ETAOL Summary

It was early March. The Secretary of the Examination Board receives a call from the Oxford Prison. A chap called Evans started night classes in O-Level German last September. He is very keen to get some sort of academic qualification. The Governor enquires about the procedure. The Secretary asks him not to worry about it. He will be sending him all the forms and other necessary things. He enquires about Evans. The Governor assures him that there is no record of violence against Evans. It is decided to examine him in his prison cell. One of the persons from St. Mary Mag is arranged to Invigilate. The prison officers call him ‘Evans the Break’. He had escaped from prison three times. At 8:30 in the morning, Evans had two visitors. Jackson was the senior prison officer of D Wing. He and Evans had already become ‘warm enemies’. Stephens was a burly-surly officer. Evans’s face is unshaven. He wears a dirty red and white bobble hat upon his head. They make sure that his razor and nail-scissors are taken away. He is given half an hour to smarten himself. McLeery carries a brown suitcase. It contains all the necessary papers, including a sealed question paper envelope. The two hour examination is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. Stephens brings two small square tables and two hard chairs and places them opposite to each other. They are taking no chances with Evans. Stuart McLeery is greeted by Jackson at D Wing in the prison. It will be very difficult for Evans to make another break. He is sitting in a locked cell and all the prison officers are on high alert. The invigilator’s duty is to ensure that the strictest silence is observed. The Governor is worried about McLeery. If he has brought something, even a Jack-knife, Evans can hold him hostage with such a weapon. The examinee and the invigilator have already been introduced by Stephens. McLeery asks Evans to write his name and index number on the paper. At 9:40 a.m., the Assistant Secretary speaks to the Governor. They had forgotten to place a correction slip in the examination package. Jackson fears whether the phone call is fake or is it some signal. But everything seems to be all right. Evans sits staring straight in front of him holding his pen between his lips. And opposite him sits McLeery. At 10:50 a.m., Evans wants a blanket round his shoulders as he is feeling cold. At 10:51 a.m. Stephens is surprised to see a grey blanket draped around Evans’s shoulders. Stephens wonders if Evans is not planning anything in the blanket. At 11:20 a.m., McLeery informs Evans that only five minutes are remaining. At 11:22 a.m. Governor wants to speak to Stephens. He wants him to accompany McLeery to the main gates. At 11:25 a.m. McLeery announces, “Stop writing, please”. Stephens walks with McLeery to the main gates. Two abnormalities can be noticed here. McLeery’s Scots accent seems broader than ever. His long black overcoat is reaching almost to his knees. Stephens wants to take just one last look at Evans. He makes his way to Evans’s cell. He opens the peep-hole once more. “Oh, no, Christ, No”, Stephens cries. In Evans’s chair a man is lying. His blanket is slipping from his shoulders.

His tufted hair is awash with red blood. The man is McLeery. Stephens shouts loudly for Jackson. McLeery gives a long moan and tries to speak. He asks them to get the police. He knows where Evans has gone. Almost immediately, sirens start sounding. And within a minute McLeery, with Jackson and Stephens supporting him on either side, is greeted by the Governor. McLeery shows him a photocopied sheet cleverly super-imposed over the last page of the question paper. The Governor reads,“… Don’t hit him too hard—remember, he’s a minister! And don’t overdo the Scots accent when ….” McLeery cries, “Elsfield Way”. Evans has gone there. The Governor is furious. He asks who took Evans to the main gates. Stephens says that he acted as he was directed. The Governor is angry again. He calls Stephens ‘a blithering idiot’. It was not he who rang them at 11:20 a.m. He also tells Jackson that his “skull’s empty”. It was Jackson who had spent two hours in Evans’s cell and reported that there was nothing hidden there. And yet Evans managed to conceal a false beard, a pair of spectacles and also a sort of weapon with which he had given McLeery such a terrible blow. The Governor read the last line of the paper left by Evans in German “… make your way to… to Neugraben”. The Governor lights a cigarette. It is a “beautifully laid plan.” He has left that question paper behind. Perhaps he was careless to leave that clue. He is sure that ‘Mr. clever-clever Evans’s will be back inside his cell again. Then information comes that McLeery has spotted Evans driving off along the Elsfield Way. The Governor asks Carter if he has managed to get McLeery to hospital properly. He is told that McLeery is in the Radcliffe hospital. A few minutes later, the Governor rings the hospital. The reply comes that no one named McLeery is there. The ambulance was sent to Elsfield to pick him up, but he vanished. A quarter of an hour later, they find S. McLeery, securely bound and gagged in his study in Broad Street. He has been there since 8:15 a.m. And by that time, everyone in the prison knows what has happened. It is not Evans, impersonating McLeery, who has walked out, it is Evans, impersonating McLeery who has stayed in. Evans walks up to the reception desk of the Golden Lion Hotel. He had to do a long and tricky operation. He was lucky that Jackson didn’t take his hat off. Sticking a beard was one of the worst things. Evans now collects his key. He asks for an early morning call at 6:45 a.m. He, himself, whistles softly to him. He thanks God that everything has gone “beautifully smoothly.” He unlocks his bedroom door and, then, stands frozen at the spot. Sitting on the bed is the last man in the world that Evans had expected. He was the Governor. Evans is visibly shaken. For several minutes, there is utter silence. He is beaten at his own game. He tells that the correction slip killed two little birds with a single stone. It gave the name of the hotel for Evans and the exact time the exam started. Then, Evans asks how the Governor could locate the hotel in which he was staying. The clue came from the paper itself. Evans wrote Index Number 313; Centre Number 271. The six figure reference 313/271 landed him there. The Governor stands up. He asks Evans to tell him how he got all that blood to pour over his head. Evans replies that it was ‘pig’s blood’ from the slaughter house. But to stop it from clotting one has to mix actual blood and a chemical. In the end, the Governor asks how he could manage to plan all this business. Evans replies that he has many friends. The German teacher is one of them. A silent prison officer handcuffs the recaptured Evans. He does not resist. Two men clamber into the back seat of the prison van. The Governor says farewell to him like a good old friend. The prison van turns right on to the Oxford Road. The silent prison officer unlocks Evans’s handcuffs. He asks the driver to ‘move on’ to Newbury. “It won’t take them long to find out—”. Thus, Evans moves on to freedom proving that the Governor was a fool and only “good-for-a-giggle”. The man who removes his handcuffs is Evans’s own man.

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