Evans Tries an O-level Summary In English
In early March, the Secretary of the Examinations Board received a telephonic request from the Governor of the Oxford Prison to create an examination centre in jail for one candidate named Evans. He started night classes in O-Level German last September. He was the only one in the class. The Secretary made other routine enquiries and promised to send all the forms and stuff.
The cell of Evans was turned into the Examination Room. A person from St. Mary Mags was to work as an invigilator. The Governor did not tell the Secretary that ‘Evans the Break’ had already escaped from prison three times. He would have done so from Oxford Prison if there had not been unrest in the maximum-security establishments up north.
The Governor of Oxford Prison took personal interest to see that Evans got no chance to escape. One day prior to the examination i.e. On Monday 7 June, Evans’s German teacher shook him by the hand at 8.30 p.m. and wished him good luck. They met in the heavily guarded Recreational Block, just across from D. Wing.
At 8.30, the following morning (Tuesday 8 June), Evans had two visitors—Mr Jackson, the senior prison officer on D. Wing and Mr Stephens a burly, surly-looking man, only recently recruited to the profession. Mr Jackson mockingly addressed Evans as Einstein. Evans’s face was unshaven and he requested Mr Jackson to let him shave. Jackson instructed Stephens to make sure that he took his razor out of the cell. Mr Jackson told Evans that he had got half an hour to smarten himself. He asked Evans to take off that filthy looking hat. Evans replied that it had brought him luck in life and requested to be allowed to keep it on during the examination.
At 8.45 the same morning, the Reverend Stuart McLeery left his bachelor flat in Broad Street and stepped out briskly towards Carfax. The temperature was considerably below normal. A long black overcoat and a shallow-crowned clerical hat provided welcome protection from the steady drizzle, which spattered the thick lenses of his spectacles. In his right hand, he was carrying a small brown suitcase, which contained all that he would need for his morning duties.
The two-hour examination was scheduled to start at 9.15 a.m. Two small square tables were set opposite each other. Two hard chairs were placed in front of the tables. Jackson told Evans that the Governor himself was going to listen in. Jackson would be watching him like a hawk. He asked Evans to keep his nose clean. Evans nodded. He had his number two handkerchief lying ready on the bunk. Just before leaving his cell, Jackson wished Evans good luck.
In the little lodge just inside the prison’s main gates, the Reverend S. McLeery signed his name neatly in the visitors’ book. From there he walked side by side with a silent prison officer across the exercise yard to D. Wing. Here he was greeted by Jackson. The Wing’s heavy outer door was unlocked, and locked behind them. The same was done to the heavy inner door. McLeery was now to be looked after by Stephens. Jackson murmured if he had got the razor. Stephens nodded.
McLeery followed Stephens to the cell where Evans was kept. Stephens opened the peephole and found Evans completely engrossed in a textbook of elementary German grammar. Stephens took the key from its ring and the cell lock opened.
It was 9.10 a.m. The Governor instructed Jackson to tell Evans of the temporary little precaution. The Governor thought that Evans might try to take advantage of McLeery. Evans had been got rid of any potential weapon. But what about innocent McLeery? He might bring a jack-knife. Evans might hold him a hostage with it. Governor phoned Jackson who lightly frisked McLeery’s clothes. Then he searched the contents of the suitcase. He was puzzled to find a semi-inflated rubber ring. McLeery explained that he suffered from haemorrhoids when he sat down for a long time. Then he found a paper-knife at the bottom of the case. Very politely, he took it away.
The examination started a bit late. The Governor heard the voices of the invigilator and the examinee. It was now 9.20. Evans objected to the presence of Stephens as it disturbed his concentration. The Governor ordered Jackson to get Stephens out of that cell. Then the examination began. At 9.25, there was a great calm.
At 9.40 a.m. the Examination Board rang through. An Assistant Secretary informed the Governor that there was a correction slip, which the dealing hand had forgotten to place in the examination package. The Governor put him straight through to Mr Jackson in D. Wing. Meanwhile, he checked whether the phone call was fake or some signal or secret message. He dialled the number of the Examination Board but heard only the staccato bleeps of a line engaged. Two minutes later the Governor heard some whispered communications in the cell. McLeery was dictating the correction. The Governor had taken German in the sixth form. He remembered all about the agreements of adjectives. Then he received a phone from the Magistrate’s Court. They needed a prison van and a couple of prison officers for a Remand Case.
For the first quarter of an hour, Stephens had dutifully peered through the peep-hole at intervals of one minute or so; and after that, every two minutes. At 10.45 a.m. everything was still all right. Evans, with his pen between his lips, sat staring straight in front of him towards the door, seeking some inspiration from somewhere. Opposite him sat McLeery. His hair was amateurishly clipped pretty closely to the scalp.
At 10.50 a.m. the receiver made a short sharp sound. The Governor realised that he had almost forgotten Evans for a few minutes. Evans was asked if he could put a blanket around his shoulders as it was a bit chilly there. McLeery told Evans to be quick about it. At 10.51 a.m. Stephens was surprised to see a grey blanket draped around Evans’s shoulders. He frowned slightly. He looked at the examinee more closely.
At 11.20 a.m. the receiver once more disturbed the silence of the Governor’s office. McLeery informed Evans that only five minutes remained. The examination was almost over now, but something still gnawed away quietly in the Governor’s mind. He reached for the phone once again.
