'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.