Retribution. That’s the goal of Grace Morgen and a small group of supporters. They exact a vigilante revenge on lowlifes who hurt those who cannot defend themselves. The latest case is Michael Jacobs, a violent abuser who tortured and killed his girlfriend’s dog, Pepper. Now Grace, also a bestselling novelist known as Joan Dark, will inflict the same kinds of injuries on the man and leave Jacobs with a “dog killer” tattoo on his forehead.
But just as Grace begins to question if her vigilante quest to stop animal abusers is getting out of control, she stumbles across some important information about her father’s death more than seventeen years ago. His death may not have been an accident after all, but could have been an attempt to silence Dr. Brody Morgen’s questions about wrongdoing at the Glendale Chemical Corporation.
With the help of a reporter, a cop, and a tattooist, Grace and her friends investigate whether GCC illegally used homeless people and animals to foster their experiments. As an advocate for the defenseless, Grace and the group go up against not only a powerful corporation but a Nazi scientist, a gunrunner, and a hit man.
Daniel gave a quick peek in the spot Grace cleaned off on the window as he walked by. Grace led the way in and around a corner toward the interior of the building. She let out a blood curdling scream. She was trying to back away from the explosion of feathers, beaks, and claws. Her arms were flying around, and her feet were running in place doing the Saint Vitus dance. She had stopped and reversed so fast that her and Daniel collided, trying to scream himself, he must have sucked in a feather and started choking; he lost his balance and began to fall backwards. Jack was leaning to look through the same spot Daniel had just looked through when Grace screamed. It bristled every hair on his body. "What is it?" he tried yelling over her screams. He ran around the corner in time to catch and up right Daniel before he hit the ground. He pulled his gun and pushed past them and looked into the room to see what could be the cause of all this helter-skelter. He saw a bunch of pigeons flying out through a hole in the roof, "You lost me ten years," Jack said, “you scared the shit out of me!" He didn’t like the look on their faces; he turned to see what they were looking at. There were only windows on the top half of the walls. As they looked around, the afternoon light fell through the windows. It cast a hellish glow inside the building. Even beyond where the shadows reached, it illuminated somewhat into the corners, the dust particles that floated through the air were only seen in the light. The floor was crudely pored cement. Even with the light, your eyes still had to adjust when trying to look into the corners; the light showed things and then disappeared around them. When they realized what they were looking at, they couldn't move. They stood there with their mouths hanging open. There were hooks in the floor with short chains attached to them, and at the other end there was a collar on a skeleton. Some of the skeletons still had some skin and fur stretched over parts of them. “Are those dog skeletons?” Daniel asked. They looked like they were taking a nap in the sun, like they resolved themselves to the fact that they were never going to leave this place. When the first ones started to die, they all laid down to each wait their turn. “I think they are. I’m not sure. What the hell happened here?” Grace asked. There were at least fifty or more. Each little space had two little dishes by them, the bottom of milk jugs and other things to hold food and water, but no blankets or anything for comfort. They were just laying on cement. There was a pile of skeletons against an outer wall, smaller ones. They stood there in silence. It was a tomb. It was Hell. "Who could do this?" Daniel whispered, snapping them out of their trance. Realizing she had stopped breathing but not when, Grace sucked in a lung full of air and couldn't stop; she started to hyperventilate. Jack went over to steady her, "Grace, slow down; you have got to regulate your breathing, come on slow down . . . in and out slowly, sshhh, sshhh, come on now slower." Her eyes were wide open and she looked close to panic; she had no feeling in her fingers and dropped her bag. It felt like a knife stabbing in her chest. She half expected to see one of the skeletons get up and start frolicking around. Her head was pounding and dizziness was setting in. Moving slowly with her hands in Jack’s she started backing up. She knew she needed air; she had to get out of there. Daniel picked up her bag and followed them outside; it was too creepy to stay in there alone. Jack helped her to sit down. “Daniel and I need to get back in there and get anything that will help us to figure out what this place was . . . while there’s still enough light to see. We can't miss anything that will help get these bastards. Whoever left those dogs to die didn't leave in a hurry. It looks like they had to pack up medical equipment, machinery and filing cabinets. They took their time and they might have left something they didn't think was important," he said. He turned to Grace, "Are you going to be okay?” "Just give me a minute . . . and I'll start taking pictures," she said smiling up at them, feeling a little embarrassed. "I'm fine, really I'm good. Shit, I don't know what happened." She tried to sound more in control then she felt; she didn't want them to worry. Jack was glad to be out of there himself and he didn't want to go back in either. He glanced over at Daniel who was white as a ghost, "Are you all right?" Daniel was setting Grace’s bag down next to her. "That's messed up man! Scurvy bastards! To think there are people that could do something like this. It could be the guy standing next to me in the checkout line at the drugstore, shit!" "The Devil's walking the earth," Jack said, walking back into the building. "The Devil's walking the earth!"
Marianne Pena is a tattooist in northern California. She grew up in Lansing, Michigan and moved to Marinette, Wisconsin in the early ‘90s where she lived for 15 years. No Mercy is her first novel.