Rating: M for lots and lots and LOTS of swearing. Oh, and graphic depictions of drug abuse. Throw in a little non-graphic violence and I think you've got it sorted. ;)
Summary: "Max didn’t want to see Ronnie. Didn’t want to see his miserable self-pitying expression, his baggy prison uniform, his stupid close-cropped haircut."
Notes and Disclaimer: I don't really consider this to be fanfiction. I wrote it for my Crime Fiction class - for our creative response, we were given the option of basing a story on a true crime. It's a more serious effort than my usual fanfic (not that I don't take fanfic seriously :P). That said, it probably ought to be noted that I do not own Escape The Fate, Ronnie Radke or Max Green (worse luck). No slander intended - I'm just trying to get a good mark for English this session.
Every so often, someone got drugs past security.
These were frantic occasions, with every user in the place desperate for their share. They traded coffee satchels, canteen purchases – anything, really – and shared a single syringe between all of them because they just didn’t give a fuck anymore.
More often, everyone had to resort to prescription meds. These were entirely too easy to get – all you had to do was tell the doctors that you were contemplating suicide, or having trouble sleeping. Inmates who weren’t using got prescriptions anyway, and traded them off to those who were. In prison, pretty much anything you owned could be considered currency.
Even with the help of the drug program, staying clean wasn’t easy. Ronnie wasn’t always entirely sure why he bothered. Sometimes, he didn’t bother. He was kind of glad that his cellmate, Lucky, was an ex-addict and saw through all the bullshit he’d been trying to pull when he first arrived. Ronnie didn’t know how one guy could be so calm about everything.
Every morning at five o’clock, all the inmates of High Desert State Prison were woken up and shepherded into the chow hall for breakfast. They hung around for a couple of hours waiting for their turn in the shower, then they were let out into the recreation area. They got a generous book allowance, plenty of yard time, and the food, if not exactly gourmet cuisine, was edible. He got on well with most of the other guys, and the guards never got too tough with them. It wasn’t exactly what Ronnie had been expecting when he’d received his sentence. Not that it was the sort of place he’d want to come visit for a holiday, but he could survive.
May 6th, 2006. Band practice hadn’t gone too well. They’d gotten a call from Ronnie earlier that day. “Some shit’s going down today, man,” he’d said. “Those fuckers who’ve been harassing you. They’re going down.”
Max warned him not to go. A horrible feeling had risen in his gut, and he knew, intuitively, that this was going to end badly. He tried to persuade him that it wasn’t worth the grief – he and Marcel Colquitt had been friends up until recently, when this stupid drama with his girlfriend started. It didn’t have to get any worse than it had been so far: a couple of drunken insults exchanged, and a few empty threats. But Ronnie wasn’t listening. As far as he was concerned, his best friend had been threatened and disrespected. And the culprits were going to be made to pay.
It had been so long since Max had spent any time alone. When he wasn’t living in a stuffy, sweaty tour bus, he was usually hanging out with the other guys or with Saskia. Sometimes he went back home and crashed at his parents’ place for a couple of weeks in between tours. He’d tried renting with Ronnie a few times, but it never took long before they got kicked out. He had never had a place of his own before.
Well, he didn’t have much of a choice now. Ronnie was in jail, he’d ended things with Saskia, and he needed a place where he could get away from the rest of the band once in a while. He wasn’t used to functioning sober. In rehab, other people decided how your day was going to go and you just went along with it. Out here you had to take control and get on with things, and nobody gave a fuck how much you were struggling with not using.
The past few months had been hell. Everything was in chaos, and he’d tried his hardest to hold things together for everyone else. He’d talked to the victim’s family, thrown himself at their mercy for his part in the whole fiasco. He’d let Ronnie cry on him, rant to him, totally lose the plot in front of him. He’d clasped the other guys’ shoulders and assured them that no matter what, they were going to make it through this. All that mattered was keeping the band together.
He’d even kept the band name. It was a grim joke he had with himself, in a way. ‘Escape the Fate’ – that had been the idea when he and Ronnie had started the band. They were going to escape their poverty and all their goddamn childhood bullshit. They’d thought that they could have it all – fame, fortune, hard partying and good music. And now Ronnie was wasting away in prison, and Max was busy getting clean and trying to pick up the pieces of what had once been his dream lifestyle. Fate, indeed.
Max didn’t want to see Ronnie. Didn’t want to see his miserable self-pitying expression, his baggy prison uniform, his stupid close-cropped haircut. He didn’t want to sit on the wrong side of a thick glass screen and listen to Ronnie ramble about how much he missed him and how much he hated prison. It was pointless to hope that he’d developed any sense of personal accountability since their last meeting. And he’d have plenty to say about Craig, of course. He’d want to know how Max could betray him like that.
Max wasn’t going to waste his time trying to explain to Ronnie that he had nobody but himself to blame for his current predicament. Ronnie was never one for self-insight.
“Hey, dude, it’s Ronnie.”
“Ronnie!” Max felt a strong surge of emotion at the sound of his best friend’s voice over the crackly connection, a mixture of relief and annoyance. He hated to admit it, but he’d been feeling sick with worry all day. Everyone was too angry. They weren’t thinking straight. And with the Colquitts involved, you never knew what might go wrong. “You ok, man? What the fuck happened today?”
A short pause ensued, broken only by the static from Ronnie’s line. “I’m, uh, at the police station.” His voice was unnaturally faint and shaky.
Max’s heart leapt to his throat. “You’re what? Shit, what happened? No, fuck it, I’m coming down there.”
“You can’t.” Ronnie took a deep breath that carried over the line. “I’m in custody. Someone’s dead. Michael Cook. It was an accident.”
All the blood drained from Max’s face. He opened his mouth, not sure what he was going to say, but it didn’t matter because no sound came out anywhere. He just stood there with his jaw hanging open.
“It was an accident,” Ronnie continued, his voice rising an octave. “It was Chase. Michael had a gun. Chase shot him. It was fucking self-defence, I swear. I would’ve gotten killed except for Chase-”
“Look man, I gotta go.” Max could tell his voice was shaking, but he didn’t care. He felt dizzy. “I’ll…look, I’ll talk to you later, ok?”
“Yeah, sure, dude. See you later.”
Max’s betrayal still stung.
Ronnie tried not to think about it too much. Stewing wouldn’t achieve anything except to drive him out of his mind. But there were nights, lying in bed staring at the underside of Lucky’s bunk and reaching vainly for sleep that never came, when he just couldn’t get the image of his once-best friend out of his mind. Max was Ronnie’s brother in every way but blood. They’d been through everything together – surviving their dysfunctional families together, being homeless and completely broke together, prowling the streets of Vegas until the early hours and getting completely wasted together. It was Max who had offered him a syringe the moment he checked out of rehab for the first time. And now, when the going got really tough, Max just turned his back and walked off scot-free while he, Ronnie, got nailed by the courts and the public alike for pretty much everything that had ever gone wrong in Escape The Fate’s career. It made him sick to read the interviews with Max about it all, to listen to him preaching about how he’d gotten himself clean and sober, while Ronnie insisted on being immature and self-destructive. If only people could have seen some of the shit Max did when he was high, maybe it would alter their perspectives a little bit.
Chase got off on self-defence. Michael Cook’s family kept pushing for Ronnie to be locked up. Said he’d torn their family apart. The way they stared in court, sneering and whispering to one another, made Ronnie sick. His palms were clammy, leaving smudgy droplets of moisture on the plastic armrests of the chair he was clinging tightly to for stability while he awaited a verdict.
The court put him on probation. He wasn’t allowed to tour, but he had to pay $93 000 in restitution, not to mention all the fees he was going to have to pay to the rehab centre, the court-appointed counsellor and the parole officer he’d be checking in with. They wanted him to hold down a full-time job…told him so as if it would be easy, as if he would have no trouble finding someone willing to employ an addict with all-over tattoos and a brand new felony to his name.
He tried, though. He really did. He checked himself into rehab, battled his way through detox, then hit the streets to try and find himself a job. Nobody wanted him. He looked at his bank balance and tried to organise a budget, but there simply wasn’t enough to budget with. He avoided all the people he used to party and do drugs with. He got rid of the phone numbers of the guys who used to hook him up. He even went into anger management and impulse control counselling, as stipulated by the court, but the counsellor pissed him off so much that he stopped going after the first two sessions.
Max called him about a week after he checked out of the rehab centre . “Hey, bro. How’s it going?”
“Hey, man, not too bad,” said Ronnie. “I’m doing alright.”
“Awesome. Me and the other guys thought we’d get together tonight and jam,” he said after a pause. “Wanna come along?”
The guys at rehab had told him it was important to separate yourself from the people you used to get high with a lot. But fuck it, what did they know about him and Max?
“Sure, man. I’ll be there soon.”
When he arrived, Max embraced him like a long-lost brother. “I’ve missed you, dude,” he said earnestly. Ronnie grinned widely over Max’s shoulder.
“Yeah, you too.”
Nothing much happened that evening. Ronnie’s voice was a bit rusty, and the other guys spent most of the time listening while he warmed up. But they cleared out after a few hours, and Ronnie stayed on. Fuck it, he wasn’t going home yet. What did he have to go home to anyway?
“I got something for you,” said Max. “For old time’s sake, you know. It’s cool if you don’t want it.” He emptied the contents of an innocuous-looking paper bag onto the table. .
“Oh fuck man, I’m trying to clean up.”
“Oh.” Max looked disappointed and a little annoyed, but he nodded calmly. “It’s cool, man. I get it.” He began to gather the paraphernalia back into the bag.
“Aw, fuck it,” blurted Ronnie. “It can’t hurt. Always work, never any fun…what’s one night gonna do?”
And that was all it took.
Max was really proud of the way he’d kept the band together. Sure, things had been stressful, but the storm was over now and everything was falling right back into place. He still missed Ronnie – how could he not? They’d been joined at the fucking hip for nine years now – but in general he was pretty happy with himself and how things had turned out.
Craig was fantastic. He’d started out as a temporary vocalist so they could come through on their touring commitments with Ronnie locked up, but he’d fitted in so well that there was no question of letting him go. He was exactly what the band needed.
The release of the new album was like a final ‘fuck you’ to Ronnie and all the trouble he’d caused. Max had wasted years of his life following that dude around, keeping him out of trouble, bailing him out of all the stupid situations he landed himself in. But they’d both been given a choice to make, and Ronnie fucked his up. Max got clean and sober – Ronnie just wallowed in his self-destructive depression. He made out that he’d been a victim of his band’s cruelty and unreasonable expectations. Well, Max had learned his lesson. He was never going to fall in with another fuck-up like Ronnie again.
In June of 2008, Ronnie skipped town. He was done with all the legal bullshit. If the cops thought they could keep him trapped in some hellish, mundane existence, then they were sorely mistaken. He wanted his fucking freedom back.
He’d discovered that Max, beneath all the fake smiles and supposed loyalty, was nothing but a filthy hypocrite. A couple of weeks after their first band practice, he’d found Ronnie using alone and gone completely ballistic. “I’ve fucking had it with you!” he’d screamed. “You said you were getting clean, man. What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you so addicted that your stupid drugs matter more than our band?”
Ronnie didn’t waste time fuming when they kicked him out of the band. He had plans, and he was gonna show them just how much he was really worth. He was going to fly out to Virginia to meet up with Omar. They’d pull it together, set themselves up with a new band and leave Max and the others in the dust. But first, he was gonna get away for a bit. Life was fucking crazy sometimes. He needed to relax for a bit, get away from his wanker parole officer and have some fun.
On the 15th, they caught him. It happened so fast, he hardly knew what was going on. One minute he was walking out the door of his friend’s place where he was crashing, the next there were cars and sirens everywhere and a helicopter somewhere overhead. They dragged him off, handcuffed him and threw him in a van. They took him straight to prison, and locked him in a detox room. For the next few days everything was a blur of withdrawal symptoms. When it finally stopped, he was thrown unceremoniously into a regular cell. He had company, at least. Turned out his cellmate was an old high school friend.
Ronnie’s hearing was in August. He scanned the courtroom for signs of a friendly face, but there weren’t any. Nobody had come to support him. Michael Cook’s family was there, snickering and whispering again. The judge gave him18 to 48 months imprisonment, with opportunities for bail if he participated in the drug rehabilitation program. They transferred him to High State Desert Prison in Nevada, and that was the end of it. Escape The Fate moved on. The world moved on.
As he got over the initial fury and his mind began working properly again, he started writing lyrics for when he got out. Omar would wait for him, he knew.
He put a lot of effort into the rehab program. The people there were some of the wisest, most insightful guys he’d met in his life. A lot of it was bullshit, but he kind of liked when they talked about why he did drugs. He’d never even thought about that before.
Everyone had his back in there. He’d been scared shitless for the first little while, but he knew a few of the other inmates and they all put in a good word for him and made sure he knew who to trust and who to steer clear of. His favourite time of day was the evening, when everyone went back to their cells and the guards delivered all the mail. Ronnie spent hours replying to all the fan letters he received, and laughed at his neighbour who always looked so wistfully at the piles of mail Ronnie got. He reckoned more people were writing to him than anyone else in the whole place.
Prison life wasn’t so bad. He was angry that they’d forced him in here, but since he was in he decided to make the best of it. It wasn’t that long until he got out, anyway. And when he did, he’d make sure he had the last laugh. Nobody could hold Ronnie back when he was off his face – they’d hardly know what had hit them when he was sober. Serve the fuckers right.