In March, the Secretary of the Examinations Board receives a call from the Governor at Oxford Prison, asking if one of his prisoners can take the final exam in O-level German. The prisoner, James Roderick Evans, has been taking night classes since September and claims to be “dead keen to get some sort of academic qualification.” The Governor isn’t sure if Evans is especially talented at German, but he was the only student in the German teacher’s class, so he’s basically had a private tutor for the past six months.
The opening lines of the story introduce the story’s protagonist, the Governor, and its antagonist, James Evans. The Governor implies that Evans is not some highbrow, academic criminal—his sudden interest in German is uncharacteristic, and his wording of being “dead keen to get some sort of academic qualification” implies a lack of understanding of academia and hints at a potential ulterior motive for studying German.
The Secretary bends to the Governor’s request to let Evans take the exam, agreeing that they should “give him a chance.” He asks if Evans is violent, but the Governor hurriedly assures him that Evans is “Quite a pleasant sort of chap,” though he is a “Bit of a card.” He’s “just a congenital kleptomaniac” with a penchant for “Imitations […] Mike Yarwood stuff.” The Governor is about to add something else but quickly decides against it—“He’d look after that particular side of things himself,” he thinks. The Governor explains that Evans has his own cell, so he can sit for the exam there. He suggests they ask a parson from St. Mary Mags to be the proctor, and the Secretary agrees.
This passages paints Evans as a friendly, quirky man who happens to be a “congenital kleptomaniac” rather than a violent criminal. Evans clearly has a big, amusing personality—like the 1960s impressionist and comedian, Mike Yarwood—suggesting that he’s not the typical antagonist. The Governor’s hesitance to add one final detail about Evans—and his decision to “look after that particular side of things himself”—suggests that there is something concerning about the happy-go-lucky Evans.
Known as “Evans the Break” by prison officers, James Evans has escaped three times from various prisons. He was going to be sent to a maximum-security prison in the north, but due to the “wave of unrest” up there, he was sent to Oxford Prison instead. The Governor is determined to keep Evans secure and avoid being “disgrace[d].” He doesn’t consider Evans a significant threat—more of a “persistent, nagging presence.” Thinking about Evans’s upcoming exam, the Governor decides there’s a “possibility” that Evans is truly passionate about German—“Just a slight possibility. Just a very slight possibility.”
The Governor is worried that Evans will somehow use the exam session to break out of prison for the fourth time, something the Governor sees as a serious threat to his reputation. If Evans were to escape, it would directly reflect upon Oxford Prison, but it would also affect the Governor—as the head of the prison, all mishaps concern him, too. The Governor seems concerned with protecting his pride, an impulse that will prove unproductive.
In early June, Evans attends his final night class in German before his big exam. His German teacher wishes him good luck in a thick German accent, and Evans awkwardly asks him to repeat himself. The German teacher repeats his well wishes in English and reminds Evans that he doesn’t have “a cat in hell’s chance of getting through.” Evans interrupts, breezily claiming that he “may surprise everybody.”
In declaring that Evans doesn’t have “a cat in hell’s chance of getting through,” the German teacher is perhaps trying to deter Evans from undertaking a plan that is bound to fail. However, near the end of the story, Evans reveals that the German teacher is actually a friend of his—making this moment seem more like the German teacher is egging Evans on and teasing him about the challenge he’s about to face.
The next morning, two prison officers visit Evans, who is wearing his signature “filthy-looking red-and-white bobble hat.” Jackson, the senior prisoner officer, has “already become warm enemies” with Evans. The other man, Stephens, is a “burly, surly-looking man” who is new to Oxford prison and to the prison-officer profession in general. Jackson gruffly greets Evans by calling him “Einstein” and reminds Stephens to confiscate Evans’s razor before the proctor arrives; Jackson has already taken away Evans’s nail scissors, much to Evans’s dismay (Evans claims that he’s always been “worried about his hands”).
