Sometimes, you don't have to be all-powerful to have a name that strikes fear into the hearts of all those who dare who utter it. More often than not, it just takes a little bit of cunning and a well-placed show of power to become one of the most feared tricksters in the world. Tonight on Deadliest Fiction, we have a showdown between two such schemers, men who have outwitted beings far more powerful than anything beyond our comprehension and come out on top. Prepare to be riveted as John Constantine, the magical conman who outwitted the Devil himself, faces off with Mr. C, the evil clone of Dale Cooper who escaped the Red Room and built a vast criminal empire! It'll be a true game of wits, but only can come out on top and give us the answer to the ultimate question...
- 1 Intro
- 2 Weapons, Equipment, and Abilities
- 3 X-Factors
- 4 Scenario
- 5 Notes
- 6 The Battle
The latest in a long line of tricksters deemed the "Laughing Magician", the first of many lucky breaks for John Constantine occurred when his healthy twin died in the womb, giving the sickly John the strength to survive his mother dying in the process of giving birth to them. This drove a wedge between John and his resentful father, leading John to become a free-spirited and rebellious young man who began dabbling in magic and the occult as a way of living up to his lineage before eventually running away from home after cursing his father and leaving his older sister on her own.
On his own, John immersed himself with the underground punk and magic scene, striking up a relationship with Zatanna Zatara and forming a punk band called Mucous Membrane, though these adventures came to an end when the band found their way to the Casanova Club in Newcastle, where a young girl named Astra tormented by a demon. John, in an ill-advised attempt to help, summoned the demon Nergal to kill the monster, but an unbound Nergal killed her mother, tortured his friends, and dragged Astra to Hell. Traumatized and guilt-ridden, John was committed to a psych ward for several years until he's broken out by gangsters who force him to ressurrect their boss's child, though John instead puts a demon in the boy's place to hide the fact that ressurection is impossible.
Once again left to wander on his own, John reluctantly got back into the occult, serving as an unlikely hero and allying himself with the likes of Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and the Phantom Stranger against a variety of threats to the world, all while serving as a detective, con man, and trickster who protects the little guy against those in power who would do them harm.
The doppleganger of Agent Dale Cooper created by BOB, Mr. C was born into the world after trapping Cooper in the Black Lodge and taking his place, working alongside BOB in controlling the agent's body. Upon awaking in the town of Twin Peaks, Mr. C quickly embarked on a spree of evil and terror, raping a comatose Audrey Horne and murdering Major Garland Briggs before vanishing, using Cooper's knowledge and extensive contacts to build an expansive criminal empire across the world, eluding both authorities and the entities of the Lodge, who hoped to return him to his rightful place.
After twenty-five years, C eluded both an attempt on his life by his former criminal associates, seemingly ordered by Phillip Jeffries, another FBI agent lost to the Lodge, and an attempt to forcibly return him to the Lodge, which he escaped by creating a tulpa of Cooper named Dougie Jones that he sent the man's spirit into instead. The latter effort left him weakened and open to be arrested, leading to an encounter with Cooper's old friends from the FBI, though he manages to escape from prison and continued on his journey to meet with the mysterious "Judy". This journey brought him into contact with Jeffries, who swore to have no hand in the assassination attempt, and his bastard son, Richard Horne, who inherited his violent, selfish nature. Sensing that the coordinates given to him are a trap, C sacrifices Richard before traveling to the coordinates and having a brief confrontation with the Fireman, who teleports him to the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department.
Attempting to impersonate Cooper, C meets Sheriff Frank Truman with the intention of slaughtering the department, but Lucy Brennan sees through the ruse and shoots the doppleganger, mortally wounding him and leaving him open for Cooper to place the Owl Cave ring upon his finger, forcing BOB out of his body and sending him back to the Lodge, where he burned for an eternity.
Weapons, Equipment, and Abilities
Weapons and Equipment:
- Trenchcoat: John's coat is almost as old as he is, and has the tears and stains to prove it. More importantly, the coat effectively acts as a lightning rod for stray magic, absorbing it into itself and making it a sentient being. Without John, the coat embarked on a killing spree, moving on it's own accord to strangle and attack people, though it's seemingly still loyal to John, killing people at his command. It can also brainwash people who wear it into taking on John's personality and transfer damage it takes onto others, such as when it lit John on fire to avoid being destroyed.
Powers and Abilities:
- Expert Magician: John is an extraordinarily talented and powerful wielder of magic, though he's unique in that his usage of magic is more limited, mixed with his own trickery and prep time to fit the situation at hand. He knows a wide variety of spells, including:
- Curses: John's favored spell is curses, and he knows a variety of curses well enough that he can cast them without speaking an incantation. Examples of his curses include making his father waste away, leaving a would-be gang of rapists catatonic, and outright making a demon explode by simply touching it.
- Illusions: John is a master of illusion and deception, capable of casting spells that ca fool hardened and experienced criminals and villains, like tricking a group of gangsters into thinking they were being attacked by zombies and creating a projection of a corpse so vivid that you could smell it. His knowledge of illusions works both ways, as he can easily see through tricks put on by supposedly invisible demons and force them to drop them.
- Hypnotism: John knows several spells that enable him to easily control the mind of people, with one as simple as looking you in the eye and calmly counting down from ten to being able to revert someone's mind to a childlike state and instigate a prison riot among dozens of inmates. He can also read people's minds by touching them, often allowing him to pick up information without the subject realizing, alongside erase and alter memories.
- Summoning/Evocation: Another of John's favored tactics is summoning demons and the undead to fight his battles for him, with more complex rituals allowing him to summon stronger creatures, though this comes with the downside of being harder to bind to him, meaning he often sticks to smaller beings like demonic animals such as crows, vengeful spirits with the Soulstorm spell, though this required being in a place where the spirits had died, or the undead, like when he tricked a hitman into naming several of his victims so John could invoke them or when he created a golem, though that required a pre-existing body for him to draw the appropriate sigils on.
- Binding: A crucial element of summoning and combatting demons and spirits is the ability to bind them to a place, person, or object, like when John bound a powerful demon into his friend Gaz, ensuring that it could only harm him without escaping, or when he tricked a ghost into entering a tree, then quickly bound it inside, trapping it for eternity. It can also work on living things, like when he cast a spell that trapped a giant in place.
- Exorcism: John can also expel demons and spirits from the mortal realm using sigils and specific incantations, to the point where he was able to banish the god Khali. He can also use exorcism to force demons into physical forms, enabling them to be harmed, which enabled him to trap and defeat the demon Fuckpig.
- Wards/Shields: John can create magical shields that protect him from physical and magical attack and allow him to hide from magical detection. One of these shields was strong enough to hold back blows from Swamp Thing, while his wards made it impossible for Nergal or the First of the Fallen to find him. On top of larger shields, John can also place smaller sigils on his body that allow him to reflect damage onto others and make him impossible to possess.
- Teleportation: John can easily travel anywhere across Earth, Heaven, or Hell with a well-placed portal, an ability that extends to other people or objects, like when he replaced cocaine with the ashes of a member of the Royal Family as a gag.
- Astral Projection: For when his spirit is needed and not his physical form, John can also astrally project himself, enabling him to access places like Cyberspace, the Green, and the Dreamtime.
- Invisibility: John can place sigils on himself that make him invisible, alongside being able to spot supposedly invisible beings.
- Divination: John is talented with divination, which enables him to see knowledge of the future and the unknown. He was able to use this power to track down his niece using one of her old toys, and he appears to have a limited precognitive abilities, as he correctly guessed the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and sensed a coming storm in Louisiana, bringing him into contact with Swamp Thing.
- Pyromancy: John can summon fire and hellfire, either as a way of attacking threats or doing things as mundane as making light sources or lighting cigarettes.
- Synchronicity Wave Travelling: The signature ability of the Laughing Magician, Synchronicity Wave Travelling is an ability that allows John to effectively control his own luck, ensuring things always go his way. This can be as minor as rigging coin flips and getting perfect shots in pool to spells backfiring and missing him and a speeding car swerving and crashing rather than hitting him. While it is powerful, it doesn't completely rig things in John's favor, nor does it protect John allies and friends.
- Nergal Blood: John has the blood of the demon Nergal in his system as part of a deal to stop a second messiah. The blood has powerful healing properties, as John was able to recover from multiple broken limbs in a manner of minutes, and is also highly poisonous, stunning the king of the vampires when he attempted to drink John's blood and leaving him helpless when the sun rose.
- Occult Expert: John has an extensive, detailed knowledge on the supernatural, making him a trusted expert and source for others on topics like magic, demons, and the stranger corners of the DC Universe like the Parliament of Trees.
- Master Strategist/Manipulator: John is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and dangerous men alive, regularly outwitting serial killers, hitmen, vampires, and demons, and gods and coming out none the worse for wear thanks to a mixture of his wits, knowledge, and ruthlessness. He's so skilled at manipulation and deception that, even when drunk, he was able to trick the First of the Fallen into drinking Holy Water, and later forced all three of the Fallen to cure his cancer or risk a destructive war by making each of them claim his soul with the others unaware.
- Skilled Brawler: While not a talented fighter in the traditional sense, John is good at using stealth and misdirection to win up-close fights, often distracting foes so he can go for cheap shots like a kick to the groin or a sharp blow to the nose, quickly ending things. Despite his wiry build, he's strong enough to break a man's nose with a well-placed strike and ripped Nergal's spine out with little effort.
Weapons and Equipment:
- Jericho 941 F: The Doppleganger's personal sidearm is the Jericho 941 F, a semi-automatic pistol with a 10-round magazine.
Powers and Abilities:
- Super-Human Strength: As an otherworldly being, the Doppleganger is shown to be incredibly strong, effortlessly defeating Renzo, a man substantially taller and more muscular than him, in an arm-wrestling competition, than caving in his face with one punch. In more casual situations, he regularly and easily destroys phones with his bare hands, and kept Darya, a fully-grown woman, restrained with one hand before giving her a black eye with one hit.
- Lodge Knowledge: The Doppleganger is shown to have a similarly otherworldly ability to gather knowledge and secrets as the other Lodge spirits, knowing things that he shouldn't know, which he used to blackmail the warden of the jail he and his associate Ray were in into letting him go, and being able to perceive the Red Room even when he's not in it.
- Tulpa Creation: Thanks to having BOB inside of him, the Doppleganger can create tulpas, conjured duplicates of people created from a small gold seed and a bit of organic material such as hair or traces of skin. The tulpas can either be born with no memories beyond their creation, like Dougie Jones or the Doppleganger himself, or continue to believe themselves as the true creation, in the case of the Diane tulpa. Upon death or the need of the Lodge spirits, the tulpa will vanish to the Red Room, where it will be destroyed.
- Expert Tactician/Manipulator: As a clone of Dale Cooper, the Doppleganger possesses his intellect and observant nature, but replaces his eccentricity and optimism with a ruthless cynicism, often playing off of people's worst tendencies to further his own goals and agendas. Using his wit, he was able to build an expansive criminal empire and stay one step ahead of both the Blue Rose task force and the other Lodge spirits, laying a variety of schemes that helped him stay perpetually just out of reach, from an elaborate prison break to creating Dougie Jones to avoid his scheduled return to the Lodge. Unlike Cooper, however, the Doppleganger is shown to be arrogant, underestimating the intellect of those around him like Ray or the Twin Peak Sheriff's Department, which ultimately led to his death.
- Minions: The Doppleganger has a fairly notable and connected criminal organization, alongside being more aided by the more hostile beings within the Black Lodge, meaning he has a variety of subordinates to call upon as needed. For this match, he has:
Hutch and Chantal are a husband and wife hitman duo and, notably, the only members of the Doppleganger's crew that he appears to have any trust or respect for, even at one point engaging in a relationship with Chantal with Hutch's consent. Despite their unkempt appearance, tendency to take part in rambling conversations about religion and the government, and obsession with junk food, the pair are shown to be highly competent, easily eliminating targets and escaping the scene with no one able to ID them. After killing Warden Murphy under their boss's orders, the pair are ordered to kill Dougie Jones, as all other attempts failed, sending them to Las Vegas, where they stake out Jones's house.
This proves to be a mistake, as they choose to block the driveway of the Jones family's neighbor, a short-tempered Polish accountant who demanded they move from his driveway. When they refuse, he attempts to move their van with his car, prompting an annoyed Chantal to shoot at him, causing him to pull his own gun and fire back, leading to a chaotic shootout in which both Chantal and Hutch are killed.
For weapons, they used:
- Para-Ordnance P18: As her personal sidearm, Chantal uses a Para-Ordnance P18, a semi-automatic pistol with a 14-round magazine.
- Remington 870: In his shootout with the Polish accountant, Hutch wields a short-barreled Remington 870, a pump-action shotgun with 8 rounds per clip and a shortened range due to the shorter size of the gun.
The Woodsmen are mysterious, demonic creatures that take the form of disheveled, bearded men with soot on their faces, seemingly born from the aftermath of the Trinity nuclear test opening a connection between our world and theirs. On August 1956, a group of Woodsmen descended on a town in New Mexico, taking part in several murders and frightening numerous people before ultimately attacking a radio station and killing it's employees, allowing their leader to broadcast a message that caused numerous people to lose consciousness. One of these people, a girl heavily implied to be a young Sarah Palmer, was subsequently attacked by a strange, bug-frog hybrid creature, who crept into her mouth while she lay knocked out.
When not doing their bidding on Earth, the Woodsmen lived in the Black Lodge, accessing it through a seemingly abandoned convenience store in the middle of nowhere. In the Lodge, the creatures took a liking to BOB, taking part in a symbiotic relationship where they aided him in return for leftover garmbozia, the energy created by pain and suffering that the Lodge spirits feed off of. During the Doppleganger's journey, the Woodsmen served as regular allies, stalking and killing people as needed and at one point returning him back to life after his death at the hands of Ray. Despite this, their true loyalty to BOB showed following the Doppleganger's second death, where they declined to revive him, abandoning him to his fate in the Black Lodge and instead focused on saving BOB. After BOB's defeat, the Woodsmen were not seen again, making their ultimate fate and role unclear.
Powers and Abilities:
- Super-Human Strength: The Woodsmen are noted to be incredibly strong, capable of crushing a man's skull and punching another's head completely inward with no effort.
- Hypnosis: By repeating the phrase "This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.", the Woodsmen can hypnotize people into falling unconscious, leaving them totally asleep and unable to wake up so long as the phrase is being repeated.
- Healing Magic: The Woodsmen appeared to have some form of healing ability, as they revived the Doppleganger after he was shot by Ray. The process is strange and takes a few minutes, as the one time it witnessed involved them smearing blood all over the Doppleganger, removing the BOB orb from his chest, then leaving him to recover. Notably, they won't save the Doppleganger if he is forced to return to the Lodge, as Cooper placing the Owl Cave ring upon his finger made them choose to save only BOB.
