegas, known as Sin City, may have lost whatever innocence it had, but it has not lost its heart.  Hotel marquees display messages of sorrow for the victims and praise for the first responders.  People are pulling up with food, beverages and ice saying “I just want to help”.  The generosity has been so great some of the collection places have had to turn people and their gifts away and redirect them to other locations because they are over supplied.  All the people are coming near the tragedy scene trying to give something back to the first responders.  Hotels are sending food and sandwiches.  Ice, snack packs, water, Gatorade, soft drinks, pizza, pastries and just about anything you can think of is offered freely by the people wanting to help and thank someone for what the first responders did.

It was eerie looking up at the two broken out golden windows and realizing how much death and pain rained down from them.  It makes me feel once again like I did back on 9/11.  Tomorrow I will be back with my friends from the local Fraternal Order of Police lodges, trying to help take care of the first responders and wondering where do these brave people come from? 

It is Wednesday, October 4 President Trump has arrived in Las Vegas with the first lady.  They have travelled to two important locations; the trauma center at UMC (University Medical Center) to meet with survivors of this horrific event and the headquarters of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.  I have spent the morning with fellow Fraternal Order of Police friends making coffee and making sure first responders have enough nourishment and fluid to help them make it through their current assignment. 

When we arrived at seven o’clock this morning waiting to greet us was the lid of a cardboard box from a restaurant.  On it were messages of thanks for the police officers, thanking them for what they have done while providing them with a little rest and nourishment.   

Part of the afternoon was spent helping the first responders do their overwhelming jobs.  Our members went shopping on short notice and arrived back at our trailer with hamburgers, apples, tangerines, bananas, snack packs, beverages, and energy drinks.  We fed between 140 and 200 specialists who were then responsible to reenter and investigate this overwhelming crime scene.  You have never met so many people who were thankful for a simple hamburger, some fresh fruit and above all else, energy drinks. All they asked was would we promise to be back on site the following day.  How could we say no to such a thankful group of people?  

The people who are with the FBI are measuring as well as posting on maps where each piece of evidence from Sunday night is located.   The agents of the Nevada State Attorney General’s office must reenter the killing zone and recover all the personal effects left behind.  While there, they will tag, document, identify, and attempt to contact either the owner whose property they now possess, or make a notification to the next of kin that the loved one’s property has been found and available to be claimed.

Time is winding down like it does with any crisis in life.  Tomorrow we will arrive a little later in the day and once again provide sustenance to the evidence gatherers as well as any first responder, but with shortened hours on site.  The people, who attended the concert and escaped to safety, are returning home.  We will stay on site but not as long as we did when we first responded.  For those that lost loved ones, many of the casino/hotels are offering free rooms.  Some of the airlines, are offering to fly the human remains home for free. 

I have been wiping tears and sometimes struggling to finish sentences without crying in front of someone.  A simple thank you from a first responder can bring tears to your eyes as he or she takes a couple bottles of water or energy drinks back out on the road to continue their twelve hour assignments.  This can reduce you to tears.  They have done so much and we have done so little, trying to make their day just a little easier, a little better and maybe a little more hopeful.

Tomorrow I will return with my friends, maybe our stay will be shorter, maybe it will be longer.  We serve our first responders and their needs.  They make the hours worthwhile because they never leave us without saying thank you. 

            Thursday was another day helping take care of the first responders.  The evidence technicians continue their tiring task of gathering evidence and retrieving victims’ lost property.  It seems every day the authorities give back to the residents some of the roped off areas and open up some of the streets that have been closed. 

Two ladies arrived at our command post site and delivered care packages containing sandwiches, snacks, fruit and bottles of water.  These were put together by members of their church.  They wanted to do something to help and they have, yet they thank us for allowing them to help. 

            Today I was told some happy news.  A dog was found and reunited with his owner.  The owner is one of the survivors of the mayhem.  The dog is a therapy dog.  They became separated during the slaughter.

 Sergeant Bernie Moss of the Corpus Christi police department once wrote a story, You’re Not A Cop Until You Taste Them.    It’s about a time early in his career and being told by an old timer you’re not a cop until you taste them, and then saying nothing more.  One day Bernie handled a horrific event one night and while changing clothes in the locker room he was crying.  The old timer came over and put his hand on Bernie’s shoulder and said, “Now you’ve tasted them.” 

Tears have a special taste all their own and also have a cathartic effect.  I have tasted my tears during this tragic time, but in my case they aren’t tears of sadness or hurt.  They are tears of gratitude for the wonderful people who are trying to help.  They are tears for the work the first responders continue doing no matter how terrible.  They are tears of thanks for allowing me to help and be part of Las Vegas’ recovery.  Eventually, this horrific event will be part of my past, not my present.  

******

BIO OF KEITH BETTINGER

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 19 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written three books, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME “DAY AND LENNY, END OF WATCH AND MURDER IN McHENRY. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance,  Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

It is my pleasure to host my good friend, Keith Bettinger. In addition to the things mentioned in his bio, he was also at the 9/11 Ground Zero. Being the  author who reviewed the manuscript for my first book, “We Are Different Now – a grandparents journey through grief”, he had a big impact on my first becoming a published author. We hope you’ll  leave a comment to let us know you stopped by to enjoy his article.

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Posted in Crime, Jackie Taylor Zortman, Keith Bettinger, Las Vegas, mass shootings, Public Safety Writers Association | 13 Comments

CONTRACT RULES OF FIRST RIGHT OF REFUSAL

Okay, all you writers and published authors out there, here’s a question for you to ponder and, hopefully, share your answer.

Due to two years of my publishing house being dormant, I recently took back the rights to my two  books and then signed a contract with a different publisher for both of them as second editions.

At about the same time, I finished the manuscript for my third book called Snow AngelIt has been professionally edited, read by beta readers and polished by another author and someone proficient in English and grammar. This book has the same characters and locale as Footprints in the Frost.  However, I wrote it as a totally stand-alone book, meaning you don’t have to read the first book to understand the second one.  But it can be called a sequel or #2 in a series, if that’s  desired.

So, I submitted the manuscript to my present publisher and others for consideration. One senior editor (not from my publisher) wrote back to me and said the contract rules of first right of refusal would still exist if that is in the contract with my new publishing house, because Snow Angel has the same characters as Footprints in the Frost.  Even if both books stand alone, with the same characters in both, they are still related. Thus, my publisher either has to reject my submission (hope not) or give me a release of the first right of refusal in order for other houses to look at Snow Angel. What a surprise.

I whipped out my contract and assume she is referring to, in my contract, #7. “The Author agrees they will not publish or allow to be published by any third party any abridged, expanded or alternate versions of Footprints in the Frost and/or We Are Different Now.”

Knowing that some of you have written sequels and series, here’s my question.  Is this correct?  Even after five years in the book business, I’m still learning. I had no clue that contract clause included totally separate books.

Tell me what you know about this little glitch.

 

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, books, fiction, First right of refusal, FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST, WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW | 6 Comments

TALK TO ME ABOUT SMOKE ALARMS

A few months ago, one of our smoke alarms…of course, the one right outside our bedroom door, began “chirping” off and on…most often in the middle of the night.  My husband was sleeping on the main floor in a recliner after shoulder surgery, so it didn’t bother him, nor could he fix it if it did.  Finally, in desperation, I got the step ladder in the daylight, unplugged it and jerked that thing down. After pulling out the battery, I was stunned to hear it continue to chirp.  Shortly, it did a rather weak chirppppppp and that was the end of that.

I got on-line and ordered the model recommended for replacement of the ones we had, which were 17 years old and past their prime.  When they arrived, I called a local electrician and he came and installed two new ones in a flash. But alas, four nights later, the same alarm outside the bedroom door began chirping, first 4:00 a.m. and then again at 6:45 a.m. That was last night.

First Alert 120 VAC hardwired with battery backup – our new alarms.