Both Jackson and Stephens seem to fulfill the stereotype that prison officers are cold, gruff, and hostile. However, the fact that Jackson and Evans have “already become warm enemies” complicates Jackson’s image. As the story goes on, it seems that Jackson and Evans are fond of one another and use insults as the basis of their friendship. Meanwhile, Evans’s ridiculous knit cap points to his unthreatening, silly demeanor, which largely disguises his sharp intelligence.
Jackson barks at Evans to clean himself up for his exam and to remove his filthy hat. Evans’s hand immediately flies up to his hat; “smil[ing] sadly,” he explains that it’s “the only thing that’s ever brought [him] any sort o’ luck in life,” and that he especially needs it for his exam today. Evans thinks to himself that there must be “a tiny core of compassion” somewhere inside of Jackson. Jackson gruffly lets him keep it, but “just this once, then, Shirley Temple.” Jackson thinks to himself that the only thing he genuinely hates about Evans is his “long, wavy hair.”
Jackson bends to Evans’s sob story about his hat, showing that he does care about Evans as a friend. In order to not seem too compassionate or soft, though, Jackson adds an insult for good measure, comparing Evans to child actress Shirley Temple, who was known for her curly hair. This passage also shows one of the many ways that Evans skillfully endears people to himself and wins friends.
At 8:45 A.M., Reverend Stuart McLeery leaves his bachelor flat and makes his way across town to Oxford Prison, where the two-hour exam is scheduled to begin at 9:15 A.M. In his briefcase is the proctor form, the exam in a sealed envelope, a “special ‘authentication’ card from the Examinations Board,” a Bible (for McLeery’s talk later that day at the Women’s Guild on the Book of Ruth), a paperknife, and an issue of The Church Times.
The bulk of the story unfolds over the course of just a few hours, and every minute counts in Evans’s complicated prison-break scheme. Noting the time is also Dexter’s way of alerting readers that something important is going on. Here, Dexter introduces Evans’s proctor, who is later revealed to be his accomplice impersonating the real Reverend McLeery. With that in mind, the “special ‘authentication’ card” is deeply ironic, as he is not, in fact, the authentic proctor. Dexter emphasizes this irony with his playful use of quotes around “authentication.”
After Evans washes up, Jackson pays him another visit. He orders Evans to take down his posters of pin-up girls on the wall, and Evans nods—he was already planning on taking those down, given that his proctor is a minister. Jackson quietly asks Evans how he knows his proctor is a minister, and Evans says that it was listed on the forms he signed earlier.
This moment introduces the theme of instinct, paranoia, and pride, as Jackson instinctively thinks that Evans knows more than he should. As always, Evans has an explanation at the ready to deflect suspicion.
Gesturing to the ceiling, Evans asks Jackson why he had to be bugged. Jackson reminds him that the prison officers have to be extra cautious with Evans, and that the Governor himself will be listening in on the exam. Evans thinks to himself that he already accounted for that—"Number Two Handkerchief was lying ready on the bunk.” Jackson brusquely tells Evans, “Good luck, old son,” and leaves.
Part of what makes Evans’s plan so successful is that he finds creative uses for ordinary items. Although the guards have taken away Evans’s nail scissors and razor, he doesn’t need them—he is able to utilize items that don’t seem suspect, like a handkerchief. Meanwhile, the fact that the cell is bugged (just audio, not video) reminds readers that the Governor’s reputation is at stake, while Jackson calling Evans “old son” reaffirms their unexpected friendship.
Once at the prison, Reverend Stuart McLeery signs in and follows a silent prison officer, who then hands him off to Jackson, who hands him off to Stephens. Meanwhile, the Governor switches on the receiver to listen in to Evans’s cell, wondering if all the extra safety precautions are a bit over the top. Suddenly, the Governor realizes something he’s overlooked—it’s not enough to confiscate potential weapons Evans might have and make sure he’s securely locked in. McLeery could have unknowingly brought something that Evans could use against him as a weapon. The Governor quickly orders Jackson to search McLeery.
