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Identity is Toro's third book release in three years. Having witnessed identity theft first-hand, Toro felt the motivation to delve into the horrific depths of this modern day terror. Identity hits a nerve that few of us choose to acknowledge - the invasion of our deepest, most protected treasures.
Newly promoted to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a Financial Services Company, Tobin Garrison appears to have everything going his way until one evening a tragic event hurls his life into chaos. Suddenly, Tobin finds himself a victim of identity theft and the target of a police investigation for murder. He struggles to prove his innocence and hold on to the remnants of a life he once knew. With time against him, Tobin initiates his own investigation into recent events and stumbles upon evidence that begins to contradict everything he believed to be factual. Unfortunately, the evidence he discovers that may lead to proving his innocence is shrouded with uncertainty. Will a man face prison or even death for a crime he may not have committed?
The couple sat staring into each other’s eyes, their hands interlocked across the cream-colored, neatly pressed silk tablecloth, oblivious to the other restaurant patrons around them. The glow illuminating from the white centerpiece candle provided enough light to identify the couple's somewhat youthful facial features. Both were in their late twenties. The strong attraction and passion both shared for each other was evident in all their actions.
The maitre’d approached cautiously from the side and glanced at the half-full wineglasses. He paused then stepped away, carefully trying to avoid interrupting the couple’s private moment.
"I’m so proud of you, Toby,” said the female as she slowly caressed the man’s hands with her fingertips. “This is so great for you!”
“For us,” he said, leaning in closer. “This is what we’ve been working for.”
She nodded. He pulled his right hand slowly away and grabbed her wineglass, holding it next to her hand. As she took it from him, he lifted his goblet and said, “Another toast!”
She raised her glass up again. Was it his fifth or sixth toast of the night? She couldn’t be sure. Then again, why did it matter?
“To us and all of our dreams coming true.” He grinned and nodded.
The glasses clung and the couple polished off their drinks. As the bold, effervescent liquid swooshed in his mouth, Tobin paused to savor every last taste. At one hundred and twenty-five dollars a bottle, even with his new promotion, he hated to waste a drop; possibly one of the traits of being a finance expert. Of course, he knew the money could probably be better spent toward paying off the school loan balance still owed on his MBA. However, with the roughly double salary increase he would now be receiving, he figured he would have this much to blow on expensive wines daily. His worries now over, his school loan debt was soon to follow. Besides, they had always been so careful to not overspend and were diligent at paying off their credit cards monthly. After all, with the exception of his mortgage, he refused to pay interest to a lender whenever possible.
The maitre’d walked nearby and Tobin waived his wineglass, signaling him over to the table.
“Honey, don’t you think we’ve had enough?” The subtle softness in her tone caused him to reconsider and he lowered his glass.
“Yes, sir, is there anything else I can get you?” asked the maitre’d.
“Toby, I think I’m okay.”
Tobin caught the slight twinkle in her soft blue eyes as she winked at him. He smirked then said, “I think we’ll take the bill now.”
“Very well, sir,” said the maitre’d now pulling the small black leather case from inside his front pocket. He placed it on the edge of the table next to Tobin and took a step back. “I’ll take this whenever you are ready, sir.” With a nod, he walked away.
Tobin grabbed the case, placed his credit card inside and set it on the edge of the table. “Jo, are you sure you’re okay? Are you still worried about your job?”
Jolene forced a smile, pulled her hands back and began to fiddle with a carnation that was sticking out of the centerpiece. “I’m fine. I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s been such an enjoyable evening. Let’s keep it positive.”
As much as Tobin wanted to press further, he knew it wasn’t wise. After all, he knew she was still trying to complete her last week of work at the mayor’s office, until the new mayor officially would take over. It had been a tough campaign, which had been decided by less than a full percentage point. Allegations were running rampant from both sides accusing the other of unethical and illegal activities to gain votes. Jolene just wanted to get away from all of it.
“Sweetheart, it will all work out.” He smiled.
“I know, but really, I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
“I could always hire you to work for me. Of course, you’d probably file a sexual harassment suit against me on the first day since I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of you.”
“Come on, Tobe, I don’t want to talk about my job right now.” Her tone now sounded a bit aggitated.
“Ah, come on, Jo, you know I’m just teasing. Lighten-up!”
“Thanks a lot!” Jolene smacked her hands on the table, and stood up, almost bumping into the maitre-d who had approached from behind her.
