FADE IN: INT. PRISON CELL- NIGHT NATE, 35, sits hunched over on his cot, clenching a battered WEDDING PHOTO, sighing. He is disheveled, greasy, with dark circles under his eyes. Nate caresses the photo, then tucks it under his pillow as he hears a PRISON GUARD arguing with some INMATES outside his cell. Obscenities are exchanged, followed by sounds of punching. The price of being dirty, and playing dirty. EXT. PRISON COURTYARD- DAY Nate wanders through the prison's yard, weaving out of the way of a basketball game, hiding his face from the rough men who stop to snicker and catcall. Nate grimaces. On the other end, Nate sees two GUARDS walking together, surveying the inmates; one is a new guy. Nate abruptly STOPS in his tracks when he recognizes one of the guards as... JOE, 35, a gentle giant. Nate turns to head in his direction, but the guards head for and out of the gated door before Nate could reach them. INT. PRISON CAFETERIA- NIGHT Nate sits alone for dinner. The other inmates are loud and threatening. Nate scans the cafeteria's GUARDS, looking for Joe, letting his food get cold, when suddenly... Aaargh!
INMATE One of the inmates at the table in front of Nate drops to the ground, writhing in pain. There is silence, then panic as the man continues to scream and twitch on the floor. GUARDS swarm where the man lay, shoving other INMATES out of the way. The still screaming inmate is scooped up by one of the guards and whisked off; the other guards order the prisoners to keep eating. Nate stares at the spot where the inmate had fallen, eyes wide, teary, hopeful even. Nate turns to his cold food and devours it. INT. PRISON CELL- NIGHT Nate sits on a stool in front of the CELL BARS, his foot
tapping. He checks a clock on the wall anxiously. It's finally ten o'clock, and Nate perks his head up hopefully as a voice shouts from the end of the hall... JOE Okay! Okay! Lights out! Settle in. Joe strides passed the cells one by one, dragging his baton across the bars as he walks. The lights slowly shut one by one. Joe turns on a FLASHLIGHT in front of Nate's cell. JOE Hey there, you too. Get away from the bars, you need to... NATE (whispering) I thought you weren't fond of prison, Joe. Realization floods Joe's face as he stops cold in front of Nate. He fumbles with the FLASHLIGHT. Joe stares at Nate, bewildered. His voice falters as he says... JOE You're the one on the wrong side of these bars. NATE But I haven't seen you in the two years I've been here. JOE I work for the State Penitentiary, I'm only filling in for a day, but hell, Nate, I know about you and Christine. It was all over the news. I just couldn't believe... NATE Joe wasn't it obvious, especially to you? I was framed. JOE (a beat) Man, you know, everyone talks like that around here. Being set up, being innocent. NATE
(too loud) But Joe, you know me! I would never... Joe reaches through the bars to hold Nate's mouth closed. JOE Shhh! Are you insane? Joe lets go of Nate and takes a step back, stunned. JOE After twelve years of silence, I never thought I would see you again. Especially not like this. What the hell, man? NATE I can't sleep, I barely eat. I'm terrified. I can't relate to anyone in this hell hole, and this is going to be it for the rest of my life. Nate pulls his stool underneath him and sits, too choked up to say anymore. Joe hesitates from speaking, still in shock, and looks at Nate with a strange mix of doubt and pity. JOE Nate, buddy...what on earth would I be able to do about it? Nate looks up, as if these words were his cue to speak again. NATE (the softest whisper) Help me, Joe. Get me out of here. Nate...
JOE NATE I can't take another day here. I've lost my mind, my freedom, my girl... JOE (hysterically) Stop! What, so am I supposed to unlock this door and let you walk? NATE Not like that, not exactly...
JOE What, then. I'm not losing my job over you. The two men stare at each other. Joe breathes heavily, exasperated. Poison.
NATE JOE (a beat) Poison. Poison? I don't see you in twelve years, and you want me to poison you? Joe stifles a nervous laugh. JOE You're serious? NATE Dead serious. JOE Nate, I'm sorry. No. I head back to State tomorrow anyway. I'm not going to kill you, you're in jail for murder. Accept it already, man. Joe stares at his friend for a bit longer and starts to turn away. NATE Joe, please. Wait. JOE I can't see you like this. And I don't have to. Bye, Nate. Joe takes the FLASHLIGHT off Nate's face and turns to walk away. Nate panics. NATE (too loud again) JOE, WAIT. Joe takes a stride back to the cell bars and grabs Nate by his t-shirt. JOE (loud whisper)
SHUT UP. NATE Please, Joe, you're my only chance. I can't stay here. I can't go on, I want it all to end. Please...remember. Remember when I was there for you. Remember when you had no place to go...you were only sixteen. I helped you escape. I helped you out of that house. I set you free. Joe...please. Joe lets go of Nate slowly. He pinches the bridge of his nose and SIGHS. Nate is close to tears again, searching his friend's face for some sign of hope. Joe looks at Nate one last time, turns, and briskly walks away and out of sight in the dark hallway. INT. PRISON CAFETERIA- DAY The TABLE that Nate usually sits alone at is empty, abandoned. Joe scans the faces of the INMATES in the cafeteria. He turns to another GUARD, whispers something, and exits. INT. PRISON CELL- DAY Nate has not moved from his stool. He is more disheveled than usual, his eyes are completely blank. In his lap is the WEDDING PICTURE. Joe appears in front of Nate's cell holding a tray of food. He doesn't look at Nate. JOE Come on, you have to eat. NATE No, I don't. JOE Trust me, it's good. I made it myself. Joe sets down the tray by Nate's feet. Nate just stares at it. JOE
You saved me back then. Saved me from my father. I never thanked you properly. I've been a shitty friend, I know. I'm sorry this is how it has to end, Nate. Nate finally looks up, unsure. Joe pats Nate on the shoulder, terrified. Nate looks back at the tray of food, hope filling his eyes. He kneels down and prods the food with his fingers, then tears around the tray, searching. Then he sees it: one tiny white PILL underneath the napkin. Nate let's out a moan of grief and thanks as he looks up at Joe, who blankly stares at a spot on the floor away from Nate. Nate holds up the WEDDING PHOTO with one hand, smiles weakly, and pops the PILL with the other. Almost instantly, Nate drops to the ground, writhing similarly to the way the INMATE from the day before had. Nate shrieks in pain, practically seizing. Joe winces, but doesn't move, and continues to stare at the floor. Another prison GUARD hears the commotion and runs down the hall and into Nate's cell. GUARD HEY! New guy! What the hell is going on? Get the medic, NOW! Joe is paralyzed with fear, but the guard's piercing stare leaves Joe no choice but to turn and exit Nate's cell. Once Joe enters the hallway, he begins to run. The guard kneels down to Nate, tipping his head while he continues to scream and flail. Nate's foot kicks the tray of food, and the guard's face fills with realization. GUARD (to the hysterical NATE) No way, not again. You ain't dyin' on my time. The guard heaves the still twitching Nate into his arms and rushes out of the cell.
FADE TO BLACK...