McLeery is handed off from one officer to another in quick succession, emphasizing how many people are monitoring this exam and how tight security is at Oxford Prison. The Governor is torn between wanting to ensure all his bases are covered through extra security measures and not wanting to look too worried (and thus weak and not in control) about Evans. This conflict, with pride at its core, endures for most of the story.
Jackson retrieves McLeery and searches him. The minister is patient and understanding as Jackson riffles through his belongings—until Jackson questions him about a “semi-inflated rubber ring” buried in the briefcase, asking in jest if the minister is going swimming later. McLeery stiffens, replying to “this tasteless little pleasantry” that it’s a special cushion for his hemorrhoid problem. Jackson flushes pink and stammers an apology.
This moment feels oddly detailed and detached from the action otherwise centering around Evans and his exam. However, the fact that this interaction feels so out of place is Dexter’s way of alerting readers that this moment is important to the story and to Evans’s plot.
The exam begins a few minutes behind schedule, made even later by Evans’s insistence that he can’t concentrate with Stephens hovering in the cell. Having overheard this through the receiver, the Governor orders Stephens to leave, admitting that they might be “overdoing it.” After a few administrative tasks (McLeery instructs Evans to write his “index number” and “centre number” in the corner of the exam), the test begins at 9:25 A.M.
At 9:40 A.M., the Governor receives a call from the Examinations Board. The “Assistant Secretary with a special responsibility for modern languages” asks what time the exam began and explains that there’s been an error on their end: “there was a correction slip which some fool had forgotten to place in the examination package.” The Governor wonders if the phone call is fake—a signal or distraction of some kind—but transfers the call to Jackson so that he can take care of it. To check if the call really did come from the Examinations Board, the Governor dials their number, but all he hears are the “staccato bleeps of a line engaged.” The Governor assures himself that this is to be expected, given that the Assistant Secretary is probably still speaking with Jackson.
The word “special” appears again here; earlier, it was used in regard to McLeery’s “special ‘authentication’ card from the Examinations Board.” Because of the irony in the fake McLeery carrying a “special ‘authentication’ card,” readers get the sense that this supposed “Assistant Secretary with a special responsibility for modern languages” might also be ironic or suspicious in some way. The Governor instinctively feels that something is amiss too, though he talks himself out of it.
Moments later, the Governor hears McLeery reading off the corrections to the exam to Evans: “the fourth word should read goldenen, not goldene; and the whole phrase will therefore read zum goldenen Löwen, not zum goldene Löwen.” Having studied German in his youth, the Governor smiles as he hears familiar words and adjectives. The Governor’s phone rings again—the Magistrates’ Court needs a prison van and a couple of prison officers due to a remand case. After hanging up, the Governor thinks to himself that perhaps that phone call was fake, but he quickly reassures himself that he’s being paranoid.
McLeery reads off the phrase “golden lion”—a small but crucial detail that will reappear later. Once again, the Governor instinctively feels that something fishy is going on but talks himself down from his fears, telling himself he’s just being paranoid. Throughout the story, the Governor does this for the sake of pride, wanting to look unruffled, confident, and in control of the situation at hand. Fear and worry, to him, are reflective of weakness.
No longer stationed inside the cell, Stephens now peers through the peephole into Evans’s cell for five seconds every minute (eventually transitioning to every two minutes)—a task he finds entirely pointless, given that Evans has barely moved. At the small table across from Evans is McLeery, silently reading his issue of The Church Times with one finger hooked under his clerical collar. He strokes his beard with his other hand, his fingers “meticulously manicured.”
The detail of McLeery’s “meticulously manicured” fingernails seems out of place, and points to Evans’s earlier concern about his hands. This connection between the two men’s fingernails, though bizarre, is significant, as is the way that McLeery’s finger is hooked through his collar. In Evans’s scheme, nothing is as innocent as it seems.
Sometime later, the Governor is startled to hear noise coming from Evans’s cell—the prisoner is asking for permission to drape his blanket over his shoulders. McLeery tersely gives him permission. One minute later, when Stephens peers into the peephole, he’s surprised to see that Evans has donned a blanket. He wonders if this “slight irregularity” ought to be reported (Jackson did say to report “Anything at all fishy”) but decides he’s overreacting. The prison is cold, after all. Still, Stephens decides to return to one-minute intervals at the peephole.
