It was Tuesday, they say, when the Quest Committee came to Rower’s Pokey. Or Sunday, if you trust Mac Dallas. Don’t. They seemed like any other gang when they were booked, tougher than a fresh lander; but this couldn’t have been any more than their second circus. Babe Listowel looked like the ringleader at first, had the hat to pass for one; but they all looked at Dawson “the Marble” Filter when anyone asked them a question. There were two others; Twelve-Anne Stradivari and Sylvester Denny. They both looked like the accountant type.
“What are you in for?” Martin asked.
“Just doing what we needed to to survive,” the Marble said. That was good enough for most everyone.
Sylvester was whitling next to Mac when the ‘nmates started to think they might be different.
“We’re going to (unintelligible) out of here,” Mac said he said.
There was genius in talking to Mac. Every single person in Rower’s Pokey was going to “break out.” But no one else would have said that kind of thing to Mac Dallas. Mac’d tell anyone. Sure, everyone knew about the Quest Committee’s plan; but given that Mac spread it, any of the Marble’s gaggle could deny the plan to the guards.
Rower’s Pokey was built in the base of a freighter; in holds 4-6. The freighter was in the Pacific, which contains too much water. There’s something you need to keep in mind about D. Marble F., though: he happened to have extensive knowledge of oil pipelines in the Pacific. Twelve-Anne’s good with the ears and the hearing, and heard one of the guards, Pike Hammer, say that the slammer’d be passing into British Columbian waters in about a month.
One day, while the ‘nmates were on wall-dusting duty, Babe Listowel (Babel, as Pope called him) slid a note under the captain’s quarters. Apparently there was going to be a glorious flock of fulvous whistling ducks at some cove around the time the freighter was in the B.C. Maybe Babe was telling the truth, but honestly, he’d earned enough of a reputation as a fabulist that I’d bet against it if anyone was willing to take bets against the author that controls truth in this story.
The Marble convinced a guard to give him a shovel. Said it was for his back pain, but everyone knew he had other plans for it.
And they dug. Babe Listowel did most of the grunt work, probably because of his rippling biceps; but Twelve-Anne kept watch and Sylvester hid the hole every night by sleeping over it. Many prisoners were confused about the exact purpose of the hole, but it felt important, and people respected it. Jackel even arranged for some of the other prisoners to dig down through the rest of the hold’s floor to make the hole’s indent less obvious, and to help Sylvester rest better.
Two weeks before Rower’s Pokey was due to be in the duck place, the Marble tapped the bottom of the hole with his fist. The sound resonated through the hold, and he said that was enough digging for now.
And they waited. Until one day, everyone agreed it was Thursday, the Marble said to hit the hole one more time. Babe did, and the Marble told him to hit it ’till it leaked. About five strikes later, and having gained an audience in just about all the guards, the hole sprung. The Quest Committee and everyone else who could swim dove into the opening that day. Swam into an oil pipeline. Through 20 kilometres of oil they swam, and came out the other side, they say. Most of the escapees were found, and brought back to ol’ Rower’s. The four who started the thing thing, though, they were never found. They were legends, they were.