'What do you mean, you're "satisfied he's not on the prison grounds"? What does that mean? It means you didn't find him! You better find him! You better! Because I want him! Do you hear me? I want him!'

Gonyar said something.

'Didn't happen on your shift? That's what you say. So far as I can tell, no one knows when it happened. Or how. Or if it really did. Now, I want him in my office by three o'clock this afternoon, or some heads are going to roll. I can promise you that, and I always keep my promises.'

Something else from Gonyar, something that seemed to provoke Norton to even greater rage.

'No? Then look at this! Look at this! You recognize it? Last night's tally for Cellblock 5. Every prisoner accounted for! Dufresne was locked up last night at nine and it is impossible for him to be gone now! It is impossible! Now you find him!"

But at six that evening Andy was still among the missing, Norton himself stormed down to Cellblock 5, where the rest of us had been locked up all of that day. Had we been questioned? We had spent most of that long day being questioned by harried screws who were feeling the breath of the dragon on the backs of their necks. We all said the same thing: we had seen nothing, heard nothing. And so far as I know, we were all telling the truth. I know that I was. All we could say was that Andy had indeed been in his cell at the time of the lock-in, and at lights-out an hour later.

One wit suggested that Andy had poured himself out through the keyhole. The suggestion earned the guy four days in solitary. They were uptight.

So Norton came down - stalked down - glaring at us with blue eyes nearly hot enough to strike sparks from the tempered steel bars of our cages. He looked at us as if he believed we were all in on it. Probably he did believe it.

He went into Andy's cell and looked around. It was just as Andy had left it, the sheets of his bunk turned back but without looking slept-in. Rocks on the windowsill... but not all of them. The ones he liked best he took with him.

'Rocks,' Norton hissed, and swept them off the window-ledge with a clatter. Gonyar, already four hours overtime, winced but said nothing.

Norton's eyes fell on the Linda Ronstadt poster. Linda was looking back over her shoulder, her hands tucked into the back pockets of a very tight pair of fawn-coloured slacks. She was wearing a halter and she had a deep California tan. It must have offended the hell out of Norton's Baptist sensibilities, that poster. Watching him glare at it, I remembered what Andy had once said about feeling he could almost step through the picture and be with the girl. In a very real way, that was exactly what he did - as Norton was only seconds from discovering. 'Wretched thing!' he grunted, and ripped the poster from the wall with a single swipe of his hand.

And revealed the gaping, crumbled hole in the concrete behind it. Gonyar wouldn't go in.

Norton ordered him - God, they must have heard Norton ordering Rich Gonyar to go in there all over the prison - and Gonyar just refused him, point-blank.

'I'll have your job for this!' Norton screamed. He was as hysterical as a woman having a hot-flush. He had utterly blown his cool. His neck had turned a rich, dark red, and two veins stood out, throbbing, on his forehead. 'You can count on it, you ... you Frenchman! I'll have your job and I'll see to it that you never get another one in any prison system in New England!'

Gonyar silently held out his service pistol to Norton, butt first. He'd had enough. He was four hours overtime, going on five, and he'd just had enough. It was as if Andy's defection from our happy little family had driven Norton right over the edge of some private irrationality that had been there for a long time ... certainly he was crazy that night.

I don't know what that private irrationality might have been, of course. But I do know that there were twenty-eight cons listening to Norton's little dust-up with Rich Gonyar that evening as the last of the light faded from a dull late winter sky, all of us hard-timers and long-line riders who had seen the administrators come and go, the hard-asses and the candy-asses alike, and we all knew that Warden Samuel Norton had just passed what the engineers like to call 'the breaking strain'.

And by God, it almost seemed to me that somewhere I could heard Andy Dufresne laughing.

Norton finally got a skinny drink of water on the night shift to go into that hole that had been behind Andy's poster of Linda Ronstadt. The skinny guard's name was Rory Tremont, and he was not exactly a ball of fire in the brains department. Maybe he thought he was going to win a Bronze Star or something. As it turned out, it was fortunate that Norton got someone of Andy's approximate height and build to go in there; if they had sent a big-assed fellow - as most prison guards seem to be - the guy would have stuck in there is sure as God made green grass ... and he might be there still.

Tremont went in with a nylon filament rope, which someone had found in the trunk of his car, tied around his waist and a big six-battery flashlight in one hand. By then Gonyar, who had changed his mind about quitting and who seemed to be the only one there still able to think clearly, had dug out a set of blueprints. I knew well enough what they showed him - a wall which looked, in cross-section, like a sandwich. The entire wall was ten feet thick. The inner and outer sections were each about four feet thick. In the centre was two feet of pipe-space, and you want to believe that was the meat of the thing ... in more ways than one.

Tremont's voice came out of the hole, sounding hollow and dead. 'Something smells awful in here, Warden.'

'Never mind that! Keep going.'

Tremont's lower legs disappeared into the hole. A moment later his feet were gone, too. His light flashed dimly back and forth.

'Warden, it smells pretty damn bad.'

'Never mind, I said!' Norton cried.

Dolorously, Tremont's voice floated back: 'Smells like shit. Oh God, that's what it is, it's shit, oh my God lemme outta here I'm gonna blow my groceries oh shit it's shit oh my Gawwwwwd - And then came the unmistakable sound of Rory Tremont losing his last couple of meals.

Well, that was it for me. I couldn't help myself. The whole day - hell no, the last thirty years - all came up on me at once and I started laughing fit to split, alaugh such as I'd never had since I was a free man, the kind of laugh I never expected to have inside these grey walls. And oh dear God didn't it feel good!