Just like the Governor, Stephens instinctively feels that something suspicious is going on but convinces himself otherwise. Since Stephens is a newly instated officer, it’s possible that he doesn’t want to seem stupid or incompetent by overreacting about a blanket. However, Stephens recommits himself to looking through the peephole every minute rather than every two, which suggests that he has lingering suspicions.
At 11:20 A.M., The Governor listens as McLeery informs Evans that there are only five minutes remaining in the exam. With “something still gnaw[ing] away quietly in the Governor’s mind,” he picks up the phone. At 11:22 A.M., Jackson shouts for Stephens to come to the phone—the Governor is on the line. The Governor instructs Stephens to escort McLeery off the premises after the exam and to ensure that Evans is properly locked in his cell.
The Governor’s gut feeling that Evans will escape won’t go away, no matter how much he tries to tell himself he’s being paranoid, pointing to the power and accuracy of human instinct. Meanwhile, it’s strange that the Governor would give Stephens, the new guy, such an important job as ensuring Evans is locked in and escorting McLeery out.
At 11:25 A.M., Stephens escorts McLeery to the prison’s main gates, bursting with pride that the Governor had chosen “him, and not Jackson” for the task. As the two men walk, Stephens privately observes that the proctor’s Scottish accent sounds thicker than before, and that the proctor’s long, knee-length coat “fostered the illusion that he had suddenly grown slimmer.” After McLeery has gone, Stephens returns to Evans’s cell to check on him. He feels slightly paranoid—like a TV show he’d seen “about a woman who could never really convince herself that she’d locked the front door when she’d gone to bed.”
Stephens’s smugness implies that he resents Jackson, his immediate superior. His desire to find favor with the Governor adds a layer of pride to Stephens’s past actions—like not reporting Evans’s blanket in order to avoid looking stupid. Stephens begins to feel instinctively unsettled about Evans here. He compares his reasonable concern to true paranoia or other types of mental illness. This allows Stephens to tell himself that he’s just being crazy.
Stephens peers into Evans’s cell and is met with a horrifying sight: McLeery is slumped in Evans’s chair and is drenched in blood. The blood is seeping through his beard, short hair, and clerical collar. As Stephens shouts for Jackson, McLeery weakly presses a white linen handkerchief to his bleeding head. Clutching the German exam in one hand, McLeery murmurs that he knows where Evans went.
Either Stephens just escorted Evans (disguised as McLeery) out of the prison, or this McLeery is actually Evans. The detail of the white linen handkerchief points back to Evans’s plan to somehow use a handkerchief in his escape—perhaps this is Evans, and the handkerchief is just part of his disguise.
The prison explodes with noise and activity—sirens wail, officers shout, and heavy metal doors clang into place. When the Governor arrives, McLeery shows him the German exam: “A photocopied sheet had been carefully and cleverly superimposed over the last (originally blank) page of the question paper.” Clunkily translating the German, the Governor reads, “You must follow the plan already somethinged. The vital point in time is three minutes before the end of the examination but something something—something something… Don’t hit him too hard—remember, he’s a minister! And don’t overdo the Scots accent when…” A police car whizzes up to the prison gates, and Detective Superintendent Carter jumps out, demanding an explanation.
The fact that Evans’s exam contained instructions for how to break out of prison—and that those instructions were photocopied onto the actual exam—suggests that someone from the Examinations Board is on Evans’s side. This perhaps points back to the Assistant Secretary, who conveniently had a “special responsibility” for language exams. The Governor’s translation of the instructions reveals that his German is rusty but still helpful in the case. However, the arrival of the detective suggests that the case is now going to change hands from prison officers to the police.
Wincing in pain, McLeery tells the men to go to Elsfield Way. The Governor quickly realizes that the Examinations Board is headquartered there—one of their employees must have been involved in Evans’s escape. He tells Carter to take McLeery with him, since McLeery knows the most about the situation.
