12.Things Begin to Happen

It was about 3 P.M. when Sam arrived at the medical school. He was hungry, so he went down to the cafeteria and picked up a sandwich and a glass of milk. As he was munching his sandwich, he heard a man at the adjacent table say to Dr. Henry Steinwald, the head of the Pathology Department, ".....and, believe it or not, they were screwing when the truck hit the car." Sam's ears pricked up. "But that isn't the most surprising thing. Besides the usual ruptured spleen and liver, both of their brains had what looked like old petechial hemorrhages."

"What color where the spots?" The head of pathology said.


"Then there's no way that it could have been caused by the accident. They must have had an encephalitis some time before the accident."

Sam got up and went to the adjacent table.

"Hank," he said to the head of pathology," I couldn't help overhearing what you were talking about. It just so happens that I'm working on a problem involving a possible epidemic of a disease that may produce encephalitis."

"Sit down, Sam" said Steinwald, "I want you to meet Dr.John Elliot; he's the Salt Lake County Coroner. John, Sam is an epidemiologist."

"Tell me about this case that you were talking about." Sam said.

"It's a real weird one, "Elliott replied. "This middle aged married couple were screwing in their car on the runaway truck turnoff in Parley's Canyon at one o'clock in the morning when a semi ploughs into them at seventy miles an hour. When I did the autopsy, I found the usual stuff that you get with an accident, but there were also these old petechial hemorrhages. I sort of wondered if they were related."

"What parts of the brain were they in?" Sam asked; not knowing what he would do with the answer if he got it.

"I don't examine a brain in that kind of detail. I just take a little slice out if it. If you want to know more, you'd have to have the brain examined by a neuropathologist."

"Do you still have the brains?" asked Sam, unable to conceal his excitement.

"Sure and if you're willing to do the leg work, you can take them to a neuropathologist.The closest one is at the Langdon Institute in San Francisco. Harry Solomon is the best in the business."

"Could I get the whole story and your autopsy report?"

"Sure, I'll give you a copy of the autopsy report; but you'll have to see Sergeant Young at the Highway patrol for the story. Just tell him that I sent you."

"Could I get the brains tomorrow?"

"Sure, come over tomorrow afternoon and I'll give them to you along with a letter to Dr. Solomon."

They chatted casually for a few minutes and then Sam left, thinking to himself, What luck! What incredible luck!

The next day Sam went to Dr. Elliott's office. The brains were in plastic containers, neatly labeled, along with two copies of the autopsy report, one for Sam and one for Dr. Solomon. There was also a letter of introduction.

Sam telephoned Dr. Solomon and made an appointment for two days hence.

Next he phoned Sue. He told her what he had found out and about the appointment with Dr. Solomon.

"He's one of the best" she said.

"You know of him?"

"He taught me most of what I know about neuropathology. He was a visiting prof at Oxford."

"I won't understand much of what he says. Why don't you meet me in San Francisco?"

"I can't be there tomorrow; would the day after do?"

"Wonderful! Call me back with your flight numbers and I'll meet the plane. I miss you terribly"

"I miss you too."

Sue called half an hour later with her plane reservations and Sam then phoned the airline and reserved a flight that arrived in San Francisco about an hour before Sue's flight. Then he reserved a room at the Clift Hotel.

That evening Sam visited with his children. They remarked about how happy he looked. He explained it away by telling them that he had a new and fascinating project. Being young and naive, they believed him and didn't press him for details.

When he returned to his apartment, he made some plans. Obviously, he couldn't do all of the work himself nor could he be everywhere at once. It was necessary to have someone at every focus of Epidemic E. He could cover Ogden himself and Monser could cover L.A. That left San Francisco. He decided to find out if Eric Harper was interested in handling it.

Eric Harper, Sam's graduate student, was an exceptionally bright man in his late twenties. Eric decided, somewhere in the middle of his stint in medical school, that he didn't want to take care of sick people and that he preferred research. In his third year of medical school he started doing research under Sam's supervision. Now, three years after receiving his M.D., Eric was finishing up his Ph.D. thesis. Sam thought that, for his age, he had a good grasp of what both medicine and research were all about.

