Cat Richardson is battle-weary and disillusioned. With a heart and a mouth as big as her 12EEE shoes, she's continually bucking a system choked by hospital politics, egomaniacal doctors and frustrated co-workers. After twenty-five hour days battling chaos, and caring for patients who desperately need her, Cat is losing both patience and her mind.
Meet the characters of MERCY:
CORKY - The handsome 16-year-old from a loving, 'normal' family is hiding a shattering secret he believes only suicide can save him from...
LUCY - The brilliant young artist barely escapes death at the hands of her psychotic super-model boyfriend, yet she still protects the man who savaged her...
STELLA - Trapped inside a body that has turned against her, she's been shuffled from one old folks home to the next for years,. But at age 95, she's about to learn that dreams can come true...
WALKER - A bartender by night and dad to 9-year-old-Chloe by day, he's dying by inches from lung cancer, refusing to let go until he gets some answers about life - answers that magically come from Chloe..
PROFESSOR DEAN - A Berkeley professor in his last days of a losing battle with AIDS, his gentle courage and his faith in life and love help Cat reexamine her own crumbling emotional existence...
EXCERPTS FROM MERCY:
There was movement behind her.
Flickering of the candle. Play of imagination.
Mechanically Cat continued to rub the cream into cheekbone until long after it had disappeared, her gaze fixed on the reflection of the doorway in the mirror.
A prickling sensation waved over her extremities as the air changed, and her heart pounded in her temples. It was like the reverse of when someone died; there was a presence here. Close by. A premonition of disaster, stronger than any dread she had known in her life, immobilized her.
Oh God, she thought, wanting to cry, oh God.
Taking a deep breath, she held it and shook her body out to relax.
Of course she was being absurd. She'd seen too many Hitchcock thrillers. She would walk around and make sure she was alone. Probably just a family of raccoons living under the bed. Tsk. Of course - that was it. Raccoons or field mice.
But her legs would not move. Her mouth went dry, and she became aware of the cool air moving in and out of her throat. With wooden fingers, she touched another dab of cream to her forehead.
It was silly. She was being silly, that was all.
The floor in the hallway creaked and she saw a definite, purposeful movement of shadow.
Had to be the candlelight.
Yeah, it was just the light creating shadows. That was it. What did she expect? In a strange place, all glass and mirrors and the flame jumping around like that? Sure, it was just the light - had to be the candle.
Except the light had nothing to do with the distorted face moving swiftly toward her through the shadows...
Not to be ignored any longer, Walker's pain arrested his thoughts and sent him searching for the call button. He needed to be delivered from the claws tearing inside his chest.
Cat appeared, syringe in hand. "Looking for me?"
"One Brompton's isn't doing it," he grunted. "I need a double shot."
"I read your mind." Cat held up the syringe. "This is the big gun. Morphine. Also called MS. You can have this much once an hour. I can give all of it now, taking a chance that it'll wear off before you can have another dose, or I can give you half now and half in -"
"All of it now." Walker said calmly, even though he was out of his mind with the fire raging in his lungs.
Cat injected the rubber cap on the IV line with his maximum morphine dose and watched the oily swirls race through sugar water toward his veins. Delivery routes to relief.
"You'll be better in a sec, Walker. Relax and let the morphine do its work."
As his pain careened out of control, the drug hit him head-on. He nodded toward the window. "Close the damned curtains on that mouth, will ya?"
Puzzled, Cat looked toward the window and saw the billboard. If she squinted, she could make out what might have been interpreted as a red monster mouth. She closed the curtain. In a painful death, she supposed, everything might have a way of turning macabre...