- Invisibility: Like the rest of the Lodge spirits, the Woodsmen can choose who sees them, which enabled them to stalk and observe targets with said targets none the wiser. Only those who have been to the Lodge, such as the Diane tulpa and Gordon Cole, seemed capable of observing them, while others didn't even feel their presence when they were right next to them.
|John Constantine||X-Factors||Mr. C|
- John has been in the game for decades, tangling with the supernatural since he was a young man, and he's been pitted against all manner of foe, from simple gangsters to vampires to demons to angels, and even beings like Merlin and the First of the Fallen, a fallen angel more powerful than Lucifer, and he's outwitted and defeated all of them, though often at great cost to those around him. While C was active for twenty-five years in his creation of a formidable criminal organization, he very rarely stepped out of the shadows to take direct charge, preferring to stay back and scheme and deal with the occasional rival or traitor.
- Both John and C are intelligent, quick-thinking and manipulative men who possess a degree of arrogance, with John often biting off more than he can chew while C tends to view his subordinates and enemies as beneath him, leading to them surprising him when he doesn't expect it. The true difference is in how they approach situations: John tends to act as the underdog, using the often very limited tricks and schemes at his disposal in creative, ruthless fashion to take on much stronger enemies, and he's not afraid to call on favors as needed, such as using the succubus Ellie to seduce an angel, while C tends to brute force situations, using violence and intimidation to solve problems over any improvised solutions, though he does show moments of creativity, like his scheme to launch a prison break or his creation of Dougie Jones.
- John is a thorough, crafty investigator, with his most dangerous trait being his skill at reading people, allowing him to prey on their emotions and weaknesses to manipulate them as needed, while he also possesses a thorough knowledge of and connection to the occult and supernatural through years of experience and research. He regularly works all angles of a potential confrontation before ever engaging, and is noted for his tendency to have dirt on everyone. C is a doppleganger of Dale Cooper, meaning he's just as perceptive and skilled at picking people apart, but he lacks his warmth and empathy, making people much less likely to trust or confide in him. In terms of actual investigation, C tends to let his Lodge powers guide him rather than any true deductive ability, though these often do the trick for him.
- John is largely a lone wolf, working on his own (save for the times he's dragged his friends and allies into his plans), and while he does have a variety of connections in both the magical and criminal community to pick up information from, he's often on his own. C has an extensive criminal organization at his disposal, giving him everything he needs to stay connected and elude capture.
- John is, by his own admission, a bastard, willing to inflict all manner of pain and suffering on other bastards who choose to prey on or hurt other people, but he is still doing it for what he deems a greater good, and at the end of the day he's still firmly on the side of heroes, with plenty of lines he won't cross. C is both morally the polar opposite of Dale Cooper and a being who feeds off of pain and suffering, meaning there's no vile act he won't stoop to, from rape to torture to murder, and he'll destroy everyone who knows him if it means forwarding his own goals.
A drug epidemic rages across DFederal, leaving both the DFPD and rival criminal organizations stumped at the strange new gang on the scene, led by the enigmatic and brutal "Mr. C". After a chance encounter with a strange being, John Constantine finds himself enlisted in a game of wits against the mysterious crime lord and begins attempting to investigate his true identity, leading them both down a path of manipulation, violence, and danger in which only can prevail.
- John Constantine
- Bring down Mr. C's criminal organization by uncovering his whereabouts.
- Mr. C
- Track down and kill John Constantine.
- John Constantine
- Fail to determine the location of Mr. C.
- Mr. C
- Fail to kill John Constantine.
- Voting ends March 15th.
- The match will, obviously, be set in DFederal.
- C will not initially be aware John is after him, but will become aware if John draws attention to himself in his investigation.
Chapter 1: Synchronicity
“Now, if there’s anything I want you all to take away from this course, it’s that justice isn’t black and white. It’s a system built by people, and people are complicated.”
Professor Matt Murdock ran a hand through his fiery-red hair and paced across the center of the classroom, tapping his cane on the floor as he did so. After clearing his throat, he continued.
“There’s evil in the world, but a lot of people aren’t evil, or even beyond redemption. So, if you’re going to pursue the law as a career field, you need to learn to be willing to look at the bigger picture. For instance, let’s take the case of-“
He stopped, tilting his head slightly at the sound of a student in the back trying to stifle a yawn, then smirked, leaning against his desk and saying, “Although, seeing as how that’s the third yawn I’ve heard in the last ten minutes, and we get out in five, how about we call it a day?”
Surprised, the students began to gather their books and notes and headed for the door, with Matt raising his voice to ensure his instruction of reading their textbooks on the case of Hector Ayala over the weekend was heard. One student, a blonde girl in a red sweater, playfully elbowed her friend, a taller, older brunette girl, in the ribs, giggling as she scolded, “Nice going, Thea, now the hot professor thinks we hate his class.”
Thea, for her part, blushed and mumbled, “Shut up, Sabrina,” as they exited the classroom. His back turned as he gathered his supplies, Matt chuckled, then stopped as he heard the scuffing of shoes, then a polite cough as a particularly thoughtful student walked up behind him. He turned and heard Makoto Niijima ask, “Excuse me, Professor Murdock? Do you have a moment?”
He nodded and gestured for her to speak, leaning back against his desk and crossing his arms as she nervously shifted her footing. After a moment’s hesitation, she spoke up, inquiring calmly, “I was wondering if I could perhaps retake last week’s exam? I’m not satisfied with my score.”
Matt tilted his head quizzically.
“Retake it? Miss Niijima, you scored a 98, it was the highest grade in the class.”
She nodded, stammering slightly.
“Yes, it’s just…I feel I could do better now that I have a better understanding of the material, that’s all.”
After stroking his chin thoughtfully for a few seconds, Matt chuckled warmly, catching her off-guard, then leaned off the desk and replied, “You know, Professor Cooper in Law Enforcement said something about you being something a perfectionist. Personally, I’d take the score, but if the issue of a higher score is that crucial to you, tell me: what do you do when you’re not in school? I assume the Student Council President has a fairly healthy social circle.”
Makoto took a step back, caught off guard by the question, then quickly composed herself, brushing a strand of hair back behind her ear.
“Well, of course, but I fail to see-“
Matt smiled and simply said, “Call them up.”
She stopped and stared at him before asking, surprised, “What?”
Matt shrugged and explained.
“Call up your friends, go out, have an adventure in the city, and then write me, let’s say, two pages about the experience, and I think I’d be willing to give you the extra two points. Sound fair?”
Makoto paused to consider it, then asked, “Yes, but, if I may ask, what does this have to do with criminal justice?”
Matt smiled sadly, then answered, “Because, you’re trying to make the world a better place, Miss Niijima, but if you don’t take a second to appreciate the world, it’ll grind you down, and it’ll all be for nothing.”
Before he could continue, the speakers crackled to life, causing him to wince, and loudly proclaimed, “Makoto Niijima to Dean Summers’s office. I repeat, Makoto Niijima to Dean Summers’s office.”
At the announcement, Matt gathered the last of his things into his bag, slung it over his shoulder, then turned in Makoto’s direction and simply said, “Two pages by Monday, Miss Niijima. And, please, enjoy yourself.”
On that final note, he exited the room, the quiet tap of his cane on the floor echoing down the hallway, and Makoto quickly hurried to the Dean’s office. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door and received a firm, “Come in,” in response. She entered the room to see the Dean’s chair facing the window, the signature glare of his ruby quartz glasses reflecting off the window as he surveyed the campus. More worryingly, a man she recognized as Rick Grimes, the campus resource officer, was sitting in front of the desk. He gave her a friendly nod as she sat down, and Summers turned around to look at her.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve called you here, Miss Niijima.”
Makoto nodded her head, and Scott continued.
“Well, as Student Council President, I feel you have a right to know about this.”
He gestured for Grimes to speak, and the officer cleared his throat and explained, “Right. So I was working on stuff when I caught a student tryin’ to sneak on campus with this.”
He set a large black duffel bag onto Summers’s desk and then unzipped it. Makoto’s eyes widened as she saw the bag filled to the brim with various drugs and paraphernalia. She reached towards the bag, stopping until Grimes gave her a go-ahead, and looked through it, her brow furrowing in concern as she saw each item was marked with a distinctive symbol of a diamond with two half-triangles on either side. As she investigated, Summers sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“It appears, Miss Niijima, that this city’s drug problem has reached our campus.”
Lucas Hood took a sip of coffee as he watched his fellow officers escort several perps into a waiting police van, strangely satisfied in a job well done. Even with the element of surprise on their side, the raid team had found themselves in a hectic shootout, but it was nothing that he hadn’t been through before. One of the officers, standing by the various items seized during the bust, waved at him, and he sighed, setting his coffee cup on top of his squad car and briskly walked over to see what was so important. The officer handed him a white, plastic-wrapped brick and jokingly said, “Never gonna guess what they’re marked with, Hood.”
Lucas turned the brick over to see the same symbol that had been burned into his brain by a solid two months’ worth of briefings and cursed.
“Of fucking course it is. How much have you guys grabbed out of the warehouse?”
The officer exhaled and ran a hand through his hair.
“There’s at least thirty pounds of this shit in there and we aren’t halfway done bagging it. And this is just the coke. We haven’t even started on the rest.”
He paused and gestured with his head behind Lucas, who turned to see his partner, Rama, being accosted by a tall, if unassuming reporter and a bespectacled photographer. Rama did his best to ignore the two as he worked, but Lucas could sense his visible annoyance from across the crime scene. With a mumble of “Goddamned vultures,”, he stormed over to them and gestured towards the taller reporter, who held out a press badge.
“You must be Officer Hood. Clark Kent, DFederal News Network.”
“I don’t give a shit, get behind the tape. And get that camera out of here too.”
Clark sighed and snapped his fingers at the photographer.
“Parker, they want us behind the line.”
Snapping one last photo of three body bags set besides a waiting ambulance, the photographer reluctantly did as told, following his superior back behind the crime scene tape, slightly calming Lucas, who gestured for his partner to go speak with the other officers. Rama gratefully nodded at Lucas and walked away, and the reporter waited until he was gone to speak.
“You know, Hood, we’d be less of a nuisance at these if the department was more willing to divulge information. All we need is a statement on the bust.”
Lucas sighed and snapped, “Fine, you want a statement? I’ll give you the same one you get every time we catch you people over the tape: Our department is taking this ongoing case very seriously, and without exception, we have our absolute best officers working overtime to bring an end to the epidemic. Trust me, these are top guys.”
“SALLY BROWN, SHE’S THE GAL FOR ME, BOYS!”
Arm in arm, John Constantine and Chas Chandler belted out their latest drinking tune as they the staggered out of the Iceberg Lounge, letting the last of their drinking companions catch the door as it swung back and nearly hit him. At the start of the night, it had been a truly bizarre group, a mixture of detectives, vigilantes, hackers, and monster hunters, that had slowly fallen in number as the group hit bar after bar. Akechi had been the first to go, bowing out respectfully after two ciders, with Alistair, ever the lightweight, offering to make sure he got home safely. Bigby left not soon after, throwing an unruly drunk through a window and reluctantly staying behind to work out an agreement with the bar’s owner, while Kara had dragged an enraged Lisbeth home before she could claw the eyes out of a man who had made the mistake of making a pass at her.
This left four, which in turn fell to three when Trevor engaged in a brawl with a particularly surly ogre, though it briefly rose back to four when Jason Todd took a break from his management duties for a few shots before seeing the trio off. This left John, who was doing his best to remember the lyrics to every drinking shanty he knew, Chas, who was attempting to catch his breath before he vomited, and Pete Wisdom, who calmly descended the stairs leading to the lounge, using a small hot knife to light a cigarette.
As John rested against a wall, mumbling to himself, Pete raised an eyebrow and quipped, “Can’t hold the liquor, Johnny?”
John flipped Pete off and grumbled, “Piss off, Wisdom. How the fuck are you all sunshine and roses, anyhow? Bet you didn’t even have a drink tonight, tosser.”
Pete snorted and responded, “You can thank the Black Air anti-toxin training for my cheery demeanor. Amount of drinks needed to get me properly tipsy would kill all three of us.”
John scoffed, staggering forward and shoving a finger into Pete’s chest, swaying and slurring as he snarled, “Ah, get bent, ya bleedin’ knockoff.”
Pete, amused, looked down at John and inquired, “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. You’re a knockoff! Same as Dresden and that Winchester twat. You lot all stole my style, and you don’t even have the nerve to do it half as-“
He stopped, eyes unfocusing slightly, and Pete chuckled as he held up a finger and mumbled, “One moment,” before staggering into a nearby alley, followed by a zip and John letting out a contented sigh. Pete gave a friendly wave to Chas, who didn’t look up from the step he was resting on as he returned the gesture, then walked off into the night, humming the shanty to himself with a content smile.
John mumbled, “Down to Trinidad to see Sally brown, boys,” as he quietly relieved himself on the wall. An advantage of being a pig, he supposed, was that if anyone attempted to stop him he could just flash the badge and tell them to piss off. He laughed to himself. Heh, “piss off". In his drunken condition, he was distracted, paying no mind as he went from pissing on a wall to pissing on a yellow curtain. After a few moments, he stopped, blinking several times as he looked around the room, and gave a surprised curse as he saw a long-haired man in a green hoodie watching him from his chair, a pink-haired girl in a blue dress standing by his side.
Furiously zipping up his fly, John yelled, “Ey! Pretty sure you could just pay somebody if you wanted to watch that kinda show.”
The man gestured for John to sit, to which John responded by pulling a pack of Silk Cuts from his coat and lighting one. After waiting for him to take a drag, the man sighed, then said, “My apologies for grabbing you at an inopportune moment, Constantine, but time is short, and my message is dire.”
John rolled his eyes.
“Oh, a prophecy. Fucking terrific.”
The man cleared his throat, getting a distant look in his eyes as he began to speak. Realizing he likely couldn’t leave wherever the hell he was until they were done, John simply took a seat and another drag of his cigarette.
“In short time, you will be visited by a woman, bearing a strange mark.”
The pink-haired girl raised her arm and made a sweeping gesture, showing a tattoo of a diamond with two half-triangles on either side. As she ran her hand over it, it vanished. John nodded, noting the symbol.
“This will lead you down a path of adventure, and a final confrontation with a strange foe. At your moment of victory, it is dire you remember this.”
On the final word, he held up a small ring with a jade circle, the same symbol carved into it, and then made it vanish, and John jumped slightly as he felt it materialize in his pocket.
