Circle of InfluenceHi. My name is Zoe Chambers, and I’m a paramedic and deputy coroner for Monongahela County in Pennsylvania. I’ve been asked to share my day with you.

Today begins with the alarm going off way too early. Six a.m. It’s still dark out and the winter wind howls, the cold seeping in around the drafty windows of the circa 1850s farmhouse I share with my landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Kroll. I bundle in long johns, jeans, and a ratty, but bulky sweater before heading downstairs, careful not to trip over Merlin and Jade, my two cats. They get fed first. I’ll make do with a cup of coffee before squirming into a pair of Carhartt coveralls, a coat, and my Muck Boots to head out to the barn.

Besides my work with the county, I also manage this horse farm. In exchange, the Krolls give me a huge break on my rent, plus I can keep my gelding here. It’s the perfect deal for me. On this cold January morning, there isn’t a more welcoming sound than fifteen nickering horses. I make the rounds filling the feeders with grain. While they munch, I open the back door and check the hay supply. The round bales might hold out for two more days. I’ll have to remind Mr. Kroll to move two more down from the upper barn with his tractor.

One by one, I open the stall doors and let the horses out into the sunshine. The younger ones kick up their heels in the brisk air. The older ones drop their noses to the ground and snort at the snow, seeking out a few blades of grass. Once they’ve all been turned out, I slog back to the house for breakfast—my turn finally—and more coffee. Later, I’ll head back to the barn to clean stalls and hammer the ice out of the water buckets.

Sometimes Franklin Marshall, the county coroner, demands I come into the city to assist on an autopsy. I confess…whenever possible, I try to find an excuse to avoid the morgue. It’s not the body or the cutting that bothers me. I’ve been on some pretty gory ambulance calls and gone straight out for dinner afterwards. No problem. But with an autopsy, it’s the smell I can’t take. Franklin insists I have to get over it. Thankfully, he hasn’t called today, though, so I spend the rest of my morning in the barn. By the way…the smell of manure doesn’t bother me one bit!

After a shower and lunch, I don my Mon County EMS uniform (complete with thermal underwear). My shift doesn’t start until four o’clock, but I leave early so I can drop in at the Vance Township Police Station. I’m in luck. Chief Pete Adams is in his office.

Pete and I are friends. Good friends. Just friends. Okay, he’s hot. If I were thirteen, you could say I had a “crush” on him. But my history with men sucks. My choices haven’t been the best. Besides, he might disagree, but I know in my heart he hasn’t gotten over his ex-wife.

Sorry. I didn’t mean to ramble on about me and Pete. We enjoy each other’s company and work well together. Plus I can beat him at poker during our regular Saturday night game with a few other guys. That’s all you really need to know.

Pete and I talk about a car crash we both worked last week. One of the hardest parts of working EMS in a small community is coming upon the scene of an accident and recognizing the people involved. Pete tells me both the driver and her passenger will be okay. Thank goodness. I’d been concerned. Most times, once we drop a patient off at the ER, that’s the last we hear about them.

I leave Pete to his paperwork and head to the ambulance garage in Phillipsburg. I’ll be on duty for the next sixteen hours straight. The place is a second home to me, and the other guys on the crew are like brothers and sisters. We bicker, complain about each other’s cooking, fight over what TV show we’re going to watch, but we have each other’s backs through thick or thin.

Ten minutes before I plan to crash in my bunk, a call comes in. Another car crash with injuries. Hopefully I’ll only need my paramedic skills tonight, not my coroner’s training…It’s been fun telling you about my day, but I have to go save lives now. Bye!

You can read more about Zoe in Circle of Influence, the first book in the new “Zoe Chambers” mystery series, published by Henery Press. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Blurb for Circle of Influence
Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in a rural PA township, has been privy local secrets over the years, some of them her own. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President’s abandoned car.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on March 28, and you will be entered for a chance to win a signed Advanced Reader Copy of CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Annette Dashofy, a Pennsylvania farm gal born and bred, grew up with horses, cattle, and chickens. After high AnnetteDschool, she spent five years as an EMT for the local ambulance service. Since then, she’s worked a variety of jobs, giving her plenty of fodder for her lifelong passion for writing. She, her husband, and their two spoiled cats live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her short fiction, including a 2007 Derringer nominee, has appeared in Spinetingler, Mysterical-e, and Fish Tales: the Guppy Anthology. Her newest short story appears in the Lucky Charms Anthology (December 2013).

You can visit Annette at her website, on Twitter or on Facebook

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