{eleven}

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Alessandra thanked the teenager behind the counter before she walked toward the door. She'd just taken a sip of her hot chocolate when a woman came up to her.

"What are you?"

"American," Alessandra said without missing a beat.

The woman shook her head. "I meant what's your mix?"

Of course. Anyone who came up to her with that question always did.

"Colombian and Black," she answered with resignation. "And I'm not sure what that has–"

"I knew it!" The woman clapped her hands. "I babysit a Hispanic boy. You're so lucky you get to have the best of their features."

Instead of the worst? Alessandra took another sip from her cup in an attempt to keep her irritation at bay. She'd already been short on sleep the past couple of nights. It was way too early in the morning for this.

"Have a nice day, ma'am," Alessandra said without waiting for a response.

She was just outside the FBI building when her phone rang. Mel's ringtone. She'd had more than enough social interaction for the morning and wanted to get up to the lab. But she also didn't want to let her friend go to voicemail.

"Hey," she answered.

"Good morning."

"If you say so." Alessandra went inside.

"That bad huh? I already know you don't want to talk about him but don't let him ruin your whole day."

"It's not that." Alessandra sighed. "I'm just a little annoyed is all."

"I'll leave it alone," Mel added quickly. "Going into work?"

"Yeah."

She'd found a couple of things, but the leads hadn't panned out yet. No DNA and Alessandra had been examining the dress again before she'd been forced out of the lab last night. The full autopsy report was due in today.

"What about you?" Alessandra asked. "How's Maddie?"

"Good. She goes to art class now which gives me a break in the morning." Alessandra heard some squeaking in the background and knew her friend was getting into her car. "She's also been asking about her dad."

Alessandra's heart pounded along with a drum solo inside her head. She didn't want to have to explain anything about what had gone down with her friend's ex-husband and why he wasn't around. "What'd you tell her?"

"He didn't show up before we left. I don't have a reason to think he'll want to see her."

Alessandra closed her eyes. Thank goodness for that. "Of course, she'd miss him. She doesn't remember everything he did to you."

"Exactly," Lyssa said. "Even with supervised visits, I wouldn't feel comfortable. Maybe he's back in prison. That would be a relief."

It would. "Could be." Alessandra looked at the phone. It was already after six a.m. Why did time fly so fast? She walked into the building."What're your plans for today?"

"I've got a photo shoot and then a nature walk with Mads. After that, I've got a meeting to discuss changes to my website. Then Mom's taking us out to dinner."

"Where?"

"Marcelo's."

Alessandra had gone there when she'd visited Mel a few months earlier.

"Have the melted chocolate cake for me."

"If I could I'd send some to you." Mel paused for a bit then said. "A client's calling. I gotta take this."

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