“Make your foe wear the ring, and your job will be complete.”
John thought it over, taking another drag as he inspected the small, strange room around him, then replied, “Give me a reason why I should stick my neck out in whatever this is. Sounds to me like it’s your problem, but you’re too lazy to solve it your own damned self.”
The man smiled, then said, “Because then I will owe you, Constantine. And I am a powerful person to have in your debt.”
John perked up at the idea. To be honest, the man struck him as a creep, but he clearly had a trick or two up his sleeve. He grinned and said, “Right then, I suppose it’s a deal. But you better not fuck me on this, or I’ll drag you right the hell out of wherever this is.”
The man nodded graciously, then simply replied, “Excellent. At the end of your journey, we will meet again.”
He snapped his fingers, and John found himself back in the alley, swaying slightly and holding his gut as the shock of being ejected got to him. Getting his bearings, he pulled the ring from his coat pocket, inspecting it. He could feel the energy coming off of it, and it felt strange and dark, like it was from another plane entirely. Given the nature of the city, it likely was.
The distinct clicking of heels on pavement snapped him out of his investigation, and he looked up from the ring to see a woman, clad in a tight skirt and a blue tanktop, walk up to him and force a smile.
“Feeling lonely tonight, luv? Care for someone to…warm your bed?”
John felt a twinge of pity as he noticed the tract marks on her arm and the makeup doing a poor job of hiding a bruise across her eye. He’d heard of girls like this at the department, snatched off the street and forcibly hooked on god knows what by thugs who didn’t feel like paying a cut to the Red Light district. Just as he went to decline her offer and tell her to go somewhere warm for the evening, he paused, noticing the tattoo on her arm. He looked back down at the ring and sighed. So, this was the girl?
Letting the silk cut dangle from his mouth, John looked her over and asked, “What’s your name, luv?”
She smiled, resting her hands on her hips, and replied, “Lara, sweetheart. Lara Croft.”
He reached into his coat and pulled out his wallet, smiling slyly as he inquired, “Right then, Lara, how’d you like to earn a couple hundred and keep your clothes on at the same time?”
She tilted quizzically, caught entirely off guard by the question, and nervously looked around the alley.
“I…I suppose that’s alright. What did you have in mind?”
John pulled the money out of his wallet, then explained, “Let’s just have a chat, you and I. Just a little info from you, and I’ll send ya on your way first thing in the morning. Sound alright with you, squire?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Lara nodded, then reached for the money, only to flinch as John moved his hand just out of grasp, adding, “Money’s for after.”
He gestured for her to follow him out of the alley, and she did so after letting him lead the way. Putting his arm over her shoulder, John grinned and boisterously called out, “Oi, Chas. Fire up the chariot, dear rider, and give me and Lana-“
“-Lara here a ride back to my flat!”
Chas looked up from his drunken contemplation and gave John a baffled expression.
“Fucking hell, John, surely you aren’t that hard up for-“
John chuckled and cut him off.
“Ain’t like that, Chas. She’s a…informant.”
With a grumbled, “I bet it’s informative,”, Chas shakily stood up from the steps and walked to his cab, climbing in and switching it on. As the engine roared to life, John opened the cab door and politely allowed Lara to get in first. After making sure she was set, John climbed in and closed the door behind him, taking another drag of the Silk Cut and looking out the window with a confident grin. It appeared the game was afoot.
In a warehouse deep in the city’s blue collar district, a group of men stood about, some, largely sitting on the right side of the warehouse, casting worried glances towards the office at the top of the stairs, where every few seconds a loud thud or sickening crunch would ring out. Others, largely sitting on the left, were more confident, smoking, drinking, and generally waiting for their boss to finish up his boss. After a few moments, the sounds stopped and the door to the office swung open, and the men on the right reacted with shock as Billy Russo, better known to them as Jigsaw, tumbled down the stairs, his face a beaten, broken mess, with blood trickling from where his stitches had been forcefully reopened.
They looked nervously up the stairs, chills running down their spines, as his attacker, a man clad in a brown leather jacket with a rather garish mullet, calmly strode down the stairs, blood running down his hands. He stopped at the foot of the stairs and placed his boot on Russo’s chest, to which he could only weakly groan in response. He scanned the small group of Russo’s men, eyes betraying no emotion and began to speak, his voice low and menacing.
“I met with your boss in hopes of a partnership. He disliked my terms.”
Staring dead ahead at the gang, he pulled a pistol from it’s holster on his belt and fired it, splattering Russo’s brains across the floor.
“I’ll give you a similar choice. Join up, get a piece of this operation while it’s young, or end up like him.”
Russo’s men quietly nodded and murmured amongst themselves before one man, practically pushed in front, replied, “We’ll take the terms.”
Mr. C calmly responded, “Excellent. You can discuss the arrangement with my associates.”
With that, C’s gang converged with Russo’s, discussion and plans of the new “partnership” ensuing, while one member of the gang, a weaselly-looking man with messy hair, pushed through the crowd, hoping to catch up with his boss before he went back to his office.
“Hey, uh, C?”
C stopped, looking down on his younger associate, and asked, “Yes, Richard?”
Richard ran a hand through his hair and gestured with his head to the meeting going on behind him.
“I just wanna say great work on the deal. I know Russo’s been kind’ve of a pain for you, so it’s cool we could-“
“Richard. What…do you want?”
Richard stopped his praise, taken aback by being cut off so harshly, and sheepishly explained, “Well, I, uh, was just wondering if I could run this one. You know, me and you go way back, and I’ve been putting in good work, so way I see it, I think I’ve earned a shot here.”
C shook his head, and Richard instantly deflated at the response.
“You and I have had this conversation, Richard. You will be given a position when you have proved yourself, and that has not happened. Do not attempt to have this discussion with me again.”
With that, C ascended the stairs, leaving a scowling Richard at the foot of them, and stepped back into his office, closing the door behind him.
Chapter 2: Roxanne
“Welcome to my humble abode, luv.”
John led Lara into his apartment and flicked the light on, chuckling warmly as she openly gawked at the fairly sizable, but somehow quite messy, living room. She set her bag down by the couch and walked around in disbelief, mumbling, “This is bigger than my entire house,” to herself, then stopped and looked at John’s view over the city. For his part, John walked to the kitchen and snubbed out his cigarette before tossing it into the trash, then replied, “Yeah, living in this shithole has it’s perks, at least in my case.”
Lara was distracted from her sightseeing by a loud tapping on glass, followed by a muffled, high-pitched cry for help. Confused, she looked behind her at John’s coffee table, where a small green figure furiously pounded from inside a snowglobe. She stopped down to see the creature was covered in green fur and had small horns atop it’s head. It jumped up and down on it’s hooves, waving it’s arms frantically, and she looked to John for some sort of explanation. He chuckled as he picked up the snow globe and shook it, causing the creature to tumble around it as small plastic snow slowly fell. It yelped a series of largely indecipherable curses as John set it aside and set down on the couch and replied, “Don’t mind the little green prick. Me and a lass from work caught the bastard trying to steal Christmas presents, so we whipped a little containment spell for him. Makes a hell of a decoration, don’t ya think?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at that, which earned a smile from John as he leaned forward and opened his notebook, gesturing for her to sit.
“Alright, let’s earn your money.”
She sighed, sitting down next to him, and asked, “What’s on your mind, darling?”
He chuckled and replied, “Well, that, we could talk about til I was bloody broke, but I’m a little curious about what’s on yours.”
She froze, caught off guard by the question, as he drew a DFPD badge from his coat pocket and nonchalantly laid it on the table. She tried to stand, to leave before she could get in trouble, but he firmly gripped her arm and calmly continued.
“S’alright, Lara. What you use your looks for is your business. All I give a toss about is-“
He traced his thumb across the symbol on her arm, and she shivered, tensing further as she slowly sat down back.
“-who exactly this means you belong to. Now, you can tell me here and keep our arrangement going, or I can drag you in. Trust me, I’ve got a preference on this one.”
Hands shaking as John released her arm, she very hesitantly replied, “His…his name is…Mr. C. I believe it’s an alias, but I’ve never been able to learn the real one.”
Satisfied, John leaned back, pulling the pack of silk cuts from his coat and lighting one as he gestured for her to keep speaking. She folded her hands on her lap, anxiously running her thumb across her knuckles, as she lowered her head to avoid making eye contact with him.
“His people showed up in the slums one day, selling this…poison of theirs, and I thought that if I intervened, I could drive them out.”
“Then what happened?”
Her hands gripped together so tightly they changed to a pale white shade and she paused, trying to form the words, before answering, “They found where I live, came to my home while I slept, and…they took me, and they put the poison in me. They told me that because of my…newfound addiction, I was in their debt, and I needed to work it off by working for him. Serving drinks, attending to his men…other things.”
Tears brimmed in her eyes as she ran her fingers over the tract arms on her arms, and John’s polite smile had turned into a scowl. A feeling that had once been a sense of adventurous curiosity had turned into a simmering rage and disgust. He knew he needed to take whoever this “C” was down, but now he was going to enjoy destroying the bastard. He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and she looked to him with a grateful nod. Putting the cigarette back in his mouth, John pulled more money from his wallet and set it on the table.
“Tell ya what. How about we extend our little deal here? Couple hundred every day, and in return, you give me the details on C’s little ring here. All you’d have to do is be my eyes and ears.”
She eyed the money, thinking it over. Even a few day’s worth could supposedly get her out of her debt, but if C found it, she was as good as dead, and something told her, even in her clouded mind, that C wouldn’t let one death be enough. But then she looked to John, sitting calmly with an arrogant smile across his face, and some voice in her head told her, in spite of everything, that she’d be alright with him. Taking the money, she nodded.
“Alright, I’ll do it, but you’ll need to bring me home.”
John took a drag of the silk cut and shook his head.
“Nah, I think it’s better if you stay here. Your boss asks where you’ve been, just say I’ve got you in a Pretty Woman-type deal. Know what I mean?”
Her eyes lit up briefly as she replied, “I love that film.”
Surprised by her answer, he shrugged and said, “Thought it was rubbish, personally, but I had an ex who loved it.”
He stood up from the couch and smiled at her.
“Right then, I’m afraid I’ve got a bit of business to settle in the mornin’, so I’ll have to turn in. Bedrooms down the hall.”
Lara looked up at him, surprised.
“I’m…staying in your bed?”
“Well, I figured it’d be rude to have ya crashing on my couch. ‘Sides, couch is comfier for me after a night of drinking anyhow, so get going.”
Lara hesitantly stood up and walked down the hall, ignoring John briefly watching her leave, as she contemplated getting to sleep on an actual bed for the first time in months.
Perhaps this arrangement wouldn’t be too bad.
Taking his time polishing a mug, Jason Todd turned at the sound of the door to the lounge opening and grinned wolfishly as he watched John Constantine, clearly doing his best to ignore a splitting headache from how he winced at the sound of the band doing a sound check. He waved at John, who calmly strolled over and leaned against the bar.
“Here to cause more trouble, Johnny?”
John smirked and shook his head.
“Nah, for once I ain’t here to toss back drinks. ‘fraid I’m just looking for your star.”
He crooked a thumb at the stage, where Scott Pilgrim and Noodle were tuning their interests while a blonde cowboy attempted to avoid dropping a speaker on his foot as he helped set up. Jason set the glass down and replied, “You know how Damien gets before shows. He’s taking his sweet time, as always. You can find him backstage, dressing room on the right.”
John gave a grateful nod, then stepped away from the bar, taking a moment to laugh and watch as an annoyed Markus reluctantly climbed onto the stage and barked orders at the cowboy, who sheepishly moved the speakers to where he was pointing. Markus gave John a friendly wave, which he returned as he ascended the stairs to the stage and passed through the red curtain down the hallway. He stopped at the first door on the right, rolling his eyes at the gold star on it that read “The One and Only Damien Marcato”, then knocked twice.
“’s John. Ya decent?”
Damien laughed and replied with a wry, “Johnny, darling, you of all people should know that I’m never decent, but by all means, come in.”
With a smile, John entered the dressing room to see Damien, clad in a silk robe adorned with a picture of a field of flowers, applying eye shadow in the mirror. Without looking towards him, Damien asked, “What can I do for you today, Johnny?”
John pulled a silk cut from his coat and held it forward, and Damien smirked as he turned, snapping his fingers and sending out a small spark that lit it. John took a drag of it, then asked, “How’d you know I needed something? Can’t a bloke just visit a friend every now and then?”
“Oh Johnny, you and I both know you only come knocking when you need something. Now, tell me before I have to go and play.”
John sheepishly rubbed the back of his head, then said, “Right then. What do you know about a prick by the name of “Mr. C”?”
Damien’s eyes widened in recognition and he looked to John, replying with an amused, “My my, you are living especially dangerously today.”
“So, you know him?”
Damien shrugged and went back to his makeup.
“Not personally, but enough to know that asking around about him is a great way to ensure the pigs pull your plastic-wrapped corpse out of the sewers. What do you need to know?”
John took a thoughtful drag of the silk cut, watching the smoke as he contemplated his response.
“Don’t need much, just need a point in the right direction, is all.”
Damien clicked his tongue as he put the finishing touches on his eyeshadow, and he turned, showing his handiwork to John by tapping his fingers on the edge of the black webs running from the corners of his eyes. John, impressed, gave a thumbs up, and a satisfied Damien turned, crossing his legs and saying, “Alright, I’ll give you your little hint, but you owe me. Next time, I throw one of my parties I better see you there.”
John beamed at him.
“Wouldn’t dream of missing it.”
“Excellent. Now, C thinks he’s special, but I’ve been around enough to know that every organization like his has a weak link. Some fool who thinks he isn’t getting enough, or thinks he should be the boss, or just wants to put the screws on the boss’s lady. His weak link is a little bastard by the name of Richard Horne.”
John grinned, raising his cigarette in a thankful salute, and asked, “And where can I find Richard, exactly?”
“Well, you didn’t hear from me, but let’s just say Richard likes to…vent his frustration at a little place called the Stacked Deck. I believe you’re familiar?”
John took one last drag of his cigarette and responded, “I’ve been known to dabble. You’re a bloody lifesaver, Damien.”
As he exited the dressing room, he heard Damien laugh and mumble, “Oh, don’t I know it.”
On a seedier part of the blue-collar district, a sewer grate, with some effort, slides open and a man, clad in a black hoodie, cautiously looks from side to side before climbing out, reaching down and grabbing a black satchel as it’s handed to him. With the coast clear, he cautiously creeps over to a nearby dumpster and opens it, quickly tossing the bag inside before pulling a green spray-paint can from his pocket and hastily drawing a thumbs up on the dumpster. His work complete, he climbs back into the sewer, pulling the grate down behind him.
