{twenty-nine}

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The cold water splashing her face woke her up. Alessandra looked up at the ceiling through blurred eyes and realized the box was open. She lifted her head up trying to get a better look around. Instead, she bumped her crown against the lid as it was slammed closed.

Now her mind was playing tricks on her. Lovely. Her hands were still cuffed. He'd left a large jar next to her leg and now she understood why she needed it. Alessandra tried to maneuver her hands in order to lower her pants. That was when the air against her legs told her there weren't any.

She frantically ran her hands across the front of the dress she wore. Chiffon. She only knew what it was because she'd worn a dress with the same material at Mel's wedding. She thought of her friend and immediately removed the memory from her mind. He knew that from when they were at UChicago together. It was a way to get into her head. And it wouldn't get her out of here.

Alessandra did a quick check. At least she still had her underwear. Along with a pair of heels one size too big. What was that about? Fifteen minutes later both of her arms hurt, but she was finished. The jar went back to its place next to her leg. She tried not to splash anything. No telling if she'd need it.

How much time had passed? She'd fallen asleep at some point but at least she was awake. Alessandra used her feet to kick the corners hoping to hear the creak from a hinge. Those would be her way out of this. If that wasn't it, she would need to work on the base. Those were usually the weakest points. She'd learned that from a case.

Alessandra listened again to make sure no one was around. A branch hitting the window was all she heard. She tried to pull her leg toward her. A surge of pain spread through her body and brought tears to her eyes. She grit her teeth and pushed down. Her foot connected with the bottom but didn't budge.

She did it again. And again. Still nothing. She panted. Tried to regain control of her breathing. Speaking of which, there had to be an opening somewhere. She would've been dead already from lack of oxygen.

Not that there was an abundance of it anyway. Alessandra hadn't found anything when she'd gone over the area above her. So she went over the sides again. Nothing. If it was behind her, there was no way to look and see. She also couldn't move her hands to feel for it.

The static caught her off guard. A radio?

"I know you're there!" she yelled as much as her throat allowed. "What did I do?"

No response.

Alessandra repeated what she said and added, "You're gonna kill me anyway. Least you could do is tell me why?"

"I already told you. You're an impostor."

Alessandra mustered a smile. If she could keep him talking, she could keep trying to get out of here. Between distracting him and the scanner playing he shouldn't be able to hear. But she had to keep it low. That meant a bunch of smaller kicks. She could get back to the big ones when he was gone.

"I didn't do anything." One small kick.

"You're a goddamned liar. Just like the others." Nate replied through the closed box.

Got him. "When did I ever lie to you?" Another discreet kick delivered. Still nothing.

"You pretend to care about catching criminals, but then you pay to have someone killed. What does that make you?"

Todd? Alessandra stopped mid-kick. The cold seeped into her bones, yet she was sweating. The only thing she'd ever paid anyone for had been to deal with Mel's ex-husband. Somehow he'd found out.

"How did you know about that?"

"Oh come on, Lessa. Give me some credit. Text messages aren't as private as you think. Even with a burner phone. That and you couldn't shut up about him. Then one day nothing. Only one reason for that."

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