20.A Hypothesis Takes Shape

When Sam got to Eric Harper's command post, the activity level had tripled. Eric had hired a batch of nurses who were assigned to take care of, and observe, the ill adults.

"Look at this, Sam," Eric said, showing him a chart, "all of our sick people seem to have been in contact with four children. The rest of the adults show nothing." He showed Sam a list of the contacts of one first grader named Allen Grossbeck. Both of his parents were ill; his teachers were ill; and his uncle and aunt who had visited them were ill.

"Only four carriers?" asked Sam.

"That's all so far." answered Eric.

"What about that seriously ill person you told me about over the phone?"

"That was Allen Grossbeck's uncle. He died last night."

Sam shook his head sadly. "Did you get an autopsy?"

"Yes, and we got a whole mess of samples for Zabalka's lab to analyze for virus. We also got lots of samples from all of the ill people and Allen. They're somewhere in Zabalka's mill by now.

Sam went to his room, laid down on the bed and thought about the possibilities. If nothing changes and no one else comes down with the disease, then what we're dealing with is the peculiar situation where there seems to be only an occasional child who has the right whatever to transmit the EE agent. That's why nothing happens when adults are given the vaccine -Schneider's opinion not withstanding. Was this the case with the other so-called epidemics? Were they also due to only a few children? Then he had a thought and rushed back to Eric Harper.

"What about protecting people from this carrier kid?"

"We thought of that. No one of susceptible age is allowed to get near him. All of our nurses and doctors who observe him are too young to get it -we hope."

"When will he cease to be infectious and how will we know?"

"We could expose a susceptible individual to him at weekly intervals. Would you like to volunteer, Sam? You're the right age."

"No thanks! I gave at the office. How about Harvey Schneider?"

"Would you do that to him?"

"He wants to get EE. In fact, he's dying to get EE."

"He might die for real if he got it," Eric said.

"We need more information about what has happened in the past to give us some clues about what might happen in the future. Maybe I'd better go back to Salt Lake and try to track down what happened there. We have one good lead; the kid whose grandparents were killed in that automobile accident. Starting with him, I might be able to reconstruct enough to give you some idea about what to expect. Besides, you seem to have things under control here. I doubt that I'd be much help."

"Don't say that, Sam; we need you to take the blame if I make too many wrong guesses."

"I figured you did. That's why I'm going to Salt Lake City tonight."

On the plane to Salt Lake City, Sam decided that he would start with the Graysons, whose parents had been killed in the automobile accident. Their seven year old daughter was presumably the one who transmitted the disease to her grandparents. The parents were not susceptible, since they were in their middle twenties. He would start with the school and take it from there. If necessary, he could tell the Graysons about the encephalitis that the grandparents of their daughter had had, without mentioning the sexual aspects of it. Still, if possible, it would be best to tell them as little as possible.

The following morning, Sam went to the Benedict School in Ogden. He started with the director of the lower school and gleaned the following information:

Lydia Grayson, age seven, was in the second grade. Her teacher was Miss Ethel Young, age 25. The child had had no direct contact with any of the teachers involved in the teacher's lounge incident.

Her teacher Ethel Young, was a nurturant, very overweight woman with the face of an Italian painter's madonna. Sam questioned her about any illness during the time when the others were ill, being careful to not suggest anything related to sex. He concentrated on headaches and fevers. Other than several colds, she had not been ill. Inquiring about Lydia, he found out that her best friend was Margaret Smith and that they spent a lot of time together.

Sam went to the home of Margaret Smith. Her mother, a woman in her early forties greeted Sam warmly without questioning why he wanted to talk to her. She sat opposite him with her legs apart and her dress hiked slightly above her knees. Sam could see that she wore no underpants. This, he thought, was really a job for a professional interviewer or someone who might make better use of the opportunity. Sam asked her some routine questions about how often they saw Lydia Grayson. She answered all of his questions candidly and did not seem even remotely curious about why he might be asking the questions. While she talked to him she very slowly rubbed her buttocks on the chair. It was as if the upper part of her body was engaged in a conversation with Sam, while her lower half was having a sexual relationship with the chair.

"Yes," she said in answer to his question, "both Fred and I were both very sick. High fever and the most awful headache that I've ever had. But we both got better -much better!" she said with an emphasis and intonation that told Sam exactly what he wanted to know.

"Mr. Michaelson, can I get you something to drink? We don't use alcohol, but I have some for medicinal purposes. I'd be glad to mix a highball for you. In fact, I think that you're just so nice that I'd do almost anything you wanted."

The doorbell rang and she answered it. At the door was a woman who was obviously her identical twin. She had an empty cup in her hand. " I didn't know you had company. I'll come back later."

"Mr. Michaelson, this is my sister Mary. Mary, this is Mr. Michaelson. He's from the University. They're doing some research on that sickness Fred and I had." She turned to Sam, "Mary took care of Fred and me when we were sick. She spent three whole days with us."

"Glad to meet you," she said. "Carrie, could you spare a cup of sugar?"

"You bet!" she said. "I'll be back in a minute, Mr. Michaelson."

They went into the kitchen. Sam couldn't help overhearing the conversation.