A few minutes later, a white van turns the corner and comes to a stop by the dumpster, and two men climb out. The men inspect the dumpster, then quickly pull the bag out and toss it into the van, gesturing for the driver, a sullen Richard Horne, to go. Putting his cigarette in his mouth, he does so, and the van pulls down the street.
One of the men, the younger of the two, gives an impressed whistle as he looks through the bag to see a variety of drugs contained within.
“Geez, you guys really sure the Wolves are alright with us moving this shit through their tunnels?”
The second man, older, laughs and replies, “Wolves ain’t gonna do shit about it, last thing they want is another fight over these tunnels. Ever since the boss took down Corleone, Doom’s let us do whatever the hell we want so long as he can move his boys through there.”
The other man looked up from the drugs with a shocked expression.
“Wait, the boss took down Corleone?”
The older man grinned.
“Sure as shit he did. I used to roll with that crew too, til I saw what went down and got the hell out of there.”
The young man leaned back and asked, “Well, shit, what happened?”
“Gist of it is that when C first showed up with that little crew of his, he went to Corleone, offered to move drugs in return for a cut of the profits. Now, normally Corleone can’t stand the drug shit, but he’s pissed and trying to prove something, what with the whole falling out with the rest of the family and getting that collar around his neck, so he says, “Fuck it,” and takes the deal.”
The younger man leans back, resting his head against the wall of the van, and asks, “Well, then what happened?”
The older man smiled grimly, “Then came the day Corleone thought he’d start taking a bigger cut. C didn’t care for that money-grubbing shit, so he tells Mikey to cut it. Mikey says, “Screw you, my tunnels, my money.” C goes from annoyed to properly pissed and decides that it’s his turn with the tunnels.”
“No shit. So that’s what all those bodies coming out of the sewers in February was about?”
The older man nods and pats the satchel reassuringly.
“Yep. It was a goddamned bloodbath. Somehow C knew every single safe spot and place that Corleone’s crew was at, and he butchered the fuckers in no time flat. Me? Moment they came knocking, I put my gun down and said, “How much for a starting position?” All I had to do was tell em where Mikey was.”
The young man frowned.
“You sold out your own boss?”
“Hey, when it’s him or me, it ain’t a particularly hard choice. Anyway, I tell em where Mikey’s hiding out in the slums, and C and his crew drive me over, they tell me to wait outside, and then they went inside.”
He got a distant, troubled look in his eyes as he continued.
“Whatever they did to him, Mikey must’ve screamed for an hour straight. All I saw was the pieces they dumped down the sewer. Doom saw the hit, decided to give C a shot at running the tunnels, and boom, here we are. Mikey’s still got his crew, of course, but whatever deal he and the Wolves got is done.”
The young man looked down, troubled as he weighed the story over, then mumbled a disturbed, “Christ. Was C always that ruthless?”
The older man shrugged.
“Fuck if I know, ask Richard. He knew him before he came to this shithole.”
The young man looked to Richard, who scowled at the mention of his name, and asked, “Really? What was he like back then, Rich?”
Richard tightened his grip on the steering wheel and practically a snarled a reply of, “None of your fucking business. How about you two fuckwits shut the fuck up and let me drive, eh?”
The young man and older man shared a confused look, then shrugged and sat back, sitting in silence as they drove to the next drop. For his part, Richard stared dead ahead, scowling, as the headlights illuminated the road ahead.
Chas Chandler weaved through traffic, trying to find a spot to stop the car so he could pick up John, who waved as the car slowed to a stop in front of him. In classic John fashion, Chas hadn’t heard from him since they ran into the prostitute outside of the Iceberg Lounge two days ago, with John calling him up giving some nonsense about needing a ride “on the downlow.” He sighed as John slouched back in his seat, lighting a silk cut and blowing the smoke out the window as the car pulled away from the curb.
“Right then, John, where to?”
John grinned devilishly and replied, “Red Light district, dear chariot.”
“Christ, really? You know that place puts me on edge.”
John laughed in between drags of the silk cut.
“No need to be so sheepish, Chas, the ol’ ball and chain ain’t here, is she?”
Chas gazed sadly at his wedding ring, then shook his head, mumbling, “No, I suppose not. So, where exactly am I going?”
“Cute little joint by the name of the Stacked Deck. Got a scheme brewing, and one of the pieces of it is waiting for me there, so try and step on it.”
Chas glanced at the rearview mirror at John, who stared out the window, seemingly lost in thought as he let the cigarette hang between his fingertips. Yep, John was definitely scheming again. He shuddered, knowing better than to get in the way of John when he had mischief in his agenda, and sped up, giving a wary glance at the garish, often crude neon signs of the red light district as they appeared in the distance.
After a few minutes of driving, the car stopped in front of the Stacked Deck, a multi-level building that was instantly recognizable by it’s flashing sign, which alternated between two playing cards, one of a king while the other a queen. Stepping out, John grinned and leaned into the driver’s side window, asking, “Care to join me?”
Chas furiously shook his head, stammering.
“Absolutely not, John. I’ll wait out here and be more than-“
“Nonsense, Chas. You’re mental if you think I’m not bringing back-up in here with me. Now, c’mon, the ladies don’t bite unless you want ‘em to.”
Grumbling to himself, Chas stepped out of the car and followed John, keeping his head low and avoiding eye contact with anyone that looked. The door swung open and John perked up at the sight of a horned woman, who absentmindedly twirled her finger through her long pink hair as she flipped through a book. She smiled happily at the new arrivals and called out, “John! Been a while, hasn’t it?”
She raised an intrigued eyebrow at Chas, who briefly contemplated taking a seat on the waiting room couch, then decided against it.
“And you’ve brought a friend. Didn’t know that was your kind of deal.”
John laughed heartily, then replied, “Nah, Chas and I are just here on business, I’m afraid. We’re looking for Selina. I believe she’s waiting for us?”
Chalis nodded and pointed to the stairs.
“Room 43, boys. She and the other gent are waiting for ya.”
John gave a gracious nod, then headed for the stairs, followed closely by an apprehensive Chas. He chuckled nervously and spoke up as they reached the second floor, doing his best to ignore the various grunts and moans coming from the rooms around them.
“Er, John, I love ya, mate, but if this is just you tryin’ to rope me into a gangbang, I’m gonna be really fucking pissed.”
Tossing the remains of his cigarette in a trashcan, John snorted and replied, “Get your mind out of the gutter, Chas. We’re just meeting an informant. Y’know, like a cop show. SVU, shit like that.”
They stopped at the room marked 43, and John gave two knocks before waiting patiently. After a moment, a woman with a black pixie cut, clad in very little beyond a corset, heels, and cat ears opened the door, practically purring as she laid eyes on John, who reached over and gently closed Chas’s mouth for him. Stretching her arms, Selina draped herself against the doorway and grinned seductively.
“Well, if it isn’t my real client. And who’s your little friend, Johnny?”
John nudged Chas with a chuckle and replied, “Well, Selina, this here is supposed to be my muscle, but he seems more content to drool on himself. Anyhow, how’s Richard been treatin’ ya?”
Selina stepped aside to reveal the aforementioned Richard Horne, stripped down to his boxers, furiously attempting to break free of the handcuffs tying him to the bed, while a string of muffled profanity left his gagged mouth. John gave her an impressed nod, then asked, “And the recording?”
With a wink to a mortified Chas, who had begun to blush the color of a ketchup bottle, she reached into her cleavage and fished a small device out from it. She presented it to John, then pulled it just out of reach when he grasped for it, self-assured grin doing little to hide the cold tone her voice took on.
“Nuh uh. Where’s your half of the deal? Trust me, this is pretty juicy, so you better pay up.”
John grumbled to himself, then snapped his fingers, causing a diamond to appear in them. He knocked it against the doorframe as a show of authenticity, then offered it to her. She smiled, plucking it from John’s fingertips, then tossed him the recorder. Satisfied, she tucked the diamond into her corset, then pushed past the two men, giving a flirty wave to Chas as she did so, then quipped, “Pleasure doing business, John. And if I were you, I’d fast forward to about the ten minute mark, that’s when the good stuff starts.”
As she sauntered down the stairs, Chas finally peeled his eyes away from her to ask, “Good lord, John, how the hell did you meet a bird like that?”
John smiled bitterly as he entered the room to look at Richard, who’s eyes narrowed in rage as he continued his presumably quite profane rant, then explained, “Bit of a long story, but the short of it is that Selina and I took part in a job that went…less than swimmingly. She tried to swipe the score, I beat her to it, told her she could get it back if she did me a favor sometime. And that’s-“
He pulled up a chair next to the bed and plopped himself into it, looking Richard over as he glared back at him.
“-how we got our hands on dear old Richard.”
Fairly experienced with John’s misadventures at this point, Chas nodded, satisfied with the response, then leaned against the door and crossed his arms, keeping an eye out for any possible intrusions. John reached forward and pulled the gag from Richard’s mouth, for which he thanked him by immediately spitting at him. John dodged the spit and responded by punching Richard in the mouth, drawing blood.
“Pull that again and I’ll get Chas to kick your fucking teeth in. Sound good, squire?”
Glancing over at Chas, Richard nodded, wincing as blood trickled down his chin, then quietly snapped, “You have any idea who the fuck I work for?”
John snickered and leaned back in the chair.
“That I do, Richie. It’s the whole reason you’re in this fucking mess. Don’t despair though, you just tell me everything you can about your boss’s operation and I’ll let you walk scott-free.”
Richard laughed, then tried to free himself again, much to John’s amusement.
“You think I’m gonna tell you shit? Give me one good reason why I should.”
John smirked, then set the recorder down on the table and hit play, and Richard turned white as a sheet as he heard own voice played back to him. Lighting another cigarette, John sat back and listened as well.
“Yeah, the boss thinks he’s hot fucking shit when he doesn’t even go anywhere, unless it’s for business. I’m the one doing all the goddamned work to keep this shit running.”
“Oh, I know, baby. You’re working so hard, and you’re so strong, and someday you’ll get what you deserve.”
“Goddamn right. One of these days I’m gonna waste that fuck, take this whole thing for myself. Hey, the fuck you doing with those ropes?”
“Oh, trust me, daddy, you’ll like this.”
With a mumble of, “Right, don’t want to hear any of that mess,”, John reached over and paused the recording, jokingly wincing and shaking his head as he did so, then looked to Richard, who had begun to sweat as the implications of this meeting set in.
“Well, I’d say you’re fucked if that recording ever finds it’s way to C’s ear, eh?”
Richard nodded slightly, eyes wide with fear as John leaned forward, grinning at him the way a fox does to an injured rabbit. Without taking his eyes off him, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a notebook and pen, then asked, “So, how about you give me a few addresses and maybe, just maybe, I won’t send it to him first thing tonight.”
Richard nodded vigorously in response, stammering, “Yeah, man, yeah, sure, whatever you want! You want his warehouse? Cause I can give you the warehouse.”
Tapping the pen to his chin, John pondered it, then replied, “Nah, not tonight, mate. Right now I’m just looking to put the screws on the bastard. How’s about you just give me a rundown of the operation? Y’know, stash houses, where your crew cooks this junk, simple shit. After we really get to know each other, then you can give me the good stuff. Square?”
“Excellent, now, get talking.”
Carefully holding a drink tray in her hand, Lara moved among the crowd, doing her best to avoid the occasional grope or catcall as she listened to the mix of conversations around her. She dreaded this gang meetings, but it gave her a chance to spy on C for John, and a chance to score a little extra cash, so it had a few benefits. One of the visitors, a burly man with a distinct beard-moustache combo, took a drink off the tray and lecherously stared at her cleavage, with Lara paying him no mind as she walked past him and up the stairs to C’s office, where she took a deep breath before knocking on the door.
She cleared her throat.
“I-I was wondering if the boss or his guests would like a drink?”
There was a brief murmur as several voices spoke through the door, followed by a quiet, “Come in.”
Lara opened the door and entered the office, keeping her head down as she scanned the room. C, naturally, sat at his desk, a nervous-looking Richard by his side, while on the other side of the room, a tattooed older man in a leather jacket leaned casually in his chair, a younger man on his right and a red-haired man with a mullet on his left. The older man waved Lara over, giving her a better look at the swastika tattooed onto his hand, and smiled warmly.
“Whadya got for drinks, darlin’?”
She presented the tray to him, and he briefly looked it over before taking a small glass of whiskey off it.
“Thank ya kindly. Now, as we were saying, what kinda terms you thinking in terms of distribution?”
C shook his head when Lara approached, then leaned forward and said, “Your drugs will run through our tunnels in return for a 25% cut. They will be fully prepared every Wednesday and will be picked up at the cookhouse in the white-collar district. Those are our terms, Welker.”
The older man, who Lara could now determine was named Welker, took a sip of his drink and hummed quietly, sharing a knowing look with the men with him. He set the glass down on his armrest, then said, “Cookhouse by those apartments they’re knocking down? Yeah, that ain’t too bad. Sure I can’t talk you down to 20?”
“Fair enough. I’ll take the deal.”
A ghost of a smile crossed C’s lips, just for a moment, then he stood up, walking away from his desk to offer his hand to Jack, who took it with a confident grin.
“I look forward to our future partnership.”
“Likewise. Now, excuse me, miss?”
Lara perked up at the mention of her, and she looked at Jack, who simply asked, “Can you grab me and my boys another set of drinks? I’m feelin’ like celebrating.”
She nodded and quickly left the room, descending the stairs and moving through the crowd to duck out the back entrance of the warehouse. Catching her breath, she pulled her phone from her dress and quickly dialed John. After three rings, he answered.
“Evening, Lara. Take it you’ve got something for me?”
She anxiously looked over her shoulder, making sure she hadn’t been followed, then replied, “C’s entered a deal with someone named “Welker”. Nazi, from the looks of him, and he said they’re cooking their supplies in an abandoned building in the white-collar district. I need to go before-“
She jolted and quickly hung up the phone as she turned to see Richard poking his head outside. Lara forced a smile and quickly hid her phone as he angrily gestured for her to come back inside.
“Fuck are you doing out here? Thought you were getting drinks?”
She nodded, bowing her head as she stepped back inside, and mumbled, “Sorry luv, stepped out to text a john. He wants me back at his flat after-“
“I don’t give a fuck who you’re screwing, just go and pour the drinks before Welker gets pissy.”
With that final order, Richard gave Lara a suspicious look before slamming the warehouse door shut behind him.
After Lara’s signal went dead, John closed his phone and set it aside on the kitchen table, taking a satisfied drag of his cigarette as he pulled out his notebook and scribbled Lara’s tip onto a page before tearing it off and taping it to a large map of the city, where several other notes were pinned at specific locations.