At 11.22 a.m. Jackson shouted along the corridor to Stephens. The Governor wanted to speak with him. Stephens picked up the phone and listened to the rapidly spoken orders. Stephens himself was to accompany McLeery to the main prison gates. He was to make absolutely sure that the door was locked on Evans after McLeery had left the cell.
At 11.25 a.m. the Governor heard the final exchanges. He heard the door clang for the last time. The examination was over. Stephens walked beside McLeery to the main gates. His long black overcoat encouraged the illusion that he had suddenly grown slimmer.
Stephens felt pleased that the Governor had asked him, and not Jackson, to see McLeery off the premises, and the morning had gone pretty well. He re-entered D.Wing and opened the peep-hole of Evans’s cell. He saw a man sprawled in Evans’s chair. The front of his closely cropped, irregularly tufted hair was covered with red blood, which had dripped already through the small black beard. It was now spreading over the white clerical collar and down into the black clerical front.
Stephens shouted wildly for Jackson. The words penetrated McLeery’s ears. He felt for his handkerchief and held it to his bleeding head. He gave a low moan and tried to speak. But his voice became gradually quieter and then stopped. Police and ambulance were called in. McLeery slowly raised himself. He found the German question paper on the table. He told Jackson to get the Governor. He claimed to know where Evan was.
Almost immediately sirens were sounded and the whole prison machinery went into action. Jackson and Stephens supported McLeery on either side. They met the Governor in the prison yard. McLeery drew the Governor’s attention to the German question paper. A photocopied sheet had been super-imposed over its last page. Originally it was blank. The German text was translated. It made interesting reading. It contained the plan of action.
A police car came to the doors of the prison. Detective Superintendent Carter came out and greeted the Governor. Before the Governor could explain anything, McLeery told the officer to go to Elsfield Way where Evans…. Injured McLeery accompanied the Police. The Governor read the last portion of the German text: ‘From Elsfield Way drive to the Headington roundabouť.
The Governor was angry at Jackson and Stephens. Evans had managed to conceal not only a false beard, a pair of spectacles, a dog collar and all the rest of his clerical paraphernalia. He also had a weapon with which he hit McLeery across the head. The Governor was still concentrating on the last line of the German text. The word Neugraben’ troubled him. It seemed to be Newbury. He asked his driver to take Jackson and Stephens to St. Aldates Police Station and contact Chief Inspector Bell there. The Governor then went to his office and phoned Bell immediately. Bell promised to get him.
The Governor sat back and lit a cigarette. It had been a beautifully laid plan. However, it was the carelessness of Evans to leave the question paper behind. The Governor hoped to get Evans back with the help of the clues. Superintendent Carter informed him that McLeery had spotted Evans driving off along Elsfield Way, but had lost him at the Headington roundabout. He must have doubled back into the city. The Governor said that he might be on his way to Newbury. He asked Carter if they had managed to get McLeery to the hospital all right.
Carter replied that he was in the Radcliffe then. A few minutes later, the Governor rang the Radcliffe and inquired about the person who came there in their ambulance from Elsfield Way. The Governor was shocked to learn that the fellow had disappeared when the ambulance got there. A quarter of an hour later they found McLeery, securely bound and gagged, in his study in Broad Street. He had been there, he said, since 8.15 a.m. when two men called.
Enquiries in Newbury throughout the afternoon produced nothing. By tea-time, everyone in the prison knew what had happened. Evans had impersonated McLerry and stayed in.
After a gentle stroll around the centre of Chipping Norton, Evans returned to the Golden Lion hotel. A smart new hat concealed his hair. His chin was irritatingly sore and red because of the beard that he had to stick with plaster. He gave instructions to the receptionist, smiled at her and went to his room. He was shocked to find the Governor sitting on his narrow bed.
The Governor told Evans that it was useless to try anything. He had got men all around the place. Women, too. Evans was visibly shaken. He confessed that the correction slip had ruined him. Slowly, very slowly, Evans relaxed. He began to talk about the plan. They could fix any hotel. The really important thing was for the phone to ring just before the exam finished. They could get the prison officers out of the way for a couple of minutes.
The correction slip provided the name of the hotel and the exact time the exam started. Evans asked the Governor how did he know which Golden Lion it was. Governor said he used the same method: Index number 313; Centre number 271. The six-figure reference 313/271 lands one bang in the middle of Chipping Norton.
The Governor then asked him about his knowledge of German and how he got all that blood to pour over his head. Evans explained how they had used the little rubber ring for piles for it. They used pig’s blood and mixed 3.8 per cent trisodium citrate to stop it clotting. The Governor shook his head in reluctant admiration. They walked down the stairs. Evans said that he had many friends. Though he had no visitors or letters, he always had his German Teacher. The Governor said he was from the Technical College. Evans seemed to enjoy all this. He asked if they had checked it.
The receptionist told the Governor that the van was outside. A silent prison officer handcuffed the recaptured Evans. Then the two men sat on the back seat of the prison van. Evans said that O-Level Italian classes were coming up next September. The Governor said that perhaps he might not be with them. Evans pondered over it and thought that he wouldn’t.
As the prison van turned right from Chipping Norton on to the Oxford Road, the silent police officer unlocked the handcuffs. He leaned towards the driver and asked him to move on fast. The driver enquired in a broad Scots accent where they should make for. Evans suggested going to Newbury. Evans had the last laugh. He had escaped from prison once again.
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