"Carrie, you tell that husband of yours to keep his hands to himself. Last night, when we were in the kitchen, he was all over me."

"Don't make such a fuss over it. He was only being playful."

"I don't know what's come over you since you were sick. Before, you would have taken a rolling-pin to his skull for fooling around. Now you act as if it doesn't matter what he does, even if it's to your own sister. For that matter, you don't seem to care what you do."

"Stop judging me, Mary. You weren't exactly an angel yourself."

"Maybe I wasn't, but I behave myself now that I'm married and I expect my husband to do the same."

The situation couldn't have been clearer. Carrie Smith and her husband had EE. Her twin, who was heavily exposed to them, did not. It was a good bet from this and the other observations that had been made, that people with EE are probably not contagious. Apparently, only a child can spread it. The next question to answer is: for how long is the child contagious?

A conversation with Lydia Grayson's parents failed to provide Sam with any contacts other than her grandparents and the Smiths. There had to be another child who was spreading EE. He returned to the director of the lower school. This time he asked her if the teachers involved in "the incident" had any children whom they all taught.

" Yes, they were all involved with the sixth grade. One was it's home room teacher and the rest taught special subjects to the fourth through sixth grade."

"How many children in the home room section?"


" I don't know quite how to say this, but have there been any incidents similar to the teacher's lounge thing, involving parents or friends of the children in that class?"

She thought for a few moments then said "I don't know anything about the parents or friends; just the children."

"Have there been any changes in the children's behavior?" asked Sam on the outside chance that it might lead to something. If at all possible, Sam wanted to avoid interviewing the parents and neighbors of the whole class of eighteen.

"I've had some trivial complaints about Willy Wharton."

"What kind of complaints?"

"Just acting up in class; nothing important."

Sam decided to start with Willy Wharton. It seemed as good a place to start as any. First he talked to his teacher. Needless to say, it was a different one from the one involved in the orgy.

"Well," she said, "I don't know what to make of it. He's only eleven and he acts like a teenager. He seems obsessed with sex. I talked to his parents and they seem exceptionally happy; not the stressed family that you usually find when kids start acting up. In fact, I was a bit surprised at how much touching his parents did for people their age -they're in their forties."

Sam figured that, once again, he had made a lucky guess.

Willy Wharton's happy secure world took a nose dive. He had come home from school one day to find both of his parents in bed, moaning in pain. It was bad enough when one was sick, but both being ill was intolerable. If they both die, I'll be all alone -and they looked as if death were a real possibility.

"Willy," his mother sighed, "your father and I will be O.K. in a little while. Why don't you warm up the casserole in the refrigerator for your supper. Put it in the oven at 350 for half an hour. Then you can go down to Mardekians for an ice cream."

It was a real comfort to him that his mother was well enough to tell him what to do. When he had finished eating his dinner, he went down to Mardekians only to find the store closed. He went around to the back and rang the bell.

"Who's there?"


"Go away Willy, Aram's voice said. Martha and me are sick. Come back on Monday."

Now his world had really collapsed. He went home and looked in at his parents once again. They were asleep. He turned on the television and watched it until he got sleepy, then he went to bed. If he had even guessed that he, Willy, was the cause of all of the things that were happening he would have been devastated, but he had no idea that he was carrying the germs that had made both his parents and the Mardekians ill

His parents were asleep when he woke up, so he quietly got his breakfast, dry cereal and milk, and then tiptoed into his parents room. He whispered in his mothers ear, "I'm going to school now."

She half opened her eyes. "That's a good boy," she said and went back to sleep. He repeated the procedure with his father. They were both alive anyway, he thought.

On the following day, his grandmother was there when he returned from school. She fixed dinner for him and fruit juice for his parents. After she tucked him into bed, she went home. It was the same on the day after that. The Mardekian's store was still closed.

On the fourth day, he awoke to the smell of coffee and frying bacon. He jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen. His mother greeted him with a big hug and kiss and told him what a wonderful son he was and how well he had managed when they were sick. His father sat at the table reading the paper and he gave his son as big a hug as he ever had.

He noticed as he walked toward school that Mardekians was open, so he went in and said hello to Aram and Martha. They were glad to see him and gave him a jawbreaker.

When school was over, he went home. When he entered the house, he heard some strange sounds coming from his parents bedroom. He looked in the half open door and saw his mother and father both naked on the bed. He was on top of her and her legs were wrapped around him. She was moaning awfully funny. At first he thought that she was being hurt, but then she rolled over on top of his father and started bouncing up and down on him. He guessed that this was that sex thing that the older boys always talked about. He also knew that it was something that he wasn't supposed to be watching, so he went into the kitchen, got some cookies and a glass of milk. A few minutes later, his mother came in, dressed in a bathrobe.

"How long have you been home?" she asked.

"Oh, I just got here," he lied. He saw a relieved look on his mothers face.

That night, just as he was about to fall asleep, he heard the same noises coming from his parents bedroom. He tiptoed to the door but found that their bedroom door was closed. He could hear laughter on the other side of the door, so he knew that everything was all right. I guess that's the way grownups play, he thought. He had heard that that was the way that babies were made and wondered whether he would have a new brother or sister soon.

