José, my husband of less than a year, and I start the day at seven by going to breakfast at the Old Neighborhood Grill and catchin’ up on local news with Peter, the owner. If I didn’t have that breakfast with José, I couldn’t face what I do these days.

Today it’s jeans and an electric pink top that’s like a shortened muumuu—big, loose, and flowing. Last night I colored the tips of my spike-cut hair the same pink and painted my nails. A pair of pink stiletto heels, and I’m all set. José frowns at me. He doesn’t like the heels, ‘cause then I’m taller than he is. He’s tall and thin. I’m tall and big. We look like Jack Sprat and his wife—you know, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat/his wife could eat no lean/So between the two of them/They licked the platter clean.”

We’re still newlyweds, but my dream is well on its way. I set myself certain goals—gonna be married by the time I’m twenty-six. Made that. Gonna have my own home by twenty-seven, made that. We got a cute two-bedroom Craftsman. Got it at a steal, because, you see, I’m in the real estate business. That is, I work for Kelly O’Connell. She owns O’Connell and Spencer Real Estate agency where my official title is office manager, but it’s just her and me, and these days she’s barely interested in real estate, busy playing mama to her new baby, Cynthia Grace Shandy. That Gracie has brought more joy than I can tell you to Kelly, her husband Mike, and her two girls from a previous disaster with Tim Spencer, Maggie and Em.

I love my job, but these days it’s less real estate than it is taking care of Kelly and her family. You see, I got the sixth sense, so I know when something bad’s on the way, and I’ve saved Kelly more than once. Even Mike, a jaded police by-the-book police officer, is beginning to believe in my sixth sense. This time, it tells me real trouble is right around the corner—or across the street.

When we eat at the Old Neighborhood Grill, Peter greets me by asking how Kelly’s holding up. He’s one of the few that knows the secret fear we’re hiding.

You see, Kelly and Mike got two, not one but two kidnapping threats against sweet little Gracie, and they’re devastated. And scared. We live in an armed camp—security alarms, inside bars across the doors, a dog that José swears is a guard dog. And we wait—that’s the worst of it. Nothing’s happened, and yet fear rules our lives like a storm cloud hanging over us.

Oh, yeah, we think we know who sent the notes. My sixth sense helps there. But it ain’t telling me what’s goin’ to happen next, and I’m as frightened as everyone else. Not for me, but for that sweet little Gracie. Who would hurt an innocent baby?

About my goals. I’m gonna have a baby by the time I’m thirty. Guess I should tell José pretty soon.

You can read more about Keisha in Color of Fear, the seventh book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series.

The Color of Fear marks Judy Alter’s return to mystery fiction and the Kelly O’Connell series after an absence of more than a year. This time, the indomitable Keisha narrates the short tale wherein Kelly and her family live under the threat of infant Gracie’s kidnapping. The story serves as a reprise of many of the previous novels in the series, as Keisha, in her search for the kidnapper, recalls Kelly’s earlier adventures.

Keisha remains outspoken and independent as she balances her need to protect Kelly and her family with her love for new husband, José Thornberry. Some but not all of Kelly’s friends and foes from previous stories appear here, along with such new characters as Clyde, the guard dog, and Cowboy, the homeless guy with a soft heart.

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About the author
An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the “Kelly O’Connell” Mystery series and three books in the “Blue Plate Café” Mystery series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the “Oak Grove” Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Connect with Judy at, on her blog and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

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