11.The Accident

Utah Highway Patrolman Michael Callahan was parked at the summit of Parley's Canyon on Interstate 80, the main highway entering Salt Lake City from the East. It was one a.m. and the road was deserted. He was starting to doze, when the sound of his call numbers on the radio snapped him awake. The dispatcher directed him to go to the scene of an accident at the runaway truck turn off, some four miles below where he was parked. As he turned on his flashing lights and moved his patrol car onto the highway, he wondered where the vehicle could have come from. He had seen, at most, about half a dozen vehicles during the previous half hour. The dispatcher said that it was a 10-50PI and 10-38 Delta, which meant that it was a serious accident, with people either killed or seriously injured. He was informed that paramedics had been dispatched from Salt Lake City and that they should arrive shortly.

What Callahan saw, when he arrived on the scene, was a semi-trailer truck impaling a passenger car which was crushed, like a collapsed accordion. The truck appeared undamaged and the car totally demolished.

Two bodies were wedged between the front seat and the dash board. He checked as best he could for any signs of life and found none. His flashlight surveyed the inside of the car. The bodies were those of a man and woman who were naked from the waist down. It was obvious that they were engaging in sexual intercourse at the time of impact and that both had probably been killed instantly. They would have to be cut out of the wreckage, a job for the paramedics or the coroner's people.

The truck driver sat by the roadside, his head in his hands. He told Callahan that his brakes had failed as he was coming down the steepest part of the grade. He had swerved on to the runaway-truck turnoff and plowed into this car which had been parked on the hard portion of the turnoff. He had hit it while traveling over seventy miles an hour and had shoved it a long distance into the soft gravel, where both came to a stop.

Callahan got all of the information that he needed from the truck driver, then went to the car to see if he could find anything that would enable him to identify the victims. Through an open window, he was able to locate both the wallet of the man and the purse of the woman. The license in the man's wallet identified him as Albert Grayson, age 46, of 322 Benson Lane, Salt Lake City. The woman's purse yielded a driver's license which identified her as Mrs. Albert Grayson, age 45, of the same address.

"My God," muttered Callahan, "married!" It was incredible enough to find a couple screwing on a truck turnoff at one o'clock in the morning, but a middle aged married couple was almost unbelievable. He thought that they might be newlyweds who had married late in life. He found out later that they had been married for twenty four years.

When the paramedics arrived, Callahan briefed them, and then drove to a phone, where he called headquarters. Sgt. Young was at the desk.

"Young," Callahan said," you'll never believe this one in a million years!"

"Mike, I've been a Highway Patrolman for over twenty years; I'll believe anything."

"Not this, you won't! You know that runaway-truck turnoff? Well, this middle-aged married couple were parked in the middle of it, screwin' away, when this semi hits 'em at seventy miles an hour. Can you imagine that, a middle-aged married couple screwin' right in the middle of the fuckin' turn off; they never knew what hit 'em."

There was a moment of silence; then Sgt. Young said wistfully, "What a way to go!"

Dr. John Elliott, Coroner for Salt Lake County, looked at the body of his latest accident victim. He had never become truly hardened to what he saw. He looked at the man on the table and thought that, for a change, he had an older accident victim. Usually they were very young people; kids who would never get the chance to really live. He read the report and smiled; then shook his head. There was always something unusual in this job of his. What would impel an older married couple to decide to screw in their car on a truck turnoff at one a.m.?

He stepped on the foot pedal that activated the dictating machine and started speaking: "The body is that of a white male, age 46, weighing approximately 165 pounds. There are a number of massive contusions on the chest and abdomen and several large lacerations of the head...." He described each bruise and cut, then took his scalpel and made an incision from the top of the chest to the bottom of the abdomen. After he had cut open the chest, he continued his description. He told of the torn liver, spleen and lungs; the amount of blood in the chest cavity and abdomen. When he had finished, he turned his attention to the head. He made an incision from ear to ear along the base of the skull and peeled the scalp forward. Then he took an electric bone saw and cut off the top of the skull. He described the fracture of the skull and the mass of blood in the cranial cavity. Then he took out the brain and placed it on a board. When he cut into the substance of the brain, a cluster of yellow specks caught his eye. "That's odd," he muttered, "old petechial hemorrhages. I wonder what caused that?" He put the brain into a large plastic container filled with formaldehyde and some pieces of the other organs into a smaller container. Then he finished his report and helped his assistant place the body of the man on a Gurney and put the body of the woman on the autopsy table. He repeated the procedure on the woman. When he cut into the brain he saw the same cluster of tiny yellow spots that he had seen in the brain of the man. He collected his specimens, finished dictating his report, took off his apron and gloves and went to his office. There he shed his lab coat put on his suit jacket and left for the pathology seminar at the university.

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