School let out an hour early because the teachers were having some kind of meeting, so Willy went to the Mardekian's store. The front was empty, so he went to the back and looked through the curtain that separated the store from their residence. Mrs. Mardekian was bent over against the wall, with her dress up. Mr. Mardekian, with his pants down was rocking back and forth behind her, holding her firmly by her hips. Willy thought that he could see Mr. Mardekian sticking his large penis into her. Again he knew that he had seen the forbidden, so he tiptoed out before he was seen. Something was happening to Willy as well, because he felt a funny but nice feeling in his penis when he watched his parents and the Mardekians.

Willy decided that if it was so much fun, that he wanted to try it. After school he took a walk with Caroline Albertson. In the park he told her what he had seen and asked her if she would like to try it with him. She got a funny look on her face; like when she's playing a game and is playing hard and winning. Then she suddenly got a very serious look on her face and said ," Willy Wharton, you're nasty dirty and I don't want to be your friend any more." So he pushed her on the ground and pulled her skirt up and took off her panties. When he tried to open his pants, she pushed him off and ran away. He could hardly try to catch her with his pants around his knees, so he pulled up his pants, shrugged, philosophically, and walked home. On the way home, he met Candace Foster and propositioned her. She said that nice boys don't talk to girls like that. He shrugged that off too, thinking what does she know about it.

Willy kept trying. He tried to lift a girl's skirt in class and she reported him to the teacher, who sent him to the principal. The principal gave him a lecture about how such behavior would not be tolerated, and that if he did it again he would be suspended and his parents would be informed. He decided that he would have to be more careful. In the process, he learned to make inquiries in such a way that they wouldn't get him into trouble. He finally found the girl he was looking for in Lulabelle Dodge. She invited him up to her room where they both undressed and tried out what he had seen. While he found it pleasant enough, he couldn't understand the enthusiasm the adults seem to show. Maybe it was because his penis wasn't big enough yet, he thought.

He talked to Tommy, the sixteen year old who also delivered for the Mardekians. Tommy said that when he grew up, that it would be different for him, because men's penises got stiff when a man got near a naked woman. Willy didn't think that he would have any trouble waiting.

With his address list in hand, Sam headed for the residence of Willy Wharton. He parked his car and realized that it was one o'clock and he was hungry. On the corner was a small grocery store with a large sign that said "MARDEKIAN'S." When he got there, the door was locked and a sign said "Be Back at 2:00." An old man sat on the porch of the adjacent house.

"How come the store's closed?" Sam asked.

"Aram and Martha decided a couple of weeks ago that they would start taking two hour lunches. So now they close the store every day from twelve to two."

It didn't take much for Sam to figure out what had happened. EE Willie had struck. But just to make sure, he would return at two. He walked a few blocks to a Dee's Hamburgers, where he assuaged his hunger. Then he went to the Wharton house.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Wharton were at home. Mr. Wharton worked for the Kennecott Copper Company, which was on strike.

"It's great to be able to stay home these days. Gives me lots of time to do the things that I really want to do." Sam didn't ask what that was. He could make a pretty accurate guess, especially after they told him how ill they had been and how wonderful things have been since. Mrs. Warton did admit that Willy had made a bit of a pest of himself when they wanted to be alone and that they had sent him out of the house a couple of times.

Sam explained that he was investigating the spread of polio vaccine virus to adults, because they had had reports of a few people becoming ill after exposure to children who had had live polio vaccine. Would they be good enough to tell him what adults Willy had had contact with in the last month.

"Last week end we had a family reunion. There were so many people that it would be hard to list," Mrs. Wharton said.

"Have any been ill since then?"

"Not that I know of."

"Would you know if any where?"

"Oh yes! We're a very close family."

"Would you call me if any develop fever and headaches?"

"I'd be glad to."

"What other contacts has he had?"

" About three weeks ago my oldest brother and his wife were over for the evening. I remember the date, because all that we talked about was that incident at the school with the teachers orgy. The newspapers were full of it."

"Were they at the reunion?"

"Yes, but they only stayed long enough to say hello to everyone -they seemed anxious to leave; as if they had other important things to do."

"Then there was Ruth Santilla who sat with Willy when my husband and I went to a movie. That was about a week after that incident."

"Tell me something about her."

"She's a widow in her forties."

Sam decided that he would leave interviewing her to a female.

"Anyone else?"

"Not that I can recall."

"Could you give me their name and phone number. I have a few routine questions to ask them. Does Willy go to the grocery store?"

"I forgot about that. It's his second home. The Mardekians love him like he was their own son. He delivers groceries for them."

Sam left his phone number and got the phone numbers of the people she had mentioned. He decided not to bother interviewing the Mardekians at this time. Maybe later, he thought. If no one from the family reunion shows symptoms in the next week or so, it would be a good indication that, like polio, the infectious period didn't last for much more than a month. Should he talk to Willy? No, he thought, that would be a bit like putting his head into the lion's mouth. His experiment with Sue had been a sobering one. Although Willy was probably no longer contagious, Sam wasn't about to test it personally.

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