He grinned, then picked his phone back up. Time to putting the screws on this “C” prick.
Chapter 3: Murder by Numbers
Squinting through the darkness of the cook house, ears ringing from the gunshots around him, Jack Welker raised his gun, trying to line up a shot on the mysterious attackers that had struck in the middle of the night. They’d been in business with C for a measly three days and everything had already gone tits up. If he made it out of this, he’d sure as shit be renegotiating. He moved forward, staggering as his foot hit a prone form beneath him, and he jumped as he recognized the red hair.
“Todd! Thank Christ you’re alright, kid, now get the hell-“
A cry distracted him, and he moved out of the way as another of his men flew through the air, his journey abruptly stopped as he crashed into a table, sending it’s contents scattering across the floor. Squinting, Jack could only see the vague outline of the assailant, alongside a glowing yellow fist. Cursing, he trained his gun on the men, only to yell in shock as he felt a hand firmly grab the back of his coat and toss him aside like he was a ragdoll. Jack hit the wall, out cold as his head collided with it, as Luke Cage sighed in annoyance as he turned to look at his partner.
“Danny, you gotta watch out for guns, man.”
Danny Rand laughed arrogantly.
“You had him! Besides, I saw him coming. If you hadn’t been there, I would’ve just moved. Pretty easy stuff.”
Luke rolled his eyes and surveyed their handiwork, a trail of destruction and beaten men, alongside numerous shell casings littered across the floor. While it had come at the cost of yet another sweatshirt, Luke was fairly confident they wouldn’t be dealing any more drugs any time soon. That left one hanging issue.
“So, how exactly did you hear about these guys, Danny?”
Danny scratched his chin, averting eye contact with Luke before replying, “I dunno. We got a call from some British guy who said he had a tip, so I wrote down the address and, boom. Drug bust.”
Luke put his head in his hands and groaned.
“So, you’re telling me we did this for free? Even though the phone is for Heroes for Hire business only?”
Danny sheepishly rubbed the back of his head and nodded, earning a frustrated chuckle from Luke, who replied, “Alright, me and Jess are running the phone now. You lost privileges. Now let’s get outta here before cops show up.”
With that, the two headed for the exit, the sound of sirens ringing in the distance.
Deep within the sewers, a man, trying to hold his intestines into his slashed open stomach, crawled futilely forward, leaving a trail of blood behind him. What was supposed to be a routine pick-up devolved into a bloodbath as he and his men had walked directly into a trap, with some masked psychopath waiting for them. He didn’t hear the screams from aboveground anymore, so maybe, just maybe, he’d been able to avoid the slaughter by ducking into the sewers.
His heart stopped as he heard the sewer grate slide open, and he turned, eyes wide with fear, as he saw a blood-soaked set of sneakers begin to descend the ladder into the tunnels. He turned back, dragging himself faster, wincing in agony with each step, as he heard the steps get closer, until finally a firm hand gripped his shoulder and turned him around, bringing him face to face with a rooster mask, it’s beady eyes seemingly gazing into his soul.
The figure let him fall, hitting the ground, and he weakly held up a hand as they stared down at him.
“Look, man, I don’t got a lot of money, but we can-“
Jacket raised his shotgun and fired, vaporizing his head, then turned and walked back to the sewer ladder. His time in the city had been largely uneventful, a collection of odd-jobs and strange encounters, until this night, when he had received a phone call with a British voice informing him of a waste disposal job at this address. The voice was different, certainly, but the message was familiar to him. As he climbed out of the sewer and exited the alleyway, he hoped to receive more in time.
Alistair Theirin gripped his shield tightly as he turned the corner, scanning the rundown hallway in front of him for any possible traps or attackers. A supposedly routine bust had taken a strange turn, with the officers present requesting magic division assistance, leading to him and John, who quickly vanished in typical John fashion, being called in. Seeing none, he lowered his guard and continued onward, only to stop as he heard motion in one of the rooms. Drawing his sword, he hesitantly went to open the door, only to cry out in surprise as it flew open, revealing a towering man with greasy hair and rotted yellow teeth. Fenrir Greyback grinned and raised his wand, blasting off a spell that Alistair just barely managed to raise his shield to block. The force of the attack knocked him backwards into the hallway, and Greyback followed, snarling.
Bracing himself, Alistair charged forward, driving his blade into Greyback’s gut, to which the werewolf grimaced, then forced a smile as he grabbed Alistair and tossed him aside. Alistair yelped as his sword left his grip and he clattered to the ground with an unceremonious thud. Greyback cast a series of spells, each Alistair managed to block, then lunged forward, wrapping his hand around Alistair’s throat. As he raised his wand to make the killing blow, he was stopped by a confident, “Ey, furball, how’s about you drop the armored twat and deal with someone more your speed?”
Fenrir looked up to see John leaning against the door to the stairwell, casually smoking a cigarette, and the man gave him a friendly wave. Fenrir roared, blasting off a death curse, to which John simply raised his hand, causing the spell to redirect and crash into Fenrir. As the Death Eater fell dead, a panting Alistair pulled himself up and scowled at John.
“Maker, could you have taken any longer?”
Giving Greyback’s corpse a light kick, John shrugged, then tossed the butt of the cigarette onto it before showing Alistair his palm, from which a hastily drawn image of a shield was slowly vanishing.
“You have any idea how long it takes to slap a deflection spell together? Just be lucky I got here when I did, or I’d have to be filing revival paperwork.”
Gathering his sword and shield, Alistair rolled his eyes, grumbling, “Yes, how terrible for you that would be.” Sheathing his weapons, he reluctantly crouched down and hoisted Fenrir’s corpse onto his shoulder, gesturing for John to head down the stairs before him. As they walked, John looked up at the corpse and asked, “Thought this asshole ran with the Death Eaters. What’s he doin’ in one of these warehouses?”
Alistair grunted as he shifted the corpse into a better position, then said, “Apparently, after Voldemort’s death during the Wolves Uprising, a few of his followers lost faith, started selling services. Greyback here must’ve been one of them.”
The duo reached the ground floor, where officers worked to take survivors of the raid into custody while also bagging body, and a relieved Alistair dumped the body at the feet of an officer, who sighed and began working on the proper tags as he looked it over. He crinkled his nose slightly at the blood on his shoulder, then frowned as he saw an amused John watching him.
“Honestly, John, this is the third raid you’ve organized in the last two weeks? How exactly do you have this info?”
Leaning against a squad car and watching the other officers work, John shrugged and replied, “Look, a good pig never gives up a source. So, it’ll stay my little secret for now.”
As the two talked, another officer perked up at the mention of sources. Peeking over the squad car at John and Alistair, Frank Tenpenny made a quick note of them, then quietly moved away. Something told him this is information that could prove itself to be valuable, and he bet his contacts knew where he could sell it.
“So, what you mean to tell me is that I’m supposed to believe the loss of half of our sources of production in less than a month is just coincidence?”
C’s words cut through his assembled gang members, who exchanged nervous looks as he stared at them. Quietly sitting by the bar, Lara took mental notes, watching in interest as Richard, despite standing by C rather than before him, shifted his footing uncomfortably. C surveyed the room, then spoke again.
“I would say this supports the idea that we have a mole. Now, if anyone would like to come forward and say what they know, perhaps they’ll be rewarded.”
Behind C, Richard nervously rubbed the back of his neck. All he had to do was play it cool, and he wouldn’t get caught. He took a deep breath as C paused, letting the silence of his men soak in.
“Your new objective, on top of the others, is to find this mole. Am I understood?”
Before the men could respond, a voice called out, “What’s a man get if he ain’t part of all this?”
The gang turned to look at the voice and reacted with shock as they realized the cop standing in the entrance to the warehouse, casually drinking a soda as he witnessed the lecture they had been receiving. Several drew guns and trained them on Tennpenny, who laughed and tossed the drink aside, mockingly putting his hands up and craning his neck to look at C, who watched him with a hint of interest.
“Mind telling ya boys to put their guns down? I feel like a cop turning up dead here wouldn’t be good for either of us.”
C nodded, and the men reluctantly lowered their weapons, causing Tenpenny to chuckle.
“Yeah, that’s right, motherfuckers, use ya heads.”
He stepped through the crowd and towards C, who gestured for him to speak.
“Now, I don’t know shit about your mole, but I might have a little tip on his handler.”
C raised an eyebrow, interested, and replied, “Who?”
Tenpenny laughed and folded his arms.
“C’mon, man, thought you were supposed to be a businessman? You really think I’m gonna give you that shit for free.”
Several of C’s men scowled at him, and C himself coldly said, “We could just pull it out of you.”
“Maybe, though wouldn’t that just be another “dead cop” problem?”
C thought it over, and after a long pause, finally said.
“Name your price.”
Tenpenny scratched his chin mock contemplation, then grinned and answered, “How about…five percent cut? Nothing too fancy, just a little appreciation for the man that saved your ass.”
C stared him down, causing a chill to travel down Tenpenny’s spine that he did his best to ignore. For a moment, he pondered if he had bitten off more than he can chew, but the moment faded as C relented and said, “Deal. Five percent cut for the next two months, then we’re done.”
Tenpenny nodded, getting the sense that the threat of police investigation wouldn’t do much to get a better cut here.
“Yeah, I’ll take it. Now, all I can tell you is that the handler is a limey motherfucker, goes by the name of John Constantine.”
At the mention of John’s name, Lara’s eyes went wide with shock and she froze, listening as Tenpenny kept talking.
“He works in the magic department, hard man to miss, since he smokes like a goddamned chimney. Now, would you say that’s enough, or do I gotta keep standing around this goddamned mess you call a workplace all day?”
“That’s sufficient. You can go, officer.”
Tenpenny smiled confidently, replied, “Pleasure doing business,” then walked out of the warehouse, the men stepping out of the way to let him exit, while C turned to look at Richard, who stopped, palms sweaty.
“Call Hutch and Chantal. Inform them that I have a need for their services.”
“You know what bugs the hell outta me about this place, Chantal?”
Hutch’s contemplation earned a mumbled, “What?” from Chantal, who was more focused on eating her burger than fully engaging. Hutch paid this no mind as he smoked a cigarette and continued his rant.
“So, this city is for warriors or some shit, yeah? Boss got brought here because of it?”
Chantal nodded, swallowing another bite of burger, making sure to keep an eye on the target’s place. They’d been on stakeout about three hours, and he still had yet to come in or out. Seeing as Hutch and Chantal were being paid by the hour, and had made sure to grab the appropriate snacks beforehand, they didn’t really mind. Hutch took her nod as a gesture to continue.
“So, why the fuck exactly don’t we get a house? I mean, we’re warriors, ain’t we?”
“I mean, I guess we came with the boss here, so maybe we’re his equipment or something? Like, y’know, how they bury them pharaohs with their servants in the big stone buildings? So, maybe we’re like that, Boss’s property.”
Hutch took a drag of his cigarette, furrowing his brow in concern.
“Yeah, but ain’t slavery illegal? 13th amendment, and all that? Can’t say I’m comfortable with being property.”
Chantal finished her burger and tossed the wrapper over her shoulder, where it landed in a pile of other garbage strewn throughout the back, then said, “Fuck if I know how the rules work, Hucth. I got to torture an alien, so this place is heaven, far as I’m concerned.”
Hutch scratched his chin, contemplating explaining how a city where you can’t truly die was hardly heaven, then stopped and snapped his fingers, pointing excitedly as he saw the target finally, blissfully, leave their apartment. He tossed the cigarette out the window and furiously shook Chantal to get her attention.
“Ey, ey, there’s the fucking guy.”
She grinned, mumbling, “Christ, finally,” as she climbed into the back and rooted around for her handgun, hastily screwing on the silencer as Hutch loaded his shotgun in his lap. Giving each other a confident nod and a kiss for luck, they hopped out of the car and followed Constantine as he walked down an alley, smoking a cigarette and whistling a tune to himself. He walked further into the alley, still whistling, as the duo turned the corner and trained their guns on him, Chantal whistling to get his attention.
He turned, confused, and was subsequently shot in the head before he could say a word. Chantal smirked, lowering her gun, then followed Hutch, who nudged the corpse with his foot before casually blowing the rest of John’s head off with his shotgun for good measure. Resting the gun on his shoulder, Hutch looked up at Chantal, grin quickly vanishing as he saw her frown.
“What’s wrong, darling?”
Scratching her head, Chantal shrugged, sighing, “I dunno, heard this guy was magic so I figured he’d be a little less…boring, I guess?”
Another voiced sighed and replied, “Yeah, and I hoped you two would be a little less gullible,” to which they both turned and raised their guns, training them on John, who leaned against the alley’s entrance with a cocky grin. Hutch looked at the corpse in confusion as it vanished, while Chantal angrily opened fire, only for the round to hit an invisible wall and drop to the ground.
John smiled and explained, “Pretty easy mix of an illusion and a binding spell, squire. Course, I also sprinkled in a teleportation spell for good measure.”
He snapped his fingers, and Hutch and Chantal both unceremoniously screamed as a magical symbol beneath their feet suddenly brightened, causing them both to vanish in a flash of light. Giving a satisfied nod, John resumed his walk, whistling a tune to himself as he vanished into the crowd. Honestly, if the best “Mr. C” could do was two morons in a shitty van tailing him, then maybe this would be more of a cakewalk than he thought.
With a pained “oof”, Hutch tumbled into the sewer water, coughing and spluttering furiously as he surfaced. Chantal pulled herself out of the sewage and onto (slightly more) dry land, taking a few deep breaths as Hutch followed her, trying to wipe his hands off to no avail. After realizing it was a doomed effort, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his pack of cigarettes, groaning in frustration as he realized they were soaked through. He tossed the pack into the rushing water, then said, “Did that asshole really think dumping us in the sewers was gonna get rid of us?”
Chantal glowered, replying, “Yeah, now I really wanna plug that fucker. Let’s get out of here so we can-“
She stopped, squinting in confusion as a red balloon floated by them, and Hutch stopped in his tracks, watching as the balloon turned a corner and vanished. His back turned, he didn’t notice the rising, shadowy form behind him until it leaned forward, exposing rows of teeth and an empty smile, and whispered in his ear, “Do we have new playmates today? I’m so happy!”
Further down the sewers, Kai Leng grins as he skewers a rat with his sword and raises it up, appraising hi next meal. His joy is stopped as Hutch and Chantal’s screams echo through the tunnels, and he quickly cloaks, fading into the shadows. He knew better than to stick around when the clown was hunting.