Sam called Eric to his office. Eric was of medium height, with flaming red hair and freckles. He looked much younger than his age which Sam thought might prove a handicap in extracting information about peoples sex lives. Nevertheless, he knew Eric and trusted him implicitly.

"Eric," Sam said, "is your thesis finished?"

"It's getting its final typing now. All that I have left is the proof reading. It's been approved by everybody who has to approve it. In short, everything's done but the ceremony.

"Do you have any kind of job lined up?"

" No, I haven't looked. I was hoping that I could stick around here for a while, finish up some research and write a couple of papers. I'm kind-of thesised out. I don't really want a job before next September."

"I'm working on a government project. How would you like to handle part of it for me? But, before I tell you about it, you have to promise to keep it secret."

"Oh, if it's one of those germ warfare things, I'm not interested."

"It's not remotely connected with the military. It's a straight epidemiologic problem. It's secret because if information about it leaked out, it would create all sorts of social problems."

"There's a new social disease?"

"You might put it that way. If you agree to keep your mouth shut, I'll tell you about it."

"My lips are sealed!"

By the time Sam had finished telling him about Epidemic E., it was obvious that he was not only interested, but enthusiastic.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I need someone to investigate the cases in San Francisco. We have almost no information about them. We don't know if any of them are interrelated. More than that, I want you to keep your eyes open for some clue about what may be causing this thing."

"When do I start?"

"How about right now?"

"Fine! One more question: do I get paid?"

"What do you think you're worth?"

Eric named a modest figure.

"Fair enough. All of your expenses while you are out of Salt Lake are on Uncle Sam. I'll get you a credit card and you'll be reimbursed for all cash expenses that you have a receipt for."

Sam gave Eric the San Francisco file and sent him on his way. He called Annabelle and told her to arrange to put Eric on the payroll and get him the necessary credit cards and airplane tickets.

After getting Eric on the road, Sam called Sgt.Young and got as much information as was available including the names of the next of kin. The couples oldest daughter was most informative. She told Sam that her parents had been severely ill about a week and a half before the accident, with headache and fever, but that they had felt fine the week before the accident; in fact they had seemed exceptionally happy. On the night of the accident, they had been celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary at Park City and were driving home when the accident happened (Obviously, she had not been told of the circumstances of the accident). On the pretense of completing the record, he asked what her and her husband's occupations were, how many children she had and what age. They had a seven year old daughter and a two year old son.

"Does your daughter go to school in Salt Lake?' Sam asked.

"No, we send her to a private school in Ogden."

"Which one?"

"The Benedict School." She answered.

Sam was amazed at the incredible luck that he was having. Everything seemed to be fitting into place -everything, that is, except the cause of the disease.

He picked up a pizza and a six pack of beer, then went home, where he plopped himself in front of the T.V. in an attempt to take his mind off Sue. After all, he wasn't leaving for San Francisco until the following morning.

The evening news was on. Besides the usual mayhem, there was a special in which Harry Reasoner discussed the rash of sexual misbehavior in the country. He pointed to Los Angeles and the movies as the hub of the problem, documenting how the films and the public's attitude had changed in the past thirty years. This was done with the help of film clips from popular movies of the past and present. He took his camera to San Francisco, which he described as the most sexually permissive city in the country and to Salt Lake City which he described as being "at the other end of the spectrum." He declared that it didn't seem to make much difference since both cities were involved in the rash of sexual incidents that seemed to be sweeping the country. Apparently he considered Ogden as a suburb of Salt Lake. His final comment was that perhaps we have moved to fast in the direction of sexual freedom and that perhaps those who advocated a return to "good old-fashioned morality" might have the right idea after all. He also pointed out that the good old-fashioned morality was not quite as good as we might wish to remember it.

The news media had not tumbled to Epidemic E. What, thought Sam, would happen when they did? Would finding out that sexual problems can be due to a real disease result in the classification of certain aspects of sex as a mental illness.But what a mental illness!

The news program was followed by a movie called "Incest," which was the story of a thirteen year old girl who was having an affair with her sixty year old grandfather. After watching the movie, Sam wondered if maybe Reasoner was right. There certainly was enough on the tube to account for a hell of a lot of weird behavior. Epidemic E might turn out to be just a wild goose chase.

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