“My apologies, madame,” said the maitre’d, quickly taking a step to the side to avoid the collision.
“Oh, I… I’m so sorry.” The redness on her cheeks now a combination of embarrassment and annoyance. She glared at Tobin then turned toward the maitre’d. “Pardon me but I need to go to the ladies’ room. Would you point me in the right direction?”
“Absolutely.” He pointed to the far east wall. “Just head to the door over there and it’s the first one on the right side, just inside the corridor.”
“Thank you very much.” She straightened her dress and walked toward the far door.
The maitre’d turned to face Tobin. “Is everything alright, sir?”
Tobin took a sip of his water and said, “Yes, everything was great - wonderful service all around.” He grabbed the leather case and handed it to the maitre’d.
“Thank you, sir,” said the maitre’d as he nodded and grabbed the case. “I’ll be right back with this.”
Tobin watched the maitre’d walk away and then looked across the table at the sweater sitting on the back of the empty seat. Maybe the alcohol pushed him to say too much. Whatever it was, he knew he needed to fix things and quickly. Experience reminded him that a quick fix was better than the alternative. He knew she could stew for days, giving him the silent treatment until he apologized. He had learned long ago how to ignore his male ego and make amends to avoid the lengthy and tiring procedure. As much as he hated the process, he had come to accept the fact that she was never going to be the one to concede regardless of how wrong she could sometimes be. Still, he realized this one was probably his fault.
The maitre’d delivered the leather case once more to Tobin. “It has been a pleasure to serve you, sir.”
“The pleasure was ours,” said Tobin, quickly calculated twenty-five percent for gratuity in his head and signed the bill.
The maitre’d nodded and walked away from the table. Tobin stood up, grabbed the sweater and headed over to meet his wife near the bathroom. As he approached, she exited the door, and quickly glanced at her husband. The redness and puffiness of her eyes hit him like a shot to the stomach. If he didn’t feel enough guilt before, he was definitely feeling it now.
As they headed to the entrance, Tobin placed the sweater around Jolene and rubbed her shoulder. She wipped a tear from her eye and kept her focus straight-ahead.
Stepping outside the restaurant, Tobin handed his ticket stub to the valet attendant and stood side-by-side with Jolene. Neither appeared comfortable or ready to speak. Both watched the steady rain, which had been falling for the past few hours.
The silver Acura MDX pulled up and Tobin stepped forward. He opened the passenger door for Jolene, then turned and handed a tip to the young valet attendant who was rushing around the front of the car, trying to avoid the rain and make sure to not miss out on any possible tip.
“Thank you, Mr. Garrison.”
Tobin waved and walked around the back of the vehicle, savoring the silent moment as the rain pelted across his face. The water, coupled with the tense atmosphere, seemed to be clearing any lingering effect of the alcohol.
He dropped into the driver’s seat and quickly pulled away from the parking lot. Once on the main street, he steered west and headed toward the Pacific Coast Highway. He knew the beauty of the drive always had a calming, almost therapeutic effect on Jo. That would hopefully help set the tone for their make-up session.
As the Acura turned onto the Pacific Coast Highway, Tobin took a passing glance at his wife. He watched for even the slightest change in her posture – nothing. Just keep driving, he thought, while carefully selecting his words so as to avoid any further issues. The traffic was fairly light, probably due to the lateness of the night and the weather conditions, Tobin surmised. The fog was beginning to thicken as the road veered closer to the ocean. He kept driving, growing more anxious to finally get it over with.
Taking a deep breath, Tobin turned to peek at his wife and started to speak, “Honey, I’m sor…”
Tobin tightened his grip on the steering wheel trying to correct the vehicle. The tires reacted slowly on the slick highway causing the Acura to sideswipe a car coming in the other direction. The impact and the wet road forced the Acura to slide sideways, toward the guardrail.
“Christ!” Tobin yelled. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and attempted to yank the car away from the railing, but the wheels almost felt like they were no longer connected to his vehicle.
“Oh, my God!”
Tobin pumped on the brakes but the Acura continued to slide as if the tires had become skis.
A loud scrapping noise reverberated throughout the car as if the city were under an aerial attack. Just as the guardrail appeared to be stopping their momentum, the road turned sharply left and the Acura ignored the natural curve of the road.
The loud crunching sound of metal scraping against trees and rocks echoed for a moment then the sound of raindrops and ocean waves breaking against the shoreline consumed the darkness.