Barry was blinded by the lights of the oncoming car. His hair stood on end when he noticed that the fool was in the wrong lane – headed toward him at 70 miles per hour. Barry tried to take evasive action, but his reflexes were slow and he couldn’t avoid the other car. He felt the impact of the high speed collision and heard the rending of metal before he blacked out.

When Barry regained consciousness, he was aware of bright lights flashing and lots of voices. After a few seconds, he noticed a police offer banging on his door.

“Sir,” shouted the officer. “Please step out of the car.”

Barry took a second to regain his bearings. He opened the car door and stepped out onto the highway.

“Have you been drinking?”

“Just a couple of drinks, officer.”

The office wrinkled his nose as if he was smelling an unpleasant odor.

“I’m going to have to ask you to take a field sobriety test.”

Barry wasn’t quite sure why the cop felt the need to do this, but it was probably just a formality. He wanted to help the officer, so he complied. He tried to walk in a straight line, but the highway was slippery from some earlier precipitation and he kept falling. He mentioned this explanation to the cop, who just nodded in agreement. The cop also administered a Breathalyzer test – probably a formality as well.

“OK, sir, we’re going to take you into the station to have a blood alcohol test performed. If you have only had a few drinks, then you have nothing to worry about.”

Barry nodded in agreement. Certainly the blood alcohol test would prove that he had only drunk a couple glasses of wine and perhaps a shot or two of whiskey. As the officer led Barry to the police car, he noticed an ambulance moving away from the scene. The ambulance did not seem to be in any particular hurry.

The rest of the evening was a bit of a haze. Barry woke up to find himself in a jail cell. A man in a suit stood at the door of the cell.

“Barry Larson? I’m Evan Andrews with the public defender’s office. We need to talk.”

The jailer led Barry and Evan to a private room where they could speak confidentially. Evan began to drop bombshells on Barry. Barry had blown a .26 blood alcohol level at the scene of the crash, and a later blood test had confirmed the result.

“OK, so I was drunk, but the other car was in my lane. I’m the victim here!”

“Well, Barry,” replied his lawyer, “that might be your recollection of the facts, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. The skid marks at the scene clearly indicate that you were in the wrong lane.”

Barry was stunned, but recovered quickly. “OK, so I pay a fine for the drunk driving and pay for the damage to the other guy’s car. When can I have someone bail me out?”

“It’s really not that simple,” explained Evan. “Two people in the other car were killed in the crash. You’re looking at a charge of vehicular manslaughter.”

Barry stopped breathing for a moment. How could this be true? He only remembered a few drinks the previous night. How could he have gotten so wasted that he was driving on the wrong side of the road and killed two people. He shook his head to clear some of the cobwebs. Pieces of the puzzle were starting to click into place. The problems he had walking the straight line were probably not due to precipitation – and the ambulance he had seen leaving the scene wasn’t speeding away because the people inside the car were dead at the scene.

“Can we reach some sort of plea deal? A hefty fine, a few years of probation, and a lot of community service?” he asked, desperation in his voice.

“One of the victims was a seven year old girl, Barry. This is an election year, and there is no way that the district attorney is going to let you walk without significant jail time. You could face up to twenty five years in prison. The DA is offering a deal that would give you eighteen years.”

Barry was stunned at the prospect of losing eighteen years of his life.

“What’s your advice?” he asked.

“Honestly, Barry, I would seriously consider taking the offer. You don’t want this case to go in front of a jury – especially not with that little girl as one of the victims. The state has a very strong case, and I think they could convince the jury to throw the book at you, and you’d end up with the maximum. Think about it for a few days, and let me know whether or not you want to go to trial.”

Barry nodded. The lawyer shook his hand and left, and the jailer walked Barry back to his cell. The possibility of the lengthy prison sentence was not at the forefront of his mind, however. The heaviest burden on his mind was the thought that he had killed a seven year old girl, cutting her down before she had the chance to truly experience life. The prison sentence would eventually end, but the guilt would always be present.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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