The electrician told us they all will chirp and usually in the wee hours when it is coldest. The ones in his house do and they are interconnected. He also said he’s found spiders in them that were the cause, as well as dust. Back on-line to read the comments for the particular ones we have.  One man said he found little green bugs inside his that caused the chirping. Others have never figured out what’s making it happen.

Okay, here’s my question, especially for, but certainly not limited to,  those of you who are firemen/women. I know there are several in the PSWA group and among my Facebook friends.  In your opinion, what’s the best brand/kind of smoke detector to buy?  And what’s going on with this chirping with a product that’s only been up four days and was installed by a professional electrician? Ours are hard-wired with battery backup.

Where the light is shining is the alarm. The peak is above the Double Happiness emblem backed in black.

For everyone reading this, tell me what brand and kind you have in your house and how they are working.  Do they ever chirp?  Do you know why? As the electrician immediately suggested, I tossed the cheap “free” battery that came with them into the trash and provided alkaline 9 volt replacements. Lithium is my next purchase. But until I find out what’s making it chirp, it probably won’t matter.

Here is one possible cause, though no problems for 17 years, even when burning a wood-stove full-time in winter.  The picture on the right shows where the alarm is located outside our bedroom door, which is right off our loft office.  As you can see above the black-backed Chinese Double Happiness emblem the great room is beside and below the loft and the peak of the ceiling is 24 feet. Could that cause a problem?

Someone please tell me what you know and think. Help!

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, Fire Departments, Public Safety Writers Association, Smoke detectors, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WICHITA LINEMAN

When Glen Campbell recently left this earth, someone posted his rendition of “Amazing Grace” on Facebook.  In that version, he played the bagpipes.  I have to say it is the first time I’ve ever thought bagpipes sounded absolutely beautiful.  Did you even know he played them?  I knew he played a multitude of musical instruments, but bagpipes never entered my mind. You will find it on his album “Jesus and Me”.

But one of my personal favorites is “Wichita Lineman”. My husband is from Wichita. He was a detective with the Wichita PD for twenty years. My best friend worked for the telephone company there. First she worked in the Wichita office and then decided to become a lineman, which was not usual for a female back in those days. She stayed with the phone company for thirty years, still working outside in fiber optics after she moved back to her Colorado hometown.  But she had once actually been a Wichita lineman. I got to see her climb a telephone pole on the job right here on our property years ago and it was quite impressive.

I  loved so many of Glen Campbell’s songs at the height of his fame.  During a business trip, I recall standing in the sun on a pier in Topolobampo, Mexico, staring at the ocean and listening to him sing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” as it played from the deck of a nearby yacht. Today I always associate the song with that moment in Mexico.

Recently, I wanted to know if he wrote “Wichita Lineman” and why. He did not. The writer of the song was Jimmy Webb. He was driving along an Oklahoma highway (I assume into Kansas) when he spied a single telephone lineman on one of the poles with an ear piece attached to it. It evoked loneliness in Mr. Webb’s mind. If you’ve ever driven across Kansas, you certainly understand why. He wondered what the lineman was saying. Was it about a lost love or was it strictly business?

Remember the wall phones? We still have one in the gunsmith shop.

When winds blow over small wires, like those of a long stretch of telephone line, it can make them whine. The wind rarely stops blowing in Kansas. Part of the lyrics to the song refer to that eerie sound – “I can hear you through the whine…”. The song changes keys in both verses and the subject of the lyrics change each time the key changes.  In other words, one key speaks about the job and the other key is about the lineman’s romantic life. How clever and unique is that?

When we lost Glen Campbell,  we lost one of the most talented musicians this world has ever known. It is said he was as kind and unassuming as he was talented. The angels must be thrilled to have his voice in their heavenly choir.

