I’m hiding in the lab. Again.

Ironic. The room with bio hazardous waste feels like the safest place at Rxcellence.

Of course, safety is an illusion, like control. The more we think we have it, the more we’re at risk of losing it. Experience has taught me that. And experience isn’t a kind a teacher.

I thought my first real job would be my first real chance to escape the past. Instead I’m running from new problems. Big problems. Deadly problems.

It began after my first day of work. A single reminder. A solitary digital intrusion. Now it’s reached its tentacles into my life, infecting everything.

Turns out my phone has the Grim Reaper on speed dial. At least, that’s how it feels. My phone pings. Someone dies. Someone I’ve never met. Someone my calendar insists I have a meeting with.

Maybe that’s why I’m in the lab. Maybe I’m looking for a cure for the fear that’s become my constant companion.

Or maybe I’m just hoping the bell won’t toll here.

I already have enough on my mind. Pop’s restaurant, for starters. Aunt Fiona just called.

“Oh, hello, dear,” she said in that way that makes it seem like I called her. “I was just calling to see how everything was going.”

Of course, these days “everything” includes my ability to serve as a human life raft to keep O’Malley’s Pizzeria—and Pop’s dreams— afloat. Not that I don’t think Aunt Fiona loves me. She’s been like a mother since I was 12, teaching me how to shave my legs, telling me stand up straight, instructing me to eat my liver. (Why anyone would insist on eating a human filter for good health is beyond me.) But the phone call—and the implicit pressure—rankled me. Like I said, I have enough on my mind.

So I’m going to head out of work early (a relative term, since “early” at Rxcellence is any time before 7pm), wolf down a Luna bar and hit the trail for a five-mile run.

The fresh air will clear my mind, and the relentless tattoo of my shoes across the path will drum out the images that play over and over in my mind.

The strangers. The phone. My personal tormentor at work who won’t leave me alone.

If fresh air won’t do it, surely the endorphins will. I just hope I don’t encounter anyone along the path to interrupt my bliss—or, let’s face it—my escapism.

I just need to muster the courage to leave the lab. To focus on things I can control—my career, my relationships, my future—and forget about the phone and the reminders and the strangers who meet with death instead of meeting with me.

I’m a woman of science, after all. I need to get a grip and come to terms with the fact that this whole phone thing is just some kind of weird coincidence. A technological glitch. A ghost in the machine.

What else could it be?


You can meet Maggie in Protocol, the first of the NEW Maggie O’Malley Mysteries.

Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. As a pharmaceutical researcher, she’s determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab. But on her very first day she’s pulled into a world of uncertainty. Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.

With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer. She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission—and her life. Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.

Buy Link

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Giveaway: Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Protocol, the book Hank Phillippi Ryan called “Smart, fast-paced and surprising!” (Print copy for US entries; e-book outside the US). The giveaway ends September 7, 2017. Good luck!

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Meet the author
When Kathleen Valenti isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. Protocol is her debut novel and the first of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. Kathleen lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running.

Learn more at kathleenvalenti.com and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

All comments are welcomed.

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