- Fake ’em out.
The guard steps away for an illicit smoke, and we just know the homicidal maniac will escape. You could write it that way, but how much better would it be to bring the guard back a few minutes later to find all is well? Perhaps the second time the guard hears something, goes, “Oh, my God!” and races back, only to find the prisoner lounging peacefully in his cell.
As in the related yet subtly different example of crying wolf, obey the rule of three. On the third go—gone! Better still, because readers might be ready for the fake-out, have the payoff up the ante: The guard returns to find not only the prisoner gone, but the cell full of the bloody bodies of the warden and his family.