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, blogs, Celebrities, Glen Campbell, Kansas, music | 4 Comments

THE END IS NEAR

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

Yes, it’s true and I thought it would never be here. Like many prisoners, I am actually crossing the days off on the tiny calendar that sits in front of my computer monitor. Will my husband get to return to our bedroom to sleep?  I often awaken in the night and think I hear him breathing beside me.  When I reach over to touch him, I remember that he’s not there anymore. I did that last night and touched our Siamese cat whom it scared the wits out of.  But he soon settled down again and snuggled back tight against me. His life has been upside down, too.

Where is my husband, you wonder. He’s downstairs in the TV room wrapped snugly in a duvet cover because in the high altitude in which we live, our monsoon rains continue day and night and keep the temperatures rather cool. And let’s face it, fall is staring us right in the face here in the high country.  It looks like nobody lives here with untended flower beds and weeds and grass to our knees.  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel now and I’m sprinting toward it.

It has now been seven weeks since he had surgery on his rotator cuff and when he fell way back on April 13th, he did more damage than is average.  Therefore, his recuperation is two weeks longer than the average bear’s, as well.  It has been a complete nightmare.

His reaction to 4.5 hours of anesthetic made him confused day and night for 17 days.  After two weeks of having absolutely no sleep at all, I took him to the family doc who solved that with, of all things, 3 mg. melatonin.  Having always been skeptical of the magic that supplement is touted to perform, I have to tell you it’s the answer to my prayers. He sleeps like a baby now. We did have one night where he got up, made a pot of coffee, sat down and drank a cup and didn’t know he did it.  He was stunned to find a luke-warm partial pot of coffee waiting when he got up the next morning.  Doc said that’ll happen once in awhile. Apparently, he is sleep walking, which he did a lot as a youngster.

On the positive side, my hair had time to grow out and I didn’t care how it looked because the unusual high humidity makes me look like Janis Joplin anyway. Although on really rainy days, I look more like a French poodle.  But we’re pretty much confined, so who’s gonna know? Everything is relative and compared to the rest of it, my hair is the least of my worries.

And that, my friends, is my excuse for neglecting my blog for the last month, plus a few days and I’m sticking to it.  I do have a manuscript being read by a new publisher and hope my next novel, SNOW ANGEL, a sequel to FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST,  will be coming soon. Please don’t abandon me yet because winter’s coming and I’ll be writing my little arthritic fingers off again.

 

 

Posted in accidents, blogs, fall, summer, Writing | 8 Comments

MY BEST REVIEW EVER!

Book Review: Footprints in the Frost by Jackie Taylor Zortman

If you need a bitter chill to chase away the heat of summer, Footprints in the Frost is the one book you should take home with you.

I gauge a book, particularly a thriller, on the way a story makes me feel. It’s not the thrill of the hunt that matters, it’s the experience that surrounds me when an author as talented as Jackie Taylor Zortman grabs me by the throat and jerks me into the the unsolved riddles of a novel like Footprints in the Frost.

I feel the beauty of the Colorado high country.

I have a photograph of the mountains embedded in my brain.

I’ve been there and stood on its ridges.

Jackie’s descriptions are better than the photograph.

I feel the peace, the comfort, the loneliness of a remote mountain cabin that sits far above the noise, the confusion, the rigors of city living.

It’s a place where a police investigator can escape to untangle the cobwebs from his mind.

It’s a place where he and his girl friend can rekindle their relationship.

But will he ever be able to flee the nightmares created by a serial rapist?

The memories of five beautiful women, five beautiful victims, won’t leave him

They linger day and night.

Will the girls ever be the same again?

Or does their lives lie in ruins?

Their voices cry for justice.

Is there any justice?

I feel the hope, the frustration, the fear of two intense people – a detective and his love – who are battling time and circumstance in a desperate effort to unravel the knots that keep their lives together, yet, at the same time, separate them.

Do they really have any time for each other?

Or will their jobs drag them apart?

I feel the cold of a Colorado winter as it creeps into the bone marrow of the key characters – Max and Sami – as well as the intensity of the story.

Their love runs hot and cold.

Can it survive?

Footsteps in the Frost is a romance.

It’s a mystery.

It’s a crime story.

It’s a love story.

