Protocol (A Maggie O'Malley Mystery) by Kathleen Valenti
Medical Thriller/Mystery 1st in Series
Henery Press (September 5, 2017)
Paperback: 276 pages
E-Book ASIN: B072JZK43D
Protocol ExcerptFreshly 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.
It wasn’t until she was five blocks from home, well past the newsstand but before the buckling sidewalk in front of the old library, that Elsa Henderson knew she was being followed.
She’d left the office late, her desk a maze of notes and lipstickstained paper coffee cups, and headed into the starless night with her briefcase empty and her head full of the work that would be waiting in the morning. She didn’t worry about walking alone at night. This was Collinsburg, for God’s sake. Safe. Charming. The Goldilocks of the Midwest. Not too anything. Except maybe hot.
Then…a feeling. A tingle at the base of her neck. The sensation of being watched. She turned, casually flipping salon-blown hair, and looked behind her. The street was empty.
She sighed and shook her head. Laughed her signature throaty laugh. Work was getting to her. Maybe the protests, too, although those were daytime affairs and more nuisance than worry. She needed a glass of wine, a hot bath and an hour of mindless television. Maybe Dancing with the Stars or—
Elsa stopped. The hair at the back of her neck stood at attention as if an icy hand trailed a finger along her spine. A feeling of unseen eyes crawled over her.
She spun quickly this time, eyes darting from the streetlight to the blue US Mail drop box to the doorways where darkness clotted. The street was still vacant. Hadn’t she heard something? A whisper of fabric? The slip of rubber soles on a pebble? Or was it all in her head, a figment of her imagination—or what her coworkers insisted was increasing paranoia over unseen and undefined danger?
She squinted as if trying to read the street. A half-block away, in the doorway of her favorite smoothie shop, the shadows seemed darker. Denser. Man-shaped.
Elsa’s heart thudded sickly in her chest. She quickened her pace, the clap-clap-clap of her heels in time with her heart. Telegraphing her growing dread.
Hurry up. Stop.
Get home. Stop.
Don’t look back. Stop.
She wanted to run, but didn’t. That would’ve been rude. What if she was overreacting? What if she was being paranoid? Maybe the man (the shadow?) was simply walking the same way. She hadn’t even seen him—seen anyone, for that matter. Even if she had, there was no proof of pursuit beyond a sound, a feeling. And yet…
Elsa Henderson broke into a light jog. A bead of sweat snaked beneath her arm, settling at the waistband of the Spanx she had yanked on that morning.
Unable to resist, she chanced a look behind her. A pair of headlights suddenly swung into view. There was no man, no silhouette. Just sleek steel, shiny chrome and hungry, churning tires.
The headlights grew larger. The tires squealed, eating pavement as the car sped toward her, shuddering with each gear shift, nosing aside a rubber garbage can wheeled to the curb for tomorrow’s collection.
“But—” she said.
The car struck her, tossing her into the air like a crash-test dummy without the car. Her head collided with the windshield, creating a pebble-sized ding in the glass and a spider web fracture in her skull. The car sped on, pushing Elsa toward the roof rack until she rolled off, hitting the asphalt with a wet splat.
She watched the red taillights recede into the darkness through the haze of blood now streaming down her face. The lights stopped. Then flashed to white. The car backed up. Rolled over her. Then did it again.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Bones ground to dust. Blood bloomed from her head. Her heart, with nothing left to pump, stopped. Then everything became shadow.
About the AuthorWhen 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.
Webpage - www.kathleenvalenti.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorkathleenvalenti/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/KathyValenti1
GoodReads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16773270.Kathleen_Valenti
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