The Governor begins to piece together the case alongside the reader. His earlier suspicion about the Assistant Secretary may have been correct all along.
Turning sharply to Stephens and Jackson, the Governor demands to know who led Evans off the premises; Stephens stutters that it was him, but that the Governor was the one who gave him the orders over the phone. The Governor screams that it wasn’t him who gave those orders—the call was a fake. The Governor thinks to himself that he had been using the phone at that time, trying (unsuccessfully) to get in touch with the Examinations Board.
The earlier abnormality of Stephens being tasked with such an important job despite being new to his post is finally explained—those were fake orders given by someone pretending to be the Governor over the phone. Once again, seemingly normal phone calls are at the heart of a devious plan, keeping readers on their toes.
The Governor screams at Jackson for his stupidity. Jackson had searched Evans’s cell for two hours the previous night—and yet, the prisoner had managed to hide a clerical collar and shirt, reading glasses, a fake beard, a coat, and whatever weapon he attacked McLeery with. The Governor turns his attention back to the instructions on the last page of the German exam, trying to make sense of what “Neugraben” means. He decides it must mean the town of Newbury. He barks at a prison-van driver to get Jackson and Stephens to the police station and to ask for Chief Inspector Bell when they get there.
It seems unlikely that Evans could have hidden so much in such a small, sparse cell. Although the prison officers are not yet suspicious of the proctor, readers might be at this point. In walking McLeery out of the prison, Stephens had privately observed that the proctor looked suddenly thinner—suggesting he had been wearing two layers of clothing and had given one of the layers to Evans for his disguise.
The Governor quickly gets Chief Inspector Bell on the phone to bring him up to speed. After this, Detective Superintendent Carter calls, explaining that McLeery is now at Radcliffe Hospital—once they got to the Examinations offices, McLeery started feeling particularly poorly, so they called an ambulance for him and left him to wait for it while they continued their search. Carter also mentions that McLeery spotted Evans near Elsfield Way, and he looked to be heading back to the city. The Governor explains his theory about Evans heading for Newbury and then hangs up, telling himself that finding Evans is “a police job now.” The Governor “was just another good-for-a-giggle, gullible governor, that was all.”
This passage reveals another tension between appearances and reality—it seems that the high-level detectives should be the ones to find Evans, but the Governor seems to be more adept at piecing together Evans’s clues. However, the police majorly underestimate the Governor, stereotyping him as an unintelligent, blustering fool. Meanwhile, it’s significant that Carter leaves McLeery unsupervised and that McLeery is the one who claims to have spotted Evans.
The Governor calls the hospital and asks after McLeery. The hospital clerk says they don’t have a patient with that name, and the Governor explains that McLeery was picked up from Elsfield Way. The clerk interrupts, saying that the ambulance did go to pick up a patient from Elsfield Way earlier, but no one was there: “the fellow had gone. No one seemed to know where he was. Just vanished!” Suddenly, the Governor realizes his horrible mistake.
McLeery seems to have made a break for it after Carter left him alone but before the ambulance could come pick him up. The hospital clerk’s assertion that McLeery “vanished” immediately points to the slippery criminal James Evans, suggesting that he was, in fact, disguised as the attacked McLeery.
Fifteen minutes later, the prison officers discover the real Reverend Stuart McLeery, bound and gagged at his flat, as he had been since 8:15 A.M. By that afternoon, everyone at Oxford Prison had heard the story: “It had not been Evans, impersonating McLeery, who had walked out; it had been Evans, impersonating McLeery, who had stayed in.”
The inclusion of the time 8:15 A.M. implies that this is the first time readers are meeting the real McLeery—the fake McLeery first appeared in the story at 8:45 A.M. This passage also contains the most succinct explanation of Evans’s deceptive plan.