Max and Sami have many mysteries to unravel.

Most revolve around them.

Max won’t be satisfied until the serial rapist is behind bars.

Sami won’t be satisfied until she knows how Max really feels about her.

He comes into her life.

He walks out.

She wonders if he will ever return.

For Sami, there are only fragmented moments between “I love you” and “goodbye.”

Jackie Taylor Zortman has twisted a haunting tale around hope and fear, crime and punishment, guilt and innocence, promises made, kept, and unanswered.

But when it’s all said and done, feelings are all that count and all that are left.

If you need a bitter chill to chase away the heat of summer, Footprints in the Frost is the one book you should take home with you.

Please click HERE to purchase your copy of Footprints in the Frost from Amazon. 

 

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THE SECOND HALF

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

When New Year’s Eve 2016 rolled around, I remember being so sure in my heart that 2017 was going to be the best year ever.  Boy, was I wrong.  Starting in January, things that have never happened before started and they are still going strong here in June.

For the first time ever, we had carbon monoxide alarms go off in the middle of the night in both January and February, which meant having the Fire Department in the house, some in full regalia, looking for the source.  They never discovered what caused it, but we had to pack up our cat and go to a motel both times.  We learned our cat isn’t a motel kind of guy. Finally we bought new alarms, paid a small fortune to have the water heater changed from gas to electric and are shopping for an electric drier to replace the gas one. The furnace is gas, but it checks out and nobody, including the FD, gas tech or furnace tech think it’s the culprit.

Then, after having no problems for months, one of the alarms began chirping. It didn’t alarm,  just chirped once, but about every four hours and only at night.  This really adds to one’s lack of sleep due to other reasons, such as my husband falling out of a high closet (don’t even ask) and tearing the rotator cuff away from the bone on April 13th. That causes some restlessness at night.  His surgery is in late June, so it’s been fun.

But back to the CO alarm, we suspect it is due to a Hoya plant’s (I have three in bloom right now) pungent perfume that only reveals itself at night. Did you know that perfume, after shave, aerosol sprays and other things can set off a CO alarm?  I moved the plants to another room and finally ripped that alarm out of the electric socket, took the batteries out and replaced it with a battery driven model last night.

Yesterday I opened the smoked glass door to my built in computer and discovered the field mice we’re battling this year (for the first time in 36 years) have been in there.  They totally stripped the rubber off the USB cable to my exterior hard drive.  They tore up manila envelopes of all sizes and the back off a ream of paper, as well.  Thankfully, they didn’t touch the wires of my computer stack. There’s D-con in there waiting for them now.

Yes, we have a cat.  We have a very expensive Siamese cat.  We’ve had him for 12 years now.  He doesn’t hunt mice.  He uses mice for entertainment only. He sleeps all day because he’s up all night cavorting with the mice. Here he is today.

We also discovered mice have been in two storage closets in our office and really wreaked havoc, apparently all winter.  Yesterday we spent the entire day cleaning that mess out.   This has kicked me over the edge, folks, so I’m raging war against them now.  Caught two in traps last night and two the night before.  How many must there be?

After Mother’s Day, the cut-off time for planting things outside here, we had a foot of snow over three days and nights. I mean it was grueling on that third day.  Looks like it has killed most of the scrub oak trees in the area, including ours.  Lots of tree cutting needs to be done, but a guy with a torn rotator cuff isn’t able to do such things, so we are just goin’ with the flow this summer.

Just to fill in between these things, there have been daily other disasters, too numerous to mention.  We refer to them as crisis du jour now and wonder what’s next every morning over coffee.

My 23-year-old granddaughter just commented, “Granny, the craziest things happen to you.”  She just graduated college (brag – something went right) and truly is a really smart girl.  And one of my dreams came true, her brother and his wife are making me a great-grandmother to a little girl in the fall.

Do I dare hope the next six months fulfill my original optimism on New Year’s Eve? Let me know what you think.

 

Posted in Jackie Taylor Zortman, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, spring | 12 Comments