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'You could plant an item like that rock-hammer in somebody's skull,' I remarked.

'I have no enemies here,' he said quietly.

'No?' I smiled. 'Wait awhile.'

'If there's trouble, I can handle it without using a rock-hammer.'

'Maybe you want to try an escape? Going under the wall? Because if you do -'

He laughed politely. When I saw the rock-hammer three weeks later, I understood why.

"You know,' I said, 'if anyone sees you with it, they'll take it may. If they saw you with a spoon, they'd take it away. if you going to do, just sit down here in the yard and 3' away?'

"Oh, I believe I can do a lot better than that.'

I nodded. That part of it really wasn't my business, anyway. A man engages my services to get him something. Whether he can keep it or not after I get it is his business.

'How much would an item like that go for?' I asked. I was beginning to enjoy his quiet, low-key style. When you've spent ten years in stir, as I had then, you can get awfully tired of the bellowers and the braggarts and the loud-mouths. Yes, I dink it would be fair to say I liked Andy from the first.

'Eight dollars in any rock-and-gem shop,' he said, 'but I realize that in a business like yours you work on a cost-plus basis-'

'Cost plus ten per cent is my going rate, but I have to go up some on a dangerous item. For something like the gadget you're talking about, it takes a little more goose-grease to get the wheels turning. Let's say ten dollars.'

'Ten it is'

I looked at him, smiling a little. 'Have you got ten dollars?'

'I do,' he said quietly.

A long time after, I discovered that he had better than five hundred. He had brought it in with him. When they check you in at this hotel, one of the bellhops is obliged to bend you over and take a look up your works - but there are a lot of works, and, not to put too fine a point on it, a man who is really determined can get a fairly large item quite a ways up them - far enough to be out of sight, unless the bellhop you happen to draw is in the mood to pull on a rubber glove and go prospecting.

'That's fine,' I said. 'You ought to know what I expect if you get caught with what I get you.'

'I suppose I should,' he said, and I could tell by the slight change in his grey eyes that he knew exactly what I was going to say. It was a slight lightening, a gleam of his special ironic humour.

'If you get caught, you'll say you found it. That's about the long and short of it. They'll put you in solitary for three or four weeks ... plus, of course, you'll lose your toy and you'll get a black mark on your record. If you give them my name, you and I will never do business again. Not for so much as a pair of shoelaces or a bag of Bugler. And I'll send some fellows around to lump you up. I don't like violence, but you'll understand my position. I can't allow it to get around that I can't handle myself. That would surely finish me.'

'Yes. I suppose it would, I understand, and you don't need to worry.'

'I never worry,' I said. 'In a place like this there's no percentage in it.' He nodded and walked away. Three days later he walked up beside me in the exercise yard during the laundry's morning break. He didn't speak or even look my way, but pressed a picture of the Hon. Alexander Hamilton into my hand as neatly as a good magician does a card-trick. He was a man who adapted fast. I got him his rock-hammer. I had it in my cell for one night, and it was just as he described it. It was no tool for escape (it would have taken a man just about six hundred years to tunnel under the wall using that rock-hammer, I figured), but I still felt some misgivings.

If you planted that pickaxe end in a man's head, he would surely never listen to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio again. And Andy had already begun having trouble with the sisters. I hoped it wasn't them he was wanting the rock-hammer for.

In the end, I trusted my judgment. Early the next morning, twenty minutes before the wake-up horn went off, I slipped the rock-hammer and a package of Camels to Ernie, the old trusty who swept the Cellblock 5 corridors until he was let free in 1956. He slipped it into his tunic without a word, and I didn't see the rock-hammer again for seven years.

The following Sunday Andy walked over to me in the exercise yard again. He was nothing to look at that day, I can tell you. His lower lip was swelled up so big it looked like a summer sausage, his right eye was swollen half-shut, and there was an ugly washboard scrape across one cheek. He was having his troubles with the sisters, all right, but he never mentioned them. 'Thanks for the tool,' he said, and walked away.

I watched him curiously. He walked a few steps, saw in the dirt, bent over, and picked it up. It was a small rock. Prison fatigues, except for those worn by mechanics when they're on the job, have no pockets. But there are ways to get around that. The little pebble disappeared up Andy's sleeve and didn't come down. I admired that... and I admired him. In spite of the problems he was having, he was going on with his life. There are thousands who don't or won't or can't, and plenty of them aren't in prison, either. And I noticed that, although his face still looked as if a twister had happened to it, his hands were still neat and clean, the nails well-kept.

I didn't see much of him over the next six months; Andy spent a lot of that time in solitary.

A few words about the sisters.

In a lot of pens they are known as bull queers or jailhouse susies - just lately the term in fashion is 'killer queens'. But in they were always the sisters. I don't know why, but other than the name I guess there was no difference.

