I’m Helen Hawthorne, Fort Lauderdale private eye. I just finished working as a stewardess aboard a 143-foot luxury yacht, trying to catch an emerald smuggler. Elaine Viets wrote about my adventure in Final Sail.

A job with an ocean view. Sounds glamorous, right?

Wrong. I’m a seagoing Cinderella, at the beck and call of the yacht owners and their spoiled guests. I have to wait on them twenty-four hours a day. Even in the middle of a storm, I can’t be seasick like everyone else. I have to take the guests bland food to settle their stomachs while mine is churning.

And that ocean? I don’t get much of a view running up and down the crew stairs inside the yacht, but I sure feel the ocean. It slams the ship hard enough to knock me off my feet. The crew had to tie down the deck furniture and wrap every last piece of glass in bubble wrap or its own protective covering.

Our yacht left Fort Lauderdale for Atlantis, the fabulous resort in the Bahamas, at nine o’clock at night. I spent the evening serving the guests food and drink.

About ten that night, the wind kicked up and the sea turned rough. At first I did pretty well, even fancied myself a sea dog. But about midnight, I was dragging my body up the stairs once again, pulling myself up by the rail. I tried not to think about carrying a tray of food back down those steps. I had to do it, that’s all. As a stewardess, I had to take care of Pepper Crowne, the pretty air head married to rich old Scotty. Besides toting trays, I had a smuggler to catch. Anyway, nobody died of sea sickness, did they?

I made it upstairs, where Chef Suzanne Schoomer presided over a shifting galley. Water sloshed out of steaming pots and sizzled on the Thermador stove top. Suzanne is a thin woman with straight dark hair and serious brown eyes. She pointed to a napkin-covered tray on the center island. My heart sank. Suzanne had used the gold-rimmed Rosenthal china for Pepper’s soft-boiled egg, saltines and tea. If that china broke, it came out of my paycheck.

“That goes to Mrs. Crowne,” Suzanne told me. “The men are asleep – or passed out – in the sky lounge. Mira covered them with blankets and they’re snoring.” Mira’s the head stew. Her job is even harder than mine.

The boat took another downward plunge and I grabbed the railing along the counter to stay upright.

“How do I get this downstairs?” I asked the chef.

“Walk with your feet wide apart for balance,” Suzanne said. “Keep them spread as wide as your shoulders. Hold onto the tray with one hand and the wall with the other. And be careful with the Rosenthal.”

I guess I should have been grateful. Suzanne could have used the Royal Copenhagen. That cost seven thousand dollars a place setting.

“You’ll have to check on your charge every fifteen minutes,” the chef said.

“Pepper told me to go away once I delivered her stuff,” I said.

“You still have to stay awake in case she calls you. Mira’s left a thermos of coffee in the crew mess. That should keep you awake. Go.”

I waited until the yacht was out of the deep swing and into the smaller rocking motions. As I started out of the galley, the yacht took another steep plunge. The china rattled and the gold-rimmed cup slid off the tray and smashed on the floor.

Ouch. That hurt. Right in the wallet.

“It’s only a cup,” Suzanne said. “We have lots of those.”

“How much is it?” I asked.

“Eighty dollars,” Suzanne said.

A few more slips and I could wind up paying the yacht owners to work here.

My day ended at 5:40 that morning. I had just enough time to shower and change into a fresh uniform. I started work again at six a.m.

** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of FINAL SAIL to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends May 13. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. Book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **

FINAL SAIL, Elaine Viets’ eleventh Dead-End Job mystery, is set in the world of the have-nots and have-yachts. Private eye Helen Hawthorne works as a stewardess on a 143-foot yacht. She has to track down an emerald smuggler while serving snobs and scrubbing floors. Phil, Helen’s PI husband, investigates a sexy gold digger who may have murdered her rich old husband. Phil works undercover as the new widow’s estate manager – and she wants Helen’s hunky husband to go really undercover. Visit Elaine at www.elaineviets.com.

Publishers Weekly calls FINAL SAIL an action-packed cozy. Here’s the book trailer.

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