11 Blue Men Essay Research Paper Eleven — страница 4

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some of the kind of stuff that had gone into the men’s breakfast, so that we could wake a chemical determination at the Department. What I took was ground coffee, sugar, a mixture of evaporated milk and water that passed for cream, some bakery rolls, a five-pound carton of dry oatmeal and some salt. The salt had been used in preparing the oatmeal. That morning, like every morning, the cook told me, he had prepared six gallons of oatmeal, enough to serve about a hundred and twenty-five people. To make it, he used five pounds of dry cereal, four gallons of water – regular city water – and a handful of salt. That was his term – a handful. There was an open gallon can of salt standing on the stove. He said the handful he’d put in that morning’s oatmeal had come from that.

He refilled the can on the stove every morning from a big supply can. He pointed out the big can – it was up on a shelf – and as I was getting it down to take with me, I saw another can, just like it nearby. I took that one down, too. It was also full of salt, or, rather, something that looked like salt. The proprietor said it wasn’t salt. He said it was saltpetre – sodium nitrate that he used in corning beef and in making pastrami. Well, there isn’t any harm in saltpetre; it doesn’t even act as an anti-aphrodisiac, as a lot of people seem to think. But I wrapped it up with the other loot and took it along, just for fun. The fact is, I guess, everything in that damn place looked like poison.” After Dr. Pellitteri had deposited his loot with a Health Department

chemist, Andrew J. Pensa, who promised to have a report ready by the following afternoon, he dined hurriedly at a restaurant is which he had confidence and returned to Chatham Square. There he spent the evening making the rounds of the lodging houses in that neighborhood. He had heard at Mr. Pensa’s office that an eleventh blue man had been admitted to the hospital, and before going home he wanted to make sure that no other victims had been overlooked. By midnight having covered all the likely places and having rechecked the downtown hospitals, he was satisfied. He repaired to his office and composed a formal progress report for Dr. Greenberg. Then he went home and to bed. The next morning, Tuesday, Dr. Pellitteri dropped by the Eclipse, which was still closed but whose

proprietor and staff he had told to return fn questioning. Dr. Pellitteri had another talk with the proprietor and the cook. He also had a few inconclusive words with the rest of the cafeteria’s employees – two dishwashers, a busboy, and a counterman. As he was leaving, the cook, who had apparently passed an uneasy night with his conscience, remarked that it was possible that he had absent-mindedly refilled the salt can on the stove from the one that contained saltpetre. “That was interesting,” Dr. Pellitteri told me, “even though such a possibility had already occurred to me, and even though I didn’t know whether it was important or not. I assured him that he had nothing to worry about. We had been certain all along that nobody had deliberately poisoned the old

men.” From the Eclipse, Dr. Pellitteri want on to Dr. Greenberg’s office, where Dr. Gettler’s report was waiting. “Gettler’s test for methemoglobin was positive,” Dr. Greenberg said. “It had to be a drug now. Well, so far so good. Then we heard from Pensa.” “Greenberg almost fell out of his chair when he read Pensa’s report,” Dr. Pellitteri observed cheerfully. “That’s an exaggeration,” Dr. Greenberg said. “I’m not easily dumbfounded. We’re inured to the incredible around here. Why, a couple of years ago we had a case involving some numbskull who stuck a fistful of potassium-thiocyanate crystals, a very nasty poison, in the coils of an office water cooler, just for a practical joke. However, I can’t deny that Pensa rather taxed our credulity.

What he had found was that the small can and the one that was supposed to be full of sodium nitrate both contained sodium nitrite. The other food samples, incidentally, were O.K.” “That taxed my credulity,” Dr. Pellitteri said. Dr. Greenberg smiled. “There’s a great deal of difference between nitrate and nitrite,” he continued. “Their only similarity, which is an unfortunate one, is that they both and taste more or less like ordinary table salt. Sodium nitrite isn’t the most powerful poison in the world, but a little of it will do a lot of harm. If you remember, I said that this case was almost without precedent – only ten outbreaks like it on record. Ten is practically none. In fact, sodium-nitrite poisoning is so unusual that some of the standard texts on