Entering his apartment, John nonchalantly tossed his coat onto the couch, then rolled up his sleeves as he wandered into the kitchen and fixed himself a drink. After taking care of the not so dynamic duo, he had to run a few errands, such as shaking down Richard for any possible info and giving Sergeant Pleasant an (incomplete) rundown of the investigation thus far. He could’ve given him the full details, naturally, but he didn’t really want the rest of the department interfering with his scheme until he was finished.
He went to take a sip of the drink, only to stop at the sound of a firm knock on his door. He checked his watch, confused. Lara wasn’t supposed to meet with him for a little while longer, so maybe Chas needed something. Sighing, he set the drink down and walked over to the door, preparing to tell Chas that tonight was not a night for a pub crawl, only for the fist colliding with his jaw as soon as he opened it to tip him off that this (probably) wasn’t Chas.
John hit the floor hard, the glass cracking and rolling away as he struggled to stand. He turned to see three fairly large, muscular men enter the apartment, the leader of which cracked his knuckle and grabbed John by the tie, pulling him into another punch and snarling, “Did you think the boss would just send Hutch and Chantal, dipshit?”
In lieu of his usual wit, John grabbed the glass and smashed it into the thug’s face, causing him to stagger back, gripping his face as the glass dug into his skin. Before he could gain his footing, another of the thugs harshly kicked him, causing John to wheeze in pain as he felt a rib crack. As John groaned, the man sneered, drawing a gun from his jacket and putting it to John’s temple.
His cold quip of, “Sayonara, fuck-“ was cut off by a knife piercing his throat, and he gurgled on his own blood before hitting the ground. The two remaining thugs and John looked in shock as Lara pulled the knife free from the man’s neck and then lunged for another of the attackers, slamming him into the wall and repeatedly driving the knife into his gut with a vicious scream. Before she could land the killing blow to his neck, the glassed thug grabbed her by the ponytail, viciously pulling her back and driving her head into the wall behind him. She fumbled desperately, driving a thumb into his eye, but he shouted through the pain, tossing her back and then wrapping his hands around neck. Eye squeezed shut and blood trickling down his face, he grinned sadistically as her fingers desperately tried to pry his from her neck. Vision fading, she could only watch as he mumbled, “Fucking…bitch…kill…you.”
Suddenly, his eyes went wide and his grip loosened, Lara watching in horror as his skin rapidly changed shades from white to a bright red. Letting go of her, he screamed in agony before exploding in a shower of blood and gore, coating her and a decent chunk of the apartment in it and leaving only his legs behind. Lara slouched against the wall, wiping the remains of him from her eyes, as John laughed wearily, hand still wrapped around the man’s ankle.
“Yeah, Fiat Bloody Lux oughta sort you out, ya bastard.”
He pulled himself to his feet, holding his side as pain shot through it, and placed a reassuring hand on Lara’s shoulder. “You alright, luv?”
She blinked in disbelief, looking around the utterly trashed apartment.
“Wh…what was that?”
John grinned, an unnerving sight seeing as how every inch of his face was soaked in blood, and replied, “A nifty trick I learned for when a scrap gets a bit on the desperate side. Pain in the ass to clean up after, though.”
She laughed in spite of herself and said, “Thank you. You…you saved me.”
He shrugged, reaching into his coat to pull out a cigarette, only to toss the pack aside when he realized it had soaked through.
“Well, only fair since I was properly fucked ‘til you showed up. Thought we were meeting at the usual joint?”
She looked down, wringing blood from her ponytail as she explained, “Well, I went there first, but then I remembered C put a hit out, so I was…worried, I suppose.”
He lifted her chin and wiped a bit of guts from her cheek, giving her a genuine smile, which she returned.
“Well, turns out you were right to trust your gut. C’mon, let’s get the fuck out of here.”
She nodded, letting him sling his arm around her shoulder as he limped out of the apartment, and asked, “But…where are we going?”
“Oh, don’t worry. Chas’ll put us up for the night without too much fuss.”
“Are you sure?”
“Relax, he loves surprises.”
Chapter 4: Spirits In the Material World
When John closed his eyes, he had just gotten dressed after a nice shower at Chas’s apartment, settling off to sleep on the couch while Lara took the bed and a reluctant, and somewhat irate, Chas fell asleep on his recliner. When he opened them, he found himself sitting in the yellow room, with the long-haired man sitting across from him with a look of annoyance. John sighed.
“The fuck do you want?”
The man leaned forward, replying, “You are taking too long. The window of opportunity is closing quickly because you’ve decided to ignore my instructions.”
“Oi, you just told me I had to slip the ring on the bastard’s finger. You never said a word on how or when.”
The man put his head in his hands, groaning in frustration. John noticed a hint of sadness to how he spoke, and if he hadn’t kidnapped him in his sleep to lecture him in some sort of alternate dimension, maybe he would’ve felt bad for him. Maybe. After briefly mumbling to himself, he looked up at John and spoke harshly.
“Time is short. If you don’t follow the plan, I fear there will be disaster for us both.”
John shrugged and stood up from the chair, heading towards the curtains for a possible exit.
“Yeah, well, I’ve never been one to follow instructions.”
The man scowled and called out, “We won’t see each other after this, Constantine!”
John kept walking.
“Well, ain’t that a damned shame.”
John opened his eyes and groaned as he felt the dull pain in his side and jaw, a fresh reminder of the beating from last night. He shifted his positions, sitting up and rubbing his eyes as he looked around Chas’s apartment. It was empty, save for him, and he could see two notes on the kitchen table. John stood, stretching and wincing as sharp pain kicked into his side, looking down and briefly chuckling at the “Tory Scum Kill for Fun” shirt he had borrowed from Chas while his own clothes were in the wash. He walked over to the table and picked up one of the notes, which read:
Woke up and saw you were asleep, so I didn’t want to disturb you.
I’m off to “work”, will call you with details, per the usual.
Watch your back out there.
He smiled warmly, setting the note aside and looking at the more hastily scribbled one next to it, which in turn read:
Threw your shit in the dryer before I left for my shift. You and the bird clogged my shower with blood and guts. You fucking owe me.
Eat shit and see you later,
John laughed and went to grab his clothes, stopping as he felt his stomach grumble. So, first thing on his agenda for the day: grab a quick bite to eat.
After dressing himself, John walked out of Chas’s apartment complex and into the city, taking a moment to close his eyes and let the sounds of the city surround him. Content, he reached for a silk cut in his coat pocket, frowned as he realized he’d thrown out his last pack, and then turned and walked towards the direction of the corner store. Indeed, it was the type of morning that could be improved with a quick smoke and a greasy breakfast sandwich.
“John, hey, John! Slow you down, you bastard, I know you heard me!”
John winced as a deeply familiar voice made itself heard over the crowd, and he stopped and turned as he saw Alistair awkwardly pushing past people to get to him. Or, he supposed, it was the type of day that could be ruined by your twat partner chasing you down. He sighed as Alistair came to a stop and glared in front of him.
“What in the name of Andraste are you doing in Blue Collar?”
John looked both ways, briefly contemplating hurling himself into traffic to avoid a lecture, then replied, “Well, I was going on a stroll to work off a headache, but it appears that it’s gotten worse, for some reason.”
Alistair rolled his eyes.
“Oh, ha ha, John, you’re a true jester, as always. There a reason why you’ve been to the precinct exactly twice in the last two weeks? You do realize that’s your job?”
John shrugged and leaned against the light post, keeping an eye out for the light change, then quipped, “Eh, I clock in when it suits me. Besides, don’t you know I’m working a case?”
“Yes, I’m fully aware. And you do realize that as your partner, I’m supposed to help you on this case, correct?”
“From a certain point of view, I suppose.”
Alistair threw his hands up in exasperation.
“Honestly, John, I don’t know how to deal with you sometimes. You can’t just come and go out of the station as you please! There’s rules, specifics that have to be followed-“
John had largely tuned out Alistair’s rant at this point, and instead his eyes focused on the quick blur of motion behind him. He wasn’t 100% sure, but he could’ve swore he saw a black and white figure duck in and out of the crowd, as though it was flickering. He squinted, mildly spooked, as he saw the figure appear again, resembling some sort of bearded homeless man in raggedy, ash-covered clothing working it’s way through the crowd, eyes fixed on John. His concentration was broken as Alistair snapped a finger in his face, jolting him out of his confusion.
“Were you even listening? I walked all the way down to this district just to have a word with you, the least you could do-“
His rant was cut off by a monochrome arm tearing through his chest, the red blood forming a horrific contrast with the black and white hand that clenched Alistair’s heart. Alistair looked at John with an expression filled with confusion and pain, then dropped dead as the figure withdrew it’s arm and locked eyes with John and calmly asked, in a voice too low to be human, “Got a light?”
Passerby screamed and ran, leaving John and the figure, who advanced towards him, still holding the heart and repeating, over and over, “GoT A liGhT? goT a LigHt? GOt a LIghT?”
As he got closer and closer to the road, John wracked his brain, trying to put together some idea of what exactly the fuck he was facing. It was supernatural, obviously, while the way it seemed to flicker suggested it was trying to mask itself from John, to little avail. Judging by poor Alistair’s corpse lying by his feet, it was goddamned strong too, meaning that if got his hands on him, he was fucked. As Alistair’s blood trickled past his shoes, an idea came to him. Quickly crouching, he dipped his fingers into Alistair’s blood with an apologetic “Sorry, mate,”, then furiously scribbled a set of runes across the ground, mumbling and backing away from the creature as he did so.
John walked back, crossing into the street and grimacing as cars and trucks, as if guided by an invisible hand, weaved past him while furiously honking at him. The creature’s foot crossing the runes earned a victorious grin from him, and he stopped and glared at it as it drew closer, still mumbling, “gOT a LighT? Got A…”
As it stopped in front of John, hand reaching for his face, a loud honk of a horn drew it’s attention, and it turned and looked at the sound, saying a final, “…light?” before being vaporized by a speeding bus, which slammed harshly on it’s breaks and came to a screeching halt. John gave a gracious wave to the bus’s driver, a physically repellant, squat man in a yellow cap with a purple “W” on it, poked his head out the window and yelled, “Wah, get off da road, ya bozo!”
Stepping back onto the sidewalk, John leaned against the light pole, breathing a sigh of relief and anxiously running his hand through his air. He’d managed to summon the…whatever the hell it was into a physical form, but he still had very little clue as to what the fuck it was. Naturally, it was likely one of C’s minions, but John had largely ignored the idea of the supernatural on C’s sides until this point. If C was a fellow magic wielder, perhaps John would have to step up his game and wrap it up.
He shook the concerns from his head and finally crossed the street properly, trying his best to ignore his close call with death with a smoke and a quick breakfast.
“Would you like to guess as to why I’ve called this meeting?”
C’s glare gave every man in the room a quiet sense of animalistic fear, and they all reflexively took a step back as he leaned away from the bar. He scanned the room, taking a small pleasure in the respect commanded to him, then explained, “We are here because of a problem: the Constantine problem. He has now escaped three of my attempts on his life, which suggests, to me, that he is extraordinarily lucky, or he is being aided…by one of you.”
He took a step forward, to which the crew took one back, and looked them over. They shrunk at his gaze, a sign of respect and fear, and he stopped as he heard a disturbance close by. It was a…buzzing, almost impossible to pick up on, and he tilted his head to the side as it hummed behind him. He pivoted and looked at the bar, his eyes landing on Lara, then he saw it: a faint glow, an almost sickly light surrounding Richard, who nervously locked eyes with C, hand shaking as it grasped a cigarette.
“S-something the matter, boss?”
C stared coldly at him, then said, “Richard. Is there something you’d like to tell me?”
Richard froze, stammering and mumbling as he ran a hand through his hair, brain furiously trying to formulate a sentence that would persuade his employer he could be trusted.
“What, uh, what do you mean? I got nothing going on.”
Seemingly not satisfied, C walked up to Richard and placed a hand on his shoulder, staring directly into his eyes before asking, “Are you sure, Richard?”
Before Richard can respond, C begins to squeeze, and he cries out in pain as he feels the crushing pressure on his shoulder. Richard falls off his chair, hands fumbling as they try to pry C’s grip from his shoulder to little avail, and he looks up to C, who simply stares back with the same expressionless gaze. Finally, he relents, and Richard collapses to the floor, holding his shoulder and gasping for breath.
“Now, would you like to be honest with me? Or shall we continue?”
Richard shakes his head furiously and desperately yells, “Okay, fuck! It’s me, I’m the goddamned mole. I swear to god, I ain’t the only one, cause I didn’t tell him every-“
C calmly takes Richard’s head in his hands, silencing him, then firmly grips the sides of his head and twists it with a sickening crunch. Lara averts her eyes as C lets the corpse fall to the floor, then looks to the rest of his men.
“Consider this your warning. I do not take betrayal lightly. Now, get back to work.”
The crew quickly dispersed, heading for either the exits or the various tables across the warehouse floor, and Lara finally loosened her hands, which she realized she had balled so tightly into fists that her nails had drawn blood from her palms. Keeping her head low, she walked out, then, as soon as she was out of sight of the crew, dug her phone from her purse and sent a quick, urgent message.
Richard dead. Meet me at Logan’s.
“To be honest, I’d assumed you’d be more worried about the death of an informant.”
Lara skeptically eyed John as he leaned back in the booth, taking a drag of his silk cut and giving a half-hearted shrug before replying, “Eh, I’d have sold the prick out at some point. Besides, he didn’t have much I else needed, anyhow, not so long as I’ve got you.”
At the mention of herself, Lara nervously twirled her ponytail with her fingers, letting her other hand rest on a largely ignored glass of beer that sat in front of her. Despite his best efforts, John was doing very little to soothe her nerves.
“I don’t know how much longer I can do this, John. C’s off the trail for now, but he’s-“
John cut her off with a boisterous, “-but nothing. Bastard’s on his last legs,” as he leaned forward and put his hand over hers, giving her a grin that she hesitantly returned after a few moments. Satisfied, he took a sip of his own beer.
“Trust me, luv, I’m moving into the end of my own con here. By the end of the week, he’ll have the cuffs on him.”
“So, why did you do all this? The back and forth? The busts?”
He shrugged again.
“Thrill of it, mostly, plus the problem with a drug problem is it once it gets into the bloodstream, takes a hell of a fucking lot to sweat it out, so I aimed to be thorough.”
At the mention of drugs, she looked away from him, ashamed, and his smile turned into a sheepish frown. He mentally kicked himself for his callousness as Lara watched passerby out the window.
“Oh, right. Er, sorry, luv.”
She waved off his concern.
“It’s fine. I’ve been trying to sweat it out best I can, but it’s…challenging. Like I’m in a fog with no exit, or something like that.”
He gave her an assured nod and raised his glass to her before taking another swig of it, slamming it down and declaring, “And you’re gonna find your way out. Compared to the shite you’ve told me, this’ll be nothing.”
