“Evan! Time for dinner!”
Adrianne heard her son open and close the door to his bedroom. She hadn’t been in his bedroom for years, but she and her husband subscribed to a permissive parenting style. They believed children needed to find their own way in this world and allowed them the freedom to make mistakes and learn. The fact that they were wealthy made those mistakes easier to handle.
“Tell Maria to stay the hell outta my room.”
“Maria has already left for the day, but I’ll have a conversation with her tomorrow.”
Evan scoffed. “Yeah, I bet you’ll have a conversation with her.”
“Evan, That’s not fair.”
“Maybe in your world. What’s for dinner?”
“It looks like sirloin steak and mashed potatoes.”
“What the hell, Mom? Why did you let Maria leave before dinner was through?”
“It’s just you and me tonight. Your father and sister are at an event.”
“But I wanted carne asada burritos! Maria makes them perfectly.”
“We’re out of tortillas.” Adrianne responded quietly. “I didn’t think you would mind.”
“Damn it mom! I was gonna have her make extras for my friends tonight.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
Evan scoffed, grabbed his jacket and the keys to his Porsche. “I’ll be back tonight.” He said before breezing out the front door.
* * *
Adrianne woke to the sound of a ringing telephone.
“Missus Conch? Am I speaking to Adrianne Conch?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is Sergeant Peterson, Burleson Police. Your son, Evan, was involved in a fatal auto accident.”
Adrianne bolted upright. “Is he all right?”
“Yes Ma’am. He’s fine, but all four persons in the other vehicle died.”
“Ma’am, I’d prefer to talk to you about this at the station.”
“You’ll tell me now while I get ready to leave. Is your captain available?”
“That won’t be necessary, Ma’am. Your son appears to have been drinking. He ran a red light and T-boned a sedan. It was possible he was speeding. He’s not in a holding cell. You were the first phone call we made.”
“Well, see that you don’t make any other calls. I’m on my way.”
* * *
“Evan Conch, you have been found guilty on four counts of second degree vehicular manslaughter.” The judge looked toward the prosecutor’s table. “Based on your young age and the defense’s argument of affluenza, I’m sentencing you to ten years of probation and a mandatory twenty-eight day stay at the Burleson Rehabilitation Facility.”
The families sitting behind the prosecutor cried out. “Justice!” They shouted. “How is this justice?” Reporters clamored. Everyone in the gallery spoke at once. The judge banged her gavel.
“Order! Order in the court.” Her gavel banging and pleas for order were drowned out by the cacophony in the gallery. A bailiff positioned himself behind the defense’s table to block any would-be vigilantes.
Finally, the gallery quieted down. The judge banged her gavel a final time. “This court is in recess. Bailiffs, clear this courtroom.”
Four bailiffs corralled those in attendance. When the gallery was cleared, the defendant and his lawyer left quickly. They had a car waiting at a rear service entrance. Evan Conch and his family would not have to answer any questions to the press about the sentencing.
* * *
“Congratulations on graduating honey!”
Evan ignored his mother’s attempt to hug him. “Let’s get outta here. Where are dad and Monique?”
“Your dad’s in Dallas and your sister’s spending the week with friends.”
Evan and his mother walked out the ornate glass doors of the Burleson Rehabilitation Facility. He tossed his duffle bag into the back seat of his mother’s Lexus.
“Gimme the keys, I’ll drive.”
Adrienne hesitated for a brief moment. She looked to her sixteen year old son with what she hoped was an expression of worry.
“Get over yourself. I’ve finished my rehab. Just give me the damn keys.”
Adrienne handed over her keys and meekly moved to the passenger side. Evan pulled the Lexus into traffic, cutting off a sedan. Evan told the tales of his rehabilitation to his mother. The facility employed a gourmet cook and a masseuse at all times.
“So then, Joe says to the psychologist, ‘My car costs more than you make in a year.’”
“What did the psychologist say?” Inquired Adrienne.
“I uhhh…” Evan adjusted the rear view mirror. “How long has that car been behind us?”
Adrienne turned in the passenger seat and saw the face of the driver. “I think it’s the mother of one of the kids who died in your accident.”
“Let’s get this over with.” Evan slammed on the brakes of his mother’s Lexus. The sedan following tried to brake and swerve, but hitting the rear of the Lexus was unavoidable. In the rear view mirror, Evan saw the woman with a cut on her forehead, covering her face with blood.
* * *
“Tamara Johnson, you’ve been convicted by a jury of your peers on one count of vehicular assault.”
Tamara sat crying behind the defendant’s table. Behind her, her family sat holding photos of the four youths killed in Evan Conch’s drunken accident.
“You are hereby remanded to the custody of the Burleson police for transfer to the woman’s correctional facility where you will serve a sentence of one year.”
In contrast to the Conch trial, the gallery was silent. All in attendance sat stunned at the verdict. No one had any problems hearing the judge bang his gavel to adjourn the case. They also had no problem hearing the cock of a shotgun. The father of another of the four slain children pointed his shotgun at Evan Conch and pulled the trigger. As the father fell from his own bullet wound, the Bailiff standing over him was the only person to hear his last words: