He was given thirty minutes of exercise, twice daily. That didn’t change. Two condemned prisoners were let out into the exercise yard at a time. When Tom saw his exercise partner, he cursed his shitty luck.
“So,” Sean Harpe said, standing perfectly still. As much as Tom had lost weight since they were arrested, the former cameraman only seemed to have gotten stockier; Tom wasn’t sure if it was fat or muscle. “Did they give you your date yet?
Tom had once thought himself incapable of hate. He knew what anger and loathing felt like, but he never thought there was a part of him that could wish death upon someone else with the kind of fervor he felt towards Harpe. That should have been doubly true now that he was faced with it himself…for Harpe, he made the exception and nurtured it.
“This Friday,” he answered after a long time.
“Sucks to be you, mate.”
Tom flinched when those words came out of Harpe’s mouth, and some animal part of him wanted nothing more than to lunge across the yard, wrap his hands around the other man’s throat, and squeeze.
But that would solve nothing, and Harpe had nothing to lose.
“Why?” Tom asked, and he was surprised to see the resentment didn’t permeate his words. “Why did you put the cocaine in my suitcase?”
Harpe, for the first time, looked truly ashamed. He’d spent the last several months doing his best to insist in a court of law that Tom Hiddleston was the ringleader, and he was the poor staff member he’d tried to pin it on. Now, there was nothing to be lost from honesty. “I had an overflow. I needed to stash the rest somewhere.”
“Why did you lie in court?” A lie that failed and condemned both of them, Tom refrained from adding.
“Just trying to survive,” Harpe replied, squinting against the sun. “I am sorry I dragged you into this, mate, you aren’t a bad guy.” He didn’t sound sorry.
The coal in Tom’s stomach ignited and it took everything he had not to walk over and punch Harpe. “Then tell them I had nothing to do with it.”
Harpe lifted his hands, an expression somewhere between an apology and something else, something sociopathically similar to ‘too bad so sad’. “When I might still get my pardon? I’m sorry, I really am, but if there’s even the smallest chance I could get out of this, I’ll let you swing.”
It was a different kind of anger he felt at Harpe than the anger he felt after his London mugging a few years ago. Then he was held at knifepoint. This sort of helplessness surpassed that. Harpe was sinking, and he’d tied Tom to him.
Tom thought of the grief of those that loved him, the simple unfairness of it all. Harpe had no family, no one who would miss him – he’d informed Tom of such multiple times, and yet, here he was, fully willing to drag someone else down. And they were in fact, sinking someplace cold and dark, where no one else could find them. It was petty and selfish.
“You were just afraid of dying alone,” Tom said. “Not enough of a man to face it on your own. You’re fucking pathetic.”
“An actor giving a speech,” Harpe replied, a smile trickling onto his face. “Never seen that before. I really wish I could be there because I think you are going to pick kick ass last words.”
Tom had enough of this. He walked over to the gate and requested to be taken in early. Over his shoulder, he spat the only insult he could think of. “Go fuck yourself.”
Harpe just laughed as the guards reattached Tom’s chains, and Harpe called him naïve, whatever that was supposed to mean.
Later that day, there was considerable commotion further down the hallway. An alarm sounded, and several guards gathered around a cell. Tom could just barely see them from where he was, and he could see enough to know something was wrong and they were concerned. Within an hour, he saw the prison doctor walking past him, bearing a stretcher with a covered body. Immediately afterwards, the guards initiated a surprise search of the block.
Tom was forced to press his hands against the back wall while two guards checked the mat, toilet, and his jumpsuit for signs of anything illicit. It felt wrong, he pondered, to have them invade the only area he had left to himself, and then reminded himself that they weren’t doing a cavity search and he should be grateful.
“What happened?” He asked.
One looked at him with a harsh, severe glance that promised violence. “Shut up. None of your business.”
The one giving him a pat-down explained after a moment of thought, voice softer than his partner’s. “Harpe. The one who was arrested with you. He killed himself with some sort of mixture after he received his execution date earlier today. Nobody knows how he got it.”
Tom listened. A small, strained laugh bubbled up and threatened to turn into more tears.
Harpe, who was willing to let Tom hang to save himself and only laughed when Tom relayed the date of his execution …had committed suicide the second he found out when he would die. The hypocrisy, the waste, was astounding.
Harpe was the only person who could have confessed to planting the drugs in Tom’s suitcase. Tom felt anger, cool and ugly, resent that Harpe couldn’t have waited until after making a statement before taking his own life.
It was one last slight, one last, nasty act in a life that had been nothing but nasty acts, from what Tom could gather. Poor fortune put him at the receiving end of it.
What a cruel, petty person.
It also left him starkly aware that one more avenue was now closed to him. The dead weight concealed in the plastic bag that passed earlier was a grim token, and a reminder that Harpe was now beyond his reach.
Tom hated him for that.