Friday, September 15, 2017



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.


Magnolia O'Malley--Maggie to everyone but her father--is a feisty 25-year-old on the brink of a new career. After losing her mother to cancer, Maggie vowed to help eradicate disease through her work as a pharmaceutical researcher. Her first real job at Rxcellance will help her do that, as well as move on from the past. She just has to get over her new-girl jitters. And whatever weirdness is going on with her phone.



I say it like a prayer, an incantation against the darkness that creeps toward me like the encroaching dusk. As if my words, what I want, will have any effect.

It’s happening again.

Not the phantom calendar reminders. Not the mysterious deaths. I’ve become used to those, fear and horror blunted with time and exposure, as if I’ve gone to desensitization therapy to overcome a phobia of spiders or small spaces.

No. This is something new. Something terrible. Something personal.

Not that what was happening before wasn’t terrible and personal.

I was simply able to compartmentalize it. Remove a part of myself so I felt as if I were studying the events of the past few weeks through my microscope.

Now there’s no compartmentalizing, no playing the scientist to assess and react dispassionately.

I’m being watched. Followed. Stalked.

My body seemed to know before my mind. I’d be washing the dinner dishes—or dish, since there’s only me—and suddenly my arms would erupt in gooseflesh, a chill scuttling up my neck and into my hair, sending pinpricks of adrenaline through my scalp.

I’d spin around, eyes hungrily searching the (supposed) empty room behind me, the (typically) vacant yard through my kitchen window only to find the riotous pattern of my secondhand couch and my pinched, hunted reflection in the glass.

Nobody. Nothing. My personal emergency broadcast system failing me. 

Now my body once again raises the alarm. This time the flags go up in response to something external, something tangible: a whisper of footsteps outside my door.

The sound is obvious in its subtly, a sneaky, secret sort of sound meant to conceal. To fool. Or maybe to tempt.

And I am tempted. Curiosity is part of what brought me to science.

So is courage to confront the unknown.

I tilt my head, angle my neck, straining to hear the sly schussing steps outside my door.
A patient silence fills the void.

I move the laptop from my knees and rise from the bed, abandoning my home workstation. It’s three steps to the living area, another seven to the door. I know. I counted every one of them while lugging heavy cardboard boxes on moving day.

I take my own quiet steps toward the door—one, two, three—bare feet padding across threadbare carpet, blood a rushing torrent in my ears.

I peer through the peephole, the sharp tang of freshly painted wood in my nose.
The shadowed porch is as vacant as the silence.

I’ll just take a quick look outside to assure myself that nothing’s there. That no one’s hiding. To see a cat slinking across the porch and laugh at myself for this nonsense.

After all, there’s a chance these feelings are a product of my imagination, symptoms of overwrought nerves and overly enthusiastic adrenal glands. I’ve been under a considerable amount of stress lately.

Murder has that effect.

I put a shaking hand to the knob and turn, relief diluting the fear that’s begun puddling in my veins.

I’m inches away from at least one answer. One way or another, I’ll know what’s on the other side of my door.


Ensconced in a hulking steel monolith, Rxcellance loomed over its neighbors like an officious landlord.

A spinoff of Dulton Pharmaceuticals, Rxcellance played Apple to Pfizer’s IBM. Small. Agile. Innovative.

With one miracle drug under its belt and rumors of more in the queue, Rxcellance was on the tipping point of greatness. Whispers of an IPO, once met with derisive snorts, had risen to the unmistakable rumble of the inevitable. PROTOCOL 13 Rxcellance was going to be big, and Maggie was going to be a part of it.

Maggie parked and checked her teeth in the rearview mirror. That poppy seed bagel had been a mistake. Maggie took a tiny flathead screwdriver from the glove box and gently wedged it between the seed and her right canine tooth. The poppy seed went flying.
She grinned to the mirror in satisfaction. And Pop wonders why I’m single.

Maggie climbed out of the car and examined the hood. No damage from the jerk who’d assaulted her vehicle. She rubbed the fender. “My faithful chariot,” she whispered.

The 1960 Studebaker was cherried out. Custard exterior, crimson interior. Original everything, including three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Maggie and her dad had restored it the summer she turned twelve. The summer cancer had planted a flag in her mother’s liver and colonized her body until there was no room for a heartbeat.

She clicked across the parking lot, rode the elevator to the third floor and deposited herself in a cubicle covered in a tan fuzzy fabric that rivaled particle board for shade and luster. Her stomach had gone back to churning. A metallic taste had seeped into her mouth, replacing the bitter taste of bile. Either her adrenaline was still in overdrive, or she was on the brink of a serious illness. Maggie resisted the temptation to palpate her glands, which she was sure were swollen. She figured she was coming down with something because of the stress of the morning. Like the flu. Or the bubonic plague.



Kathleen Valenti is the author of Protocol, the story of freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley who embarks on a pharmaceutical career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. Yet on her very first day of work, Maggie’s pulled into a world of uncertainty as reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.

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

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