Lara smiled in spite of herself and gave a nod in return.
“Of course. Thank you, John. Genuinely.”
Before he could reply, a new song kicked in over the speakers, one which both John and Lara tilted their heads in recognition of.
Punctured bicycle/on a hillside, desolate/will nature make a man of me, yet?
John glanced to see Lara tapping her fingers on the table to the tune, and he gave her a wry grin as he raised his glass to her once again.
“Fan of the Smiths?”
This time, she gave him a shrug.
“I remember this song from when I was a little girl. My father used to hum when he thought I wasn’t listening.”
The mention of age made John playfully act as though he’d been struck, clutching his heart and hissing, ”A little girl? Christ, way to make me feel like a fucking geezer.”
She laughed warmly and he smiled, glad to see her in a better mood. As he watched her quietly hum along to the song, an idea came to him. With a mischievous smile, he quickly took off his coat, setting it aside in the booth, rolled up his sleeves, then stepped out of the booth and offered her his hand.
“How about a dance, squire?”
Lara looked at him as though he had grown a separate head.
“Dance? Have you finally lost it?”
He winked at her and once more extended his hand, then said, “C’mon. Let’s celebrate a little. To getting this bastard on the ropes.”
Giving a nervous glance to the other bar patrons, who largely minded their own business, she sighed, mumbled an exasperated, “Screw it,”, then took his hand, giving a surprised yelp as John yanked her out of her seat and towards the center of the room. As the music played, John spun her, earning a surprised laugh as she followed along as quickly as she could. Pulling in close to him, she looked around to see a few patrons watching with confused smiles.
“Are you sure this is alright?”
He gave her a cocky smirk.
“Relax, Logan won’t mind us using the floor for a little dance, will ya Logan?”
He nodded to the bartender, a white-haired, older-looking man, who rolled his eyes and continued polishing a glass. At this, John chuckled.
“See? He don’t mind, so long as I pay the tab…at some point.”
With that, they danced, a largely clumsy, if enjoyable, affair that ended with John dipping Lara, then quickly pulling her back up, slightly more forcefully than he realized as they came face to face. There was a second that felt agonizingly closer to an hour, then Lara leaned forward slightly more. John hesitated, just for a moment, then his lips met hers. He was fairly confident there were rules against this for pigs, but fuck it.
He figured they’d both earned this.
C awoke with a jolt, and for a terrifying moment, he suspected that all his plans had been for nothing, and he, and BOB, had been returned to the Lodge after all this time. The moment faded as he looked around the room, recognizing the curtains as a bright yellow rather than red while the floor was styled like a checkerboard. Most importantly, the Arm, or MIKE, or any of the other meddling fools that were too afraid to seize what was theirs, wasn’t here.
Instead, there was simply a long-haired man in a green sweatshirt, who casually swirled a glass of pale liquid in a glass by the bar before sighing and turning to look at C. C looked at him quizzically, then asked, "Who-"
The man raised a hand, silencing him, then took a sip of his drink before explaining.
“Time is brief, so I will get to the point: your pest problem is not yet over.”
C thought the statement over. Pests? Surely, he didn’t mean literal pests, so that left pests of the figurative kind, which only left one possible term. He looked up at the man and replied, “A rat problem.”
The man took another sip and quietly nodded, mumbling, “Or…moles, but hey, you got there in the end. You have eliminated one, but there is a second.”
C scowled. Clearly, Richard had known more than he seemed, and now he felt a brief pang of regret for killing him before pulling everything he could out of him.
The man shook his head, and C clenched his fist in annoyance. Perhaps he would get to torture someone after all. Sensing his displeasure, the man added, “I can’t give you the exact answer, but a hint? I can do that. All I can say is that the most dangerous spies are those you think nothing of.”
C took a moment to process the hint. Everyone was beneath him. No one was strong enough to stop him, so it truly could’ve been anyone. But he did think something of his men, as loyal subordinates, so that left…
But which? He thought of who, of any of the girls his men had acquired, could be the one that had been leaking his secrets, then he remembered. The girl who had served them drinks days before Welker’s operation was shut down and would later be oh so close to Richard as he sensed his betrayal. He remembered her, her short-lived rebellion and the joy his men took in breaking her, but what was her name? Suddenly, the name came to him, and he locked eyes with the man and simply said, “Lara.”
Sipping at his drink, the man tapped his finger to his nose, then said, “Well done. Now, it’s time for you to go.”
“Why help me?”
The man set his drink down and cryptically replied, “I’ve got my own game to play. You focus on yours.”
With that, C vanished, leaving Beast, who sadly downed the rest of his drink with a mournful, “Sorry, John, but I’ve got a bigger fish to fry here.”
Chapter 5: King of Pain
From the moment Lara arrived in the warehouse, she could tell something was wrong. The energy was off, the way a booby-trapped room feels right before it gets set off, and she could see some of the men sneaking glances at her. She was used to that, but what made her uneasy was that rather than lecherous peeks at her chest or rear end, the glances were far more uncertain. As she sidled up to the bar, ready to serve drinks, the bartender instead crooked a thumb towards C’s office and calmly said, “Boss wants a word.”
A chill traveled down her spine, and she did her best to ignore the knot in her stomach as she forced a polite smile.
“I thought C doesn’t usually request the girl’s services?”
The bartender shrugged, not looking up at her as he wiped a rag across the bar.
“Well, looks like you’re special then.”
Taking a deep breath, she stepped away from the bar and climbed the stairs, hearing mumbles and hushed whispers from C’s men as she walked by. She knocked on his door, and was answered with a calm, “Come in.”
She did so, hesitantly stepping into the office to see that only C was in, and he coldly looked her over, gesturing for her to come inside. She took a few more steps and froze as C rose to greet her, standing in front of his desk and staring at her silently, seemingly ignorant to her discomfort as she shifted from foot to foot. Unnerved by the silence, Lara spoke first.
“You…wanted to see me?”
He nodded, then answered, “Let’s have a talk, you and I.”
Every hair on the back of her neck stood up as he reached out and brushed a hair out of her face, giving her a smile that never came close to his eyes, and she stammered, “About what? I must admit, talking isn’t really-“
The door to the office slammed behind her, causing her to turn to see two of C’s men, each towering and muscular, glaring at her. As one reaches down and locks it, C grabs a fistful of her hair and yanks, and she screams in pain, falling to her knees, head held up by C’s iron grip. He pulled her head upwards, locking eyes with her, and replied, “Let’s talk about John Constantine.”
John stubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray on the table and gave a wary glance out the window into the dark streets of the city. Lara had texted him almost twenty minutes ago, telling him that she had a big tip for him and that they needed to meet as soon as he could, but she was nowhere to be found. It unnerved him, given how punctual she was, and even Chas deciding to tag along was doing little to improve his mood. Taking a sip of his ale, Chas could sense John’s mood and chuckled.
“Easy, John, I’m sure the bird just got stuck in traffic. Lord knows that’s a nightmare in this place.”
“She don’t need to worry about traffic, Chas. She walks everywhere. I should give her a call.”
As he reached for his phone, Chas put a hand out and stopped him.
“Relax. She’ll get here when she gets here. Order a damned pint so I don’t feel like a tosser drinking by myself.”
John smiled and shook his head.
“Nah, for once I’m good, mate. Besides, you just worked a ten hour rush, you’ve earned it.”
At that, Chas raised the drink and mumbled, “Ain’t that the truth,” before tossing it back and setting the glass aside. Just then, John’s phone buzzed, and he took a glance at the screen to see one of the few contacts he kept on it with a simple message.
“Outside, under the lamppost.”
He nodded, tucking the phone into his pocket, then stood up and tossed on his coat, clapping Chas on the shoulder as he headed for the door. Chas raised an eyebrow and asked, “You want me to come out too?” to which John held up a hand and quipped, “Nah, you enjoy your pint. I’ll be back inside in two shakes of a lamb’s ass.”
Chas laughed as John stepped outside, then stopped to listen to the music coming in over the bar’s speakers and shook his head in annoyance.
“Goddamned golden oldies.“
John stepped out onto the street and leaned against the lamppost, a helpful spot since it was right by Chas’s parked cab, and pulled another cigarette from his coat, humming to himself as he waited for Lara. After a few moments, he perked up as he saw her distinct silhouette approach. His relief changed into caution as he saw her movement, strange and stilted, as though she was dragging one leg behind her. As she stepped into the light, the cigarette fell from his fingers and to the sidewalk as his jaw dropped in shock.
Into the light, one eye practically forced shut with a massive bruise, a trail of blood pouring from her nose, her dress torn and her face and arms covered in black and blue marks, stepped Lara, who could only mumble a pained, “J-John,” before collapsing. John rushed to her side, lifting her up and cradling her in his arms, at a rare loss for words beyond rage.
“I’m gonna fucking kill the bastard.”
A voice from the shadows responded, “Doubt it,” and John tore his eyes away from Lara to see two men, each holding a pistol, emerge, each bearing a sadistic smirk as they advanced on him. Thinking fast, John reached beside him and manage to open the door to Chas’s cab, taking cover behind it as bullets pinged against it. Holding Lara against him, he winced as a bullet tore through the door and whizzed past his head, and he emerged to shed his coat and snarled, “Deal with this,” at it.
Moving on it’s own, the coat floated into the air and lunged for one of the gunmen, who let out an undignified scream as it wrapped around his head and slammed him into the window. The other shooter stopped, baffled, and John took advantage of the brief pause to sling Lara’s arm over his shoulder and drag her away and towards Logan’s. He paused as he heard a gun clicking, looking over his shoulder to see the man had abandoned his partner and trained his pistol on him. Before he could gloat, a brick smashed against his head, and he collapsed to the ground an undignified heap to reveal Chas standing behind him. Tossing the brick aside, he gave John a cocky grin.
“Ain’t you glad I decided to come along now?”
The grin vanished as his eyes landed on Lara.
“Christ, what’d they do to her?”
John snapped his fingers, recapturing his attention, and exclaimed, “We don’t got time for that! Start your fucking cab!”
Chas nodded grimly, then stepped into his cab and turned it on, with John gingerly helping Lara in, then looking to his coat and giving a whistle. At it’s owner’s command, the coat snapped it’s prey’s neck, completely reversing his head, before letting the body fall, then rushed to John’s side. Putting the coat back on, John climbed into the passenger seat and gestured for Chas to punch it.
As the car raced into the night, Chas looked at John and asked, “Where to? My flat?”
Glaring out the window, John shook his head.
“Ain’t safe. If she told them about Logan’s, then our places are as good as enemy territory.”
Chas gave John an exasperated sigh.
“Well, then where the hell am I driving to? We’re sitting ducks out here!”
John gave his own sigh as a reply, then rubbed his eyes as realization hit him. Groaning, he answered, “Head for the 1% district. I got somebody there who can help, but I don’t think she’ll be pleased to see us.”
Chas nodded, then took a sharp turn, heading in the direction of the mansions looming in the distance.
stop music here
Sypha Belnades sighed contentedly as she sat down on the couch, her new book by her side. Ever since Planetary had taken the so-called “Book of the Dead” from a sorcerer who had not been particularly happy to part with it, she’d been excited for just a quiet night in to study its secrets, pre-occupying herself by building the puzzle box needed to open it. And with Trevor off on Hunter’s Guild business, this night was just the opportunity. Pausing to warm her drink before taking a sip, she cracked open the book, coughing as a small cloud of dust rose from it.
Just as her eyes began to scan the opening description, a series of loud, desperate knocks on her door broke her focus. Closing the book and setting it on her coffee table, she sighed, then walked to the door, pondering who exactly would come knocking twenty minutes to midnight. Frowning, she opened the door and grumbled, “I swear, if this is another insurance scam-“
Her threat was cut short as John Constantine, Chas Chandler, and a woman who was beaten beyond recognition pushed past her.
“John! What are you doing?”
He looked over his shoulder, doing his best to keep the woman standing, and hastily replied, “I’ll explain in a minute, first I need a couch!”
Seeing the dire state the woman was in caused the initial worry to vanish, and Sypha calmly guided the trio towards her living room, and John moved quickly, setting the woman down gently. As he helped the woman while Chas awkwardly stood by, Sypha walked to her kitchen, wet a rag, then cooled it slightly. She returned to the living room and moved John, crouching by the woman and wiping the blood from her face. As she did so, she glared at John, and Chas, sensing the bad energy, mumbled something about a phone call and left the room.
“Now may I ask why exactly a woman is bleeding on my couch? Or will I have to wait a while longer?”
Anxiously pacing the living room and running a hand through his hair, John simply explained, “Name’s Lara, part of a scheme gone bad. Might’ve fucked this one, if I’m looking back on it.”
Sypha gave John an unimpressed look and replied, “Might of?”
John came to a stop by the fireplace and rested his hand on the shelf above it, his eyes staring into the flame with a troubled expression. Sypha had very rarely seen John this worried, and after a pause, she stood from the couch, letting the rag cool the girl’s forehead, and placed a hand on John’s shoulder.
“If you need help, John, you can just ask, you know? Elijah would-“
John shrugged off her hand and shook his head.
“Nah, this ain’t your fight, squire. Just need ya to keep an eye on her while I wrap this up.”
She crossed her arms, clearly unimpressed with his lone wolf schtick.
“She needs a hospital, John.”
“And if I take her to one, the people that did that will come back around and finish her off! Please, just for the night.”
Massaging her forehead, Sypha sighed, then nodded.
“She’ll be safe here, but I’m still telling Elijah about this. You know he hates it when he’s left out of things.”
John gave her a grateful smile.
“You’re a lifesaver. And relax, I’ll work it out with the old man when this is over.”
He headed for the door, stopping to give one last guilty look to the sleeping Lara, who moaned in pain as she attempted to shift position. As he left, Sypha sat besides Lara and gently dabbed the rag against her head.
“Caught up in one of John’s schemes, huh? Trust me, I’ve been there.”
John exited Sypha’s apartment to see Chas waiting by the door. Pulling his keys from his coat pocket, Chas gestured towards the cab and asked, “Where to?”
Drawing a cigarette from his coat pocket, John lit it, letting it calm his nerves, then gave Chas a confused expression.
“This ain’t your fight, Chas. You can go home.”
Chas laughed, catching John off-guard, and put a firm hand on his shoulder, calmly saying, “Only reason you’ve made it this far is because of me, you smug prick. May as well be with ya when we finish it.”
In spite of all that had occurred in the last hour, John laughed, smiling genuinely.
“Alright, then, let’s do it, Chas. First stop is gonna be my flat, need to grab a few things, then we’re gonna pay C a visit.”