 

“你可以把锤子插进某人的脑袋中。”我评论道。

“我在这儿没有敌人。”他静静地说。

“没有?”我微笑道,“再等一阵子吧。”

“如果有麻烦的话,我不会用锤子来解决。”

“也许你想越狱?在墙下挖地道?因为如果你——”

他温文有礼地笑了起来。等到我三个星期后亲眼见到了那把石锤时,我就明白他为什么笑了。

“你知道,”我说,“如果有人看见你带着这玩意儿,他们会把它拿走。他们连看到你有个汤匙,都会把它拿走。你要怎么弄呢?就蹲在这儿敲敲打打吗?”

“噢,我会想出更好的办法的。”

我点点头,反正那部分确实不关我的事。我只负责供应东西,至于他能否保住那个东西,完全是他的事情。

“像这样一个玩意儿,要多少钱?”我问,我开始享受他安静低调的态度。如果你像我一样,已经度过了十年的牢狱生涯,你会极端厌倦那些爱大声咆哮、好吹牛、还有大嘴巴的人。所以,可以这么说,我从初次见面就很喜欢安迪。

“任何卖石头和玉石的店都可以买到,要八块钱,”他说,“不过当然我明白,你经手的东西都还要加一点佣金——”

“平常是加百分之十,不过我必须把危险物品的价格再提高一点。你要的东西比较不那么容易弄到手,所以就算十块钱好了。”

“那就十块钱。”

我看着他,微微一笑。“你有十块钱吗?”

“有。”他平静地说。

过了很久,我才发现他至少有五百元,是他入狱时就带进来的钱。每个人入狱时都要先经过一番检查,他们会强迫你弯下腰来,然后仔细查看你的某个部位。不过那部位空间不少,有决心的人想瞒天过海还是有办法,东西直往内塞,表面上甚至看不出来,除非碰巧检查你的那个人居然有心情戴上橡皮手套,往里面猛掏。

“很好,”我说,“你应该知道万一我给你的东西被发现了,该怎么办吧?”

“我想我应该知道。”我可以从他的眼神转变中看出,他早已猜到我要说什么了。他的眼神中闪现一丝他特有的带着嘲讽的幽默。

“如果你被逮着了,你要说是你自己找到的。他们会关你三或四个星期的禁闭……还有,当然啰,你的玩具自然也会被没收,还会在你的记录上留下一个污点。但是如果你说出我的名字,以后就甭想再和我做生意了,连一双鞋带或一包香烟都甭想我卖给你。我也会派人给你一点颜色瞧瞧。我不喜欢暴力,但你要了解我的处境,我可不能随便给人摆了道儿,这样我往后就混不下去了?”

“我懂,你不用担心。”

“我从来不担心,”我说,“在这种地方,担心于事无补。”

他点点头走开了。三天后,趁早上洗衣服的休息空档,他走向我。他没跟我说话,甚至没看我,不过神不知鬼不觉地塞给我一张摺得整整齐齐的钞票,手法就像魔术师玩扑克牌戏法一样利落。这家伙学得很快。我给他弄了一把锤子,正是他形容的尺寸和样子。我把锤子藏在我的牢房中一个晚上,这种锤子不像逃亡工具,我猜如果想用这样一把锤子挖地道逃出去,大约要六百年,但我还是有点不放心。因为万一把这玩意插在某人的脑袋中,他就再也别想听电台播放的流行歌了,而安迪一向跟那些同性恋处不好,我希望他们并非他真正想锤的对象。

最后,我还是相信自己的判断。第二天一早,起床号还没有响起,我就把锤子藏在香烟盒中拿给厄尼,厄尼是模范囚犯,他在一九五六年出狱前,一直负责打扫第五区的走道。他一句话也没说,就飞快地把锤子塞进上衣里,此后十九年,我不曾再看过那把锤子,等我再看到它时,那把锤子早已磨损得没法用了。

接下来那个星期日,安迪在运动场上又走向我。他的样子惨不忍睹,下嘴唇肿得像香肠,右眼也肿得张不开,脸颊有一连串刮伤。他又跟那些“姊妹”起冲突了,但他从来不提这件事。“多谢你的工具。”他说,说完便走了。

我好奇地看着他。他走了几步,在地上看见什么东西,弯下腰去捡起来。那是块小石头。囚衣是没有口袋的(惟有担任技工的囚犯在工作场合中穿的工作服例外),但是总有办法可想,因此那块小石头消失在安迪的袖子中,而且一直没有掉下来,手法真叫人佩服……我也很佩服他,尽管他碰到不少麻烦,还是继续过他的日子,但世界上其他成千上万的人却办不到,他们不愿意或没有能力这么做,其中许多人根本没有被关在牢里,却还是不懂得过日子。我还注意到,尽管安迪的脸孔透露出他碰到麻烦了,但是他的双手仍然干净得一如往常,指甲也修剪得整整齐齐的。

接下来六个月,我甚少看见他。安迪有好一阵子都被单独关在禁闭室里。

说到这里,我想先谈谈关于“姊妹”的一些事情。

这类人有许多不同的名称,像“公牛怪胎”或“牢房苏茜”等等——最近流行的说法是“杀手皇后”,但在肖申克,大家总是称他们为“姊妹”。我不知道为什么,不过除了名称不同之外,我猜其他没有什么不一样。