After a pleasant evening, Evans returns to the Golden Lion Hotel. His new hat hides “the wreckage of his closely cropped hair.” It was a shame that Jackson had confiscated his nail scissors—Evans had to cut his hair with his razor blade instead, which was arduous. He’s glad that Jackson at least let him keep his hat on for the exam—“old Jackson wasn’t such a bad fellow,” he thinks.
Evans’s thoughts help fill in the gaps for the reader: although he is somewhat obsessive about his nail scissors (which is why McLeery had to have perfectly manicured nails too, so that the men’s hands looked identical), he mainly needed them to cut his long hair to match McLeery’s. Despite this being Jackson’s fault, Evans still feels fondly towards him, calling “old Jackson” not “such a bad fellow.”
As he climbs the stairs to his room, Evans thinks about how it was such “a jolly good idea” for the fake McLeery to wear two clerical shirts and two clerical collars. It was tricky, though, especially since one of the collars kept slipping off—“there’d been that one panicky moment when ‘McLeery’ had only just got his hand up to his neck in time to stop the collars springing apart before Stephens…” He trails off. It was also challenging to do “all that fiddling about under the blanket” to get the clerical shirt on.
Since McLeery did wear two of everything, Stephen’s observation that McLeery suddenly seemed slimmer after the exam was well-founded. Evans also flashes back to the moment when Stephens noticed McLeery’s finger casually hooked through his clerical collar—in actuality, McLeery was desperately trying to keep it from springing off, which would have revealed that he was wearing two collars. Evans also explains why he needed the blanket, which was yet another thing Stephens was instinctively right about but didn’t act on out of pride.
Luckily, Evans’s friends had left him all the necessary supplies in the getaway car: clothes, soap and water, and the Ordnance Survey Map of Oxfordshire. He’s grateful to have such “good” and “very clever friends.” Evans opens the door to his room and suddenly freezes “like a man who has just caught a glimpse of the Gorgon.” There, sitting on the bed, “was the very last man in the world that Evans had expected—or wanted—to see,” the Governor.
The Gorgons were monsters from Greek mythology, taking the form of three sisters with snakes for hair, and with the power to turn to stone anyone who looked at them—just as Evans seems turned to stone upon seeing the Governor.
The Governor quietly tells Evans it’s no use trying to escape—he has the place surrounded (he only has two officers outside, but chooses not to reveal this detail). “Visibly shaken,” Evans sinks into a chair. After a few minutes of silence, he asks if the correction slip gave him away. Unable to conceal “the deep satisfaction in his voice,” the Governor says, “there are a few people who know a little German.”
The Governor’s pride rises to the surface in this passage. Even though it was his pride that led him to make so many mistakes throughout the day, he is still proud of his ability to save the day—so he thinks.
Evans relaxes, knowing he’s been caught and there’s no use fighting it. Evans excitedly tells the Governor that the most important thing in his plot was the phone call that distracted Stephens and Jackson a few moments before the end of the exam. The correction slip was important, too, though, because it gave Evans the name of his hotel, and it ensured that Evans’s outside help—whoever called pretending to be the Examinations Board with a correction to the exam—know exactly when the exam started, so that they could know exactly when to make the distracting phone call three minutes before the end of the exam.
Evans continues to reconstruct his scheme, this time for the Governor. He affirms that the many suspicions the Governor harbored throughout the day were correct. The confirmation that the correction slip was part of Evans’s plan reveals that the “Assistant Secretary with special responsibility” for foreign languages was a hoax. Once again, appearances can’t be trusted—even the seemingly innocent correction slip had a twofold purpose in Evans’s plot.
Evans also explains how he knew which Golden Lion Hotel to go to: McLeery had instructed Evans to write “index number 313” in one box and “centre number 271” in another box, as if it were some administrative task in filling out his exam sheet properly. Then, in the getaway car, Evans looked up “the six-figure reference 313/271,” which led to the city of Chipping Norton. The Governor says he figured this out too, which is how he knew to track Evans down in Chipping Norton, though he admits to initially thinking Evans was headed for Newbury; Evans says that he left that clue on purpose as a red herring.
