Saturday, April 16, 2011

Helen Hawthorne Sweats Her New Career

Submitted by Helen Hawthorne who gets stuck with all the Dead-End Jobs in Elaine Viets’ series.

For years, I’d been on the run from my ex-scuzzband, working lousy jobs so Rob didn’t get a dime of my money.

Well, that problem went away. I buried it, you might say. I wouldn’t say that, because I don’t want the police looking into why Rob didn’t show up when our divorce terms were re-negotiated.

Once Phil and I married, I thought I wouldn’t have to do those dead-end jobs. I expected to work, but I was sure I’d have more exciting jobs. We’ve started our private eye agency, Coronado Investigations, at the Coronado Tropic Apartments, where we live. Our landlady, Margery Flax, gave us the place for one dollar a month until the agency got on its feet.

And speaking of feet – I thought being a gumshoe meant I’d do legwork.

But no. Elaine – she’s my Watson – wrote about our first cases in her tenth Dead-End Job mystery, PUMPED FOR MURDER.

Wouldn’t you know it? I’m stuck working another dead-end job.

This time, I’m a receptionist at a posh gym in Fort Lauderdale. I had to keep a not-so-private eye on Bryan, whose wife bought him a gym membership earlier in the year. Bryan had developed some pudge.

Bryan wasn’t thrilled with Shelby’s gift. He kept doing twelve-ounce curls and making occasional visits to the gym. Suddenly Bryan became a gym rat, doing killer workouts every day. Now he looked like he’d stepped off a romance novel cover.

The love handles were gone, but there was no love for Shelby. She suspected her husband developed that hot body for another woman – or maybe a man. In Fort Lauderdale, folks sometimes swing both ways.

Phil did offer to take the receptionist job at the gym for our investigation. But the gym wanted a woman, and I got hired.

I didn’t mind answering the phone. I could watch Bryan work out in the mirrors that were all over the place and he never saw me. Bryan was definitely easy on the eyes.

Everything was hunky-dory. Until my gym boss decided I was fat.

I’m curvy and I said so.

He didn’t like my tone. My muscle tone. If I wanted to keep this job – and I needed to find out if Bryan was stepping out on his wife – I had to pump iron.

What was Phil doing while I was getting hotter?

Working on a cold case from 1986. Gus, a Fort Lauderdale mechanic who restores classic cars, was convinced that his brother Mark didn’t commit suicide. Gus believed Mark was murdered by a drug dealer. The cops said otherwise. Mark died when cocaine cowboys roamed Florida and anything was possible.

For our second case, Phil searched old police reports in a cool air-conditioned office. He also made friends with Mark’s buddy, Danny Boy. Danny owned a bar, and Phil logged a lot of time on a barstool, bonding. He drank beer while I chugged water.

Some job, huh?

I’d get home from the gym, dying to put my feet up. Carefully, since every muscle hurt from my forced workouts.

But I couldn’t rest. Phil dragged me to the bar for more bonding with Danny. Bar food is fried grease. How could I lose weight on a diet of burgers and fries? I’d spend all day with muscleheads and competition bodybuilders who lived on two ounces of chicken a day – you read that right – and then sit in the bar at night, surrounded by temptation.

It wasn’t fair. Phil got to belly up to the bar, while I had to flatten mine.

And what did my beloved call my contribution to our investigation?

“Sweat equity.”

Only my love for Phil kept this book from having one more murder.


Elaine Viets’ tenth Dead-End Job mystery, “Pumped for Murder,” debuts May 3 as an e-book and a hardcover. You can pre-order your novel at Watch her cool book trailer at


  1. Why do I suspect that Phil is going to regret some of those burgers and fries?

  2. Helen, welcome to Killer Characters! I know that you've had a rocky ride the last few years and I sure hope that Elaine Viets gives you a break. I mean, can't the burger and fries be no-cal? Speaking of combos, I love the supersize combo of suspense and humor in the dead end job books.

    Good luck with your PI business. I know you'll catch the bad guys.

  3. Hi Helen,

    I've followed you from the beginning and I'm so glad that things turned out for the better. Good luck with the PI business. Phil is going to regret those burgers and fries when he really sees how good you look.

  4. Phil never gains weight. It's just not fair.
    I look at food and get . . .er, curvier.

  5. Hi Helen, Good luck with the PI business. I agree with Dru. Phil's going to be jealous when he sees how toned you've gotten. Look on the bright side, when you lift weights you'll need extra protein. So perhaps you can get away with a burger or two yourself.

  6. Helen, relax. Men like curves! Just don't throw too many. LOL

  7. Oh my--that burger is to die for! Might be worth cheating.

    Thanks to Helen (and Elaine) I will never ever use a hotel coffee pot. *shudder*

  8. You all make me feel so much better. If I could have gone after that gym boss, I would have. But I get my revenge in the end. You'll see.