Monday Sampler: Just Add Salt by Jinx Schwartz
December 21, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Just Add Salt, a mystery filled with suspense and humor from Jinx Schwartz.
As one reviewer said: Amusing, entertaining, enough mystery to satisfy, without a lot of dead bodies piling up in what I usually read. I enjoyed this and learned in the process, about whales, history, desalination plants, our Mexican neighbors, and even that fresh water pouring into the sea is harmful to sea life.
Hetta Coffey is a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she’s not afraid to use it!
A globe-trotting engineer with attitude, a penchant for trouble, and a yacht, Hetta is back, and this time she’s steering us into hot Mexican waters. Miffed that vacation plans with her chronically absent boyfriend, Jenks Jenkins, have gone awry, she accepts a job in Baja.
So what, if she and her friend Jan are spectacularly unqualified to take her yacht on a thousand-mile cruise in the eastern Pacific Ocean during hurricane season?
Hiring a handsome, if somewhat fishy captain for the trip might keep them off the rocks, but probably won’t do the same for her future with Jenks. Meanwhile, a little eye candy on board can’t be all bad.
Hetta’s fierce independence impels her to tackle a very profitable (if environmentally and politically incorrect) project south of the border. True to form, her irreverent nature and disregard for danger soon swamps her in a sea of mayhem, illegal aliens, a pesky whale, and a menacing Mexican machinator.
Set sail for Baja Mexico’s Magdalena Bay as Hetta Coffey leads us once more into a morass of intrigue that will keep you laughing, breathless, and wanting more.
My name is Hetta Coffey: CEO, CFO, president and sole employee of Hetta Coffey, SI, LLC. The SI is my little phonetic prank on the pronunciation of Civil Engineer. An engineer by degree, I specialize in material management and, like ole Ben Franklin, leave nothing to chance. As he wrote, “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.” My job is to ensure no project nail is late, or lost.
But right now I had more than work on my mind. If Jenks Jenkins, my alleged boyfriend, didn’t return in time for a timely departure on our planned trip to Mexico, I’d have a cash flow crunch in my future. We had to leave and return as scheduled or by mid-January I’d be scrounging for my dock fee and boat payment. By February I’d be sunk, not a word one who lives on a boat uses lightly. What to do? What to do?
A freshening breeze made me thankful for the protection of my aft sundeck, or verandah, as I call it. Side curtains cut the wind, allowing us to drink our wine in cozy comfort. Furnished in fake rattan Brown Jordan with fashionably faded blue-and-white striped cushions, the deck sports a small table for outdoor dining, a gas barbeque, an ice maker and a wet bar stocked with blue and white plastic stemware for those times when we were underway and had the crystal battened down.
Even an unusually warm late August day in the Bay Area doesn’t count for much in the temperature department after four o’clock, when the wind whips over water. Jan and I grabbed blue and white Raymond Johnson windbreakers, two of a set of six given to me as a boatwarming gift, and blended into the deck decor. Tourists, shivering in their optimistic summer shorts, wandered around taking in the sights of Jack London Square, one of which seemed to be Jan and me. We smiled and acknowledged those who spoke.
“Wonder when they’ll leave, and for how long,” Jan said.
“No silly, Jenks and Lars. I mean, they could be back in time for our trip to Mexico.”
“We’ll soon know. I imagine Jenks will give me a few hours to calm down, then he’ll call from Houston.”
“Smart man, that Jenks Jenkins.”
“You already said that. And besides, I’m not that bad.”
Jan took a swig of wine and rolled her eyes. “How about the time you dumped what’s-his-name’s car in the estuary?”
I looked at the spot where Garrison’s Morgan took its swan dive and shrugged. “He deserved it and you know it.”
“And how about when you emptied your .38 into that Brit’s rubber dingy?”
“Jan, that Brit was trying to kill me. And it wasn’t my .38, it was my shotgun.”
“Well, that’s true, but how about—”
“Okay, okay, I get your point. However, I’m a reformed woman.”
“Sure you are. So, what are you gonna do to Jenks? Inquiring minds wanna know. I’d like to sell tickets.”
I ignored her impertinent question. I hadn’t had time to come up with a suitable revenge for Jenks. Yet. “Jan, aren’t you just a lit-tle pissed off at Lars? We’ve had this trip planned for months. You and I, at great trouble and expense to ourselves, put our careers on hold. Turned down a couple of lucrative projects. Now the brothers Jenkins up and decide to leave us in the lurch. Take off for some godforsaken part of the world.”
“I’m not thrilled, of course, but we still have a month until we’re scheduled to leave. Maybe they just have to run over there and come right back. Don’t be so negative.”
“Perhaps you forget that I’ve been in this engineering game for a very long time. If they say you’re going to be stuck somewhere for a month, it’s six. If they say a year, it’s two. Remember when Baxter Brothers sent me to Japan for nine months? I got back two years later, practically in a body bag. Trust me, once our alleged boyfriends leave for the Middle East, we’re screwed.”
Jan giggled. “Or not, as it were. Don’t jump to conc—phone’s ringing, Hetta.”
“I hear it.”
“Aren’t you gonna answer it?”
“Nope. It’s yours.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I turned mine off.”
“Oh. Maybe it’s Jenks and Lars.”
“I am not here.”
Jan rushed into the main saloon and came back on deck with her cell phone stuck to her ear. “So,” she was saying in a honeyed voice, “how’s Houston, besides hot and wet?”
Lars must have had a properly lewd comeback for her unfortunate choice of words, for her cheeks flared. She quickly swung away from me and whispered several somethings into the phone. When she turned back, I rolled my eyes and gave her a “gag me” finger down my throat. She stuck out her tongue, shot me an evil grin and purred, “Oh please, Lars baby, put Jenks on. There’s a chunky little red head dying to talk with him.”
I considered pushing her overboard, especially for that chunky remark, but snatched the phone instead. “Who is it?”
“You know it’s me, Hetta.” Jenks’s deep voice set off a little twitch where it counts. He is a difficult man to stay pissed off at, but I was giving it my best. I clammed up and let him talk.
“I’ve been trying to call you, but I keep getting your voice mail. How’s my little sea wench?”
“Don’t you sweet talk me, you rat. What’s this about you deserting my ship?”