Evans’s plan gets increasingly complex as he recounts it for the Governor—even something as nondescript as a “centre number” (a number assigned to a testing facility for administrative purposes) played a careful role in the scheme. The fact that the Governor is also able to figure this out himself further disproves the detectives’ assumptions that the Governor is “gullible” and “good-for-a-giggle.”
The Governor asks Evans if he really did understand German all this time, and Evans says he just knew the gist. The Governor also asks how Evans managed to cover himself in blood. Evans excitedly recounts his clever idea to have the fake McLeery bring the inflatable rubber ring under the pretense of needing it for a hemorrhoid problem—Evans knew that such a thing wouldn’t be confiscated. Filling it with blood was easy (they got pig’s blood from a slaughterhouse), but the issue was keeping it from clotting. To do so, “you’ve got to mix yer actual blood […] with one tenth of its own volume of 3.8 cent trisodium citrate!” The Governor shakes his head with “reluctant admiration,” saying, “come on, m’lad.”
Unrefined as it is, the “semi-inflated rubber ring” was one of the most important elements of Evans’s plan. As with the handkerchief, Evans built his scheme around nondescript items that weren’t at risk of being confiscated. Due to the medical nature of the rubber ring—and Jackson’s subsequent embarrassment—there was no way that the officers would confiscate the item. Evans also demonstrates startlingly complex knowledge about chemistry here, reaffirming that he’s far more intelligent than he first appears.
The two men walk alongside one another down the stairs. The Governor asks how Evans managed to communicate with the outside world—he’s had no visitors or letters. Evans breezily replies that he has “a lot of friends,” including his German teacher. The Governor is incredulous, declaring that the German teacher was from the Technical College. Playfully, Evans asks, “Was ‘e? […] Ever check up on ‘im, sir?”
The German teacher finally reappears in conversation here, as Evans implies that he was an integral part of the plan. Readers may recall that Evans was the only student in the German teacher’s class for six whole months—six months of (presumably) unsupervised time to plan Evans’s escape.
In the lobby, a blonde receptionist informs the Governor that the prison van is waiting out front. Evans gives her a wink, and she winks back, which “almost ma[kes] his day.” Outside, a silent prison officer handcuffs Evans and loads him into the van.
The flirtatious interaction between Evans and the receptionist is suspect, as it’s unclear if Evans is merely being his charming self and endearing yet another person to him, or if she is one of his many “friends.”
The Governor says goodbye to Evans as if he were “saying farewell to an old friend after a cocktail party.” Evans brightly answers, “Cheerio, sir,” and asks the Governor if he knows any other modern languages besides German. The Governor says no and asks why; Evans smiles and says that he noticed that the prison would be offering O-level Italian classes in September, “that’s all.” The Governor tells Evans that he might not still be at Oxford Prison in September. “Ponder[ing] the Governor’s words deeply,” Evans answers that the Governor may be right.
Evans and the Governor interact like “old friend[s],” once again emphasizing Evans’s uncanny ability to charm people. The fact that this whole chase is compared to a “cocktail party” makes Evans’s escape seem more like a light-hearted game than a serious escape from prison. This speaks to the way that the Governor’s fondness for Evans lessens the severity of the situation when he’s recaptured. Meanwhile, Evans does seem to consider it all a game, as he cheerfully asks about other O-level language classes, implying that he’s looking forward to breaking out all over again.
As the prison van merges onto the road, the silent prison officer who had loaded Evans into the van sharply tells the driver to speed up—“It won’t take ‘em long to find out.” In a thick Scottish accent, the driver asks where they should go; Evans suggests Newbury.
Once again, Evans has outsmarted everyone—with a little help from his friends. The silent prison officer, who has made a few subtle appearances throughout the story, is revealed to be one of Evans’s accomplices, while the driver is clearly the McLeery imposter. The fact that Evans suggests going to Newbury—where the Governor first looked for him—suggests that he might even want to be caught so that he can undertake the challenge of breaking out again. However, going to Newbury could also just be a clever way of hiding in plain sight.