Chas nodded, following John close behind, then chuckled and asked, “Don’t suppose we can call the magic bloke club in on this?”
“Nah, this ain’t Magi business. It’d be a waste of membership.”
Chas shrugged. It had been worth a shot just to ask, though he had known the answer just from the look in John’s eyes. He’d only seen it a few times before, and each time was usually before some poor bastard who’d made the mistake of crossing John got fucked royally. As they climbed into the cab, Chas gave one last look at John and asked, cautiously, “You sure you’re ready for this, mate?”
John pointed to the road, a signal to get moving, and snapped, “I’m done fucking around, Chas. Shouldn’t have played with my food on this one.”
With that, Chas started the cab and headed back to the White Collar district, hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.
Chas’s car came to a stop near the apartment building, and John gave an assured nod to him as he stepped out into the street. Chas started to follow him, but John shook his head. Chas looked at John, concern visible in his eyes, and John leaned back into the car and forced a cocky grin.
“Just keep the car running, Chas. I ain’t gonna be long.”
At this response, Chas looked skeptical.
“C’mon, mate, what are ya gonna do if they’re waiting for ya up there?”
“I’ll sort em out. This time they ain’t gonna be surprising me. Just stay here and keep your eyes peeled. Be out in five.”
John gave a knock on the roof of the car for good luck, then closed the door and headed towards the apartment building. For his part, Chas anxiously drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, feeling very exposed as the car idled by the sidewalk. He should’ve known John would end up over his head. But, hey, Chas owed him more than once over, and he knew better than to leave a mate hanging. So, he was gonna sit here, and wait, and then they were gonna sort this “C” prick out.
As Chas contemplated his role, he failed to notice the small group crouched in an alley across the street, who observed the car. Leading the group was C, who nodded with his head towards the car and gave one simple command.
John exited the apartment building, wincing slightly at the new pain in his shoulder, and made sure the various pieces of his plan were all secure in his coat pocket’s. With a confident grin, he sat back down in Chas’s cab and gave his friend a teasing slap to the shoulder.
“See, what I tell ya? Five minutes, give or take a little on the side.”
Chas gave no response, staring blankly ahead, and John raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Oi, Chas. You can get moving.”
Still no response, and the little voice in the back of John’s head that often told him he was in danger was now furiously screaming to get out of the car. Instead, John ignored the annoying bastard and nudged Chas again, mumbling a less assured, “You alright, mate?”
At this, Chas turned and drew a gun from his coat, and John cursed as he grabbed his friend’s arm and pointed it up just as it fired. The two struggled, and John could now see that Chas’s eyes were entirely white. At this point, it was unfair to call whatever the fuck this is Chas, but John would think of a name later when he wasn’t fighting for his life.
Awkwardly falling back and slamming his head against the window, John raised his foot and drove it into “Chas’s” face, to which “he” barely reacted. He fought vainly, straining with effort, as “Chas” slowly but surely pushed the gun into his chest, pulling the hammer back for another shot. Out of options, John raised a hand and began furiously chanting, hastily finishing the incantation and flicking his wrist up, and the fake Chas froze, then gave a pained scream before dissipating, the cursed energy rapidly flying out of the cab and vanishing. With no wielder, the gun fell uselessly to the floor, leaving a baffled and winded John alone in the cab with one question.
Where the fuck was Chas?
He glanced over at the dashboard to see a light warning the trunk was on, and a pit of dread began to form in his stomach. He stepped out and cautiously walked to the back of the car, hand shakily opening the trunk, and he, despite all he had seen and been through in his fucked-up joke of a life, still cried out in shock and staggered back.
The last thing he saw before a bag was thrown over his head and a sharp blow knocked him out was Chas, face smashed inward and neck cleanly broken, stuffed into the back of his own car.
Chapter 6: Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic
When John came to, the scent of drugs burned his nostrils while fingers dug sharply into his arms and dragged his limp form up a flight of stairs. He heard the sound of a door opening and he was harshly shoved into wherever it led. The bag over his head was pulled off and a harsh light flooded his vision, and John winced as his eyes slowly adjusted, the dull pain against the back of his head doing him no favors.
Deciding to save his energy rather than struggle against the men holding him, he scanned the room. It was a nicely decorated office, a strange contrast to the sounds of activity and production he could hear just outside of it, but his primary focus was C, who sat at his desk, leaning in his chair and doing his own scan of John. John simply glared at him, and C, after a long silence, spoke first.
“So, this is John Constantine? I had hoped for someone a little more bombastic.”
“Yeah, well, life’s full of little disappointments, ain’t she?”
Standing up from his desk, C walked closer to John, staring into his eyes as the warlock balled his hands, forced behind his back, into his fists. He took a step back, seemingly satisfied in whatever he had seen, then replied, “On the contrary, I’m far from disappointed, John. This is a moment of victory for me. When they find what’s left of you, I suspect I’ll have a lot less do-gooders deciding to interfere in my affairs.”
John chuckled, straining slightly against the arms that gripped his shoulders, and asked, “What makes you think I’m gonna stop coming? Trust me, I’m a persistent little bastard.”
“Yes, you will continue to be an issue, and that’s why I let poor, sweet Lara live, to stumble back into your arms. As a reminder of what happens to those you care about.”
At the mention of Lara, John lunged and was easily pulled back by his captors, and C reared back and drove his fist into his gut, bringing him to his knees. Forced back to his feet, John gagged and wheezed, trying desperately to suck in air as his legs felt like liquid beneath him. It felt like someone had smashed a cinderblock into his ribcage, and the laughter of the men rang in his ears as they held him up. C frowned, seemingly disappointed, and gave a nonchalant wave of his hand, combined with a simple command.
Nodding, one of the men drew a gun from his belt, only to stop when C shook his head.
“Not here. I don’t want blood on my carpet. Take him to the floor, then dump the body when you’re finished.”
The man frowned, then did as told, tucking the gun back into it’s holster and gestured for the door. With a grunt, the two men dragged John, staring daggers at C all the while, out of the office. They pulled him down the stairs, then casually tossed him to the ground with a hard thud. The various men working in the warehouse, packaging and moving drugs along an assembly line, all stopped to watch in a mixture of grim curiosity and catharsis. Groaning, John pulled himself up to his knees, then slowly brought a shaky hand to his coat pocket, stopping when one of the men trained a gun on him.
“Easy, fucker. You think I’m gonna give you a chance to cast your magic bullshit?”
With a wry smile and a disarming shrug, John held up a silk cut and his lighter.
“Don’t suppose you’d be willing to let a bloke have one last smoke?”
After a moment’s hesitation, the man sighed, then gestured with his gun for him to continue. John nodded gratefully, then brought the cigarette to his lips and lit it. As he lowered the lighter, he laughed, and the assembled gang shared confused looks. The lead man trained his gun on John and snapped, “What’s so funny, asshole?”
“Nothing. Just laughing about how fucked you lot are.”
John snapped his fingers, and the lighter vanished, replaced with a snowglobe which he let fall from his grip and shatter against the floor, releasing a burst of cold, mint-scented air and snow through the warehouse. The men shivered and struggled to see through the newfound fog, and John’s would-be executioner scowled, taking a few cautious steps forward and then stopping as a figure appeared in the mist. At first, he assumed it to be John, but as the figure stood, towering over him and letting loose a deep laugh that sent a chill down his spine, he realized it was much worse.
Before he could take a step back, a furry green arm shot out from the mist and grabbed his, digging it’s claws in so strongly he cried out in pain as blood trickled from his wrist. Like he was a child’s toy, it lifted him up until he was face-to-face with it’s owner, who grinned in sadistic glee, showing rows upon rows of teeth.
Holding the first of what would be many kills, the Greench faux-sweetly asked, “Oh, did you bring the Greench this year? Or have you been naughty?”
The thug let out a final terrified whimper before the Greench messily chomped down on his head, easily tearing it in half and coating it’s bright-green fur in blood. It tossed the spent corpse aside, then lunged for the man’s comrades, who screamed and opened fire as the beast advanced. For his part, John kept his head down, ignoring the sounds of gunfire, pleas for mercy, and general carnage as he snuck underneath a table and continued smoking his silk cut.
After a few minutes, the violence stopped, and a pair of hooves walked over to the table John hid under, followed by a gnawed-on corpse landing with a wet smack in front of John. The Greench giggled.
“Oh, Johnny, you can’t hide from me. I have your scent.”
With a sigh, John climbed out from under the desk and looked up at the Greench, who absentmindedly chewed on an arm, their fur matted with blood and gore. Throwing the arm aside, they leaned in close to John, the natural mint smell doing little to hide the stench of death, and their tail gently scraped against his cheek.
“Now, for locking me up, I should rip you limb from limb.”
Still smoking, John simply stared back, eyes betraying no emotion at the creature’s threat. After a moment, it pulled away.
“But, this is the most fun I’ve had in some time, so you get a rare present from me today. See you next Christmas, Johnny.”
With a final wicked laugh, the Greench stepped into the mist, which receded, leaving only the aftermath of it’s massacre. Stepping over the body of a man who appeared to have had his head caved in with a snowball, John tossed his cigarette aside and ascended the stairs to C’s office. He’d worry about the little green shithead later. He had a bigger bastard to deal with now.
He entered the office to find C making himself a drink, and John gave a triumphant grin and asked, “Feel like making me one?”
C pivoted, picking up the gun from the minibar, then coldly replied, “No,” before firing it. The round hit John square in the chest, and he staggered back, clutching the gunshot wound as he fell against the wall. After a few moments, he gave a final groan, then slumped forward, dead. C’s smirk of satisfaction turned to a confused frown as he felt a searing pain in his chest, and he looked down to blood beginning to leak through his shirt. The gun fell from his hand as he tumbled to the floor, and John chuckled and stood to his feet, giving a mocking bow. Vision fogging, C managed to stammer out a confused, “What?” as John walked over to the minibar and helped himself to his fallen foe’s drink.
“Pretty simple really.”
He unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it down, showing C a rapidly fading drawing of a shield etched onto his chest, then took a sip of the drink.
“It’s called a deflection spell, and I was a little worried it’d fade when you and your little pack of pricks downstairs were wailing on me, but guess I just got lucky.”
He looked down from his gloating to see that C had died, then spitefully spit in his direction.
“Lara sends her regards, fucker.”
Suddenly, the light began to drain from the room, and in the corner of his eyes, John could see vague, flickering silhouettes advancing on the bodies, and he felt an immense weight in his pocket. Confused, he opened the pocket and saw that damned ring that had gotten him into the mess. He cursed, then crouched down and jammed the ring onto C’s cold finger.
“I ever see this shaggy prick again, he better have a hell of a favor for me.”
The room went dark, and John staggered back as a dozen of the creatures he’d encountered swarmed the corpse, clawing and picking at it, smearing their hands across C’s face and tearing open his shirt to dig into his chest. Doing his best not to alert them, John watched, baffled, as the creatures tore C’s chest open and extracted a large, black orb with the face of a long-haired, cackling man on it. It’s purpose done, C’s body vanished.
The man in the orb screamed, an ear-splitting screech that made John put his hands over his ears, and lunged for him, knocking him to the ground, somehow clawing at his face and tossing him around like a ragdoll. As he tumbled over the desk behind him, he managed to shakily raise a hand, freezing the orb in place, and began chanting a banishment curse.
Seeming to realize what was happening, the man in the orb gnashed his teeth and roared ineffectually, then vanished in a burst of light. The creatures gave each other confused looks, then fell back into the shadows, and after a few moments, the lights flickered back on, leaving only John in the room. Catching his breath, he mumbled out an utterly confused, “What the fuck?” then limped out of the office and down the stairs. He started to head for the exit, then stopped, glancing towards the fairly sizable stockpile of drugs near the back of the warehouse. An idea dawned on him, and he walked to the stockpile, flicked his lighter on, lit one last silk cut, then tossed it on top, giving a satisfied nod as he watched it spread.
His work finished, he exited the warehouse, walking a fair distance before sitting on the back of one of the cars parked in front of it, and took a long drag of his silk cut as he watched the flames quickly spread to the outside of the warehouse. After a few minutes, he heard sirens approaching, but he didn’t move.
He simply watched it all burn.
C’s eyes snapped open as he found himself back in the yellow room. The stinging pain in his chest had gotten worse, and he glanced down to see his gut had been torn open, with BOB no longer within him. He felt…odd. Drained of strength, like he could sleep for a hundred years, but he knew that wasn’t possible. He looked up to see the long-haired man from before sitting in his own chair, watching him silently.
C tried to ask why he was here, but no words left his mouth. The man smiled.
“I manufactured you…for a purpose. And now that purpose is fulfilled. Goodbye, C.”
The man waved a hand over C, and his head cracked open in a puff of black smoke, the rest of his body crumpling itself up like paper before collapsing entirely, leaving only a small, gold orb in it’s place. The false Ramona stepped out from behind the curtain, taking jerky, confusing steps towards the chair, and reached down, picking up the orb and walking to Beast, bowing her head as she presented it. He smiled graciously, then reached back behind his head, tugging a long, unkempt hair free from his head and setting it into the false Ramona’s palm. She closed it, then opened it again, revealing the orb and hair to be gone.
Satisfied, Beast sat back and closed his eyes for a moment. All the pieces were finally set. If all went well, he would be free.
Working at her desk, Ramona yawned, stretching her arms as she finished writing up a press release. Beast had called, saying he would need it by tonight in “celebration of the repeal of the anti-wrestler laws”, and so now she’d found herself working an hour later than she intended. She massaged her eyes, thinking of what she and Scott would cook for dinner once they were home, only to be startled by a burst of light and a small, gold orb falling onto her desk.
Surprised, she inspected it, scrunching her nose in disgust as she realized a strand of hair was wrapped around it, and she went to toss it into the trash and hopefully forget she’d ever seen, only for a strange, but oddly familiar voice in the back of her head to plead her not to. She couldn’t place the voice, but it felt…trustworthy, for some reason.
After a few seconds, she shrugged, then set the orb onto her desk before going back to proofreading. The orb, once she took her eyes off it, rolled slightly out of view, biding it’s time.
Tossing his finished cigarette aside, John reached for another, attempting to conjure up hellfire to no avail. He tried again, snapping his fingers angrily, then sighed as he heard shoes crunch on the gravel behind him and felt a familiar chill in the air. He didn’t turn to see who it was. He already knew.
Watching as crews worked to put out the fire, Elijah Snow put his hands into his pockets and whistled, impressed.
“You know, I’m beginning to see why Sypha says you’re more trouble than you’re worth.”
John tucked the cigarette back into his pocket.
“And what do you think, boss?”
“I think that you probably just put an end to a big problem in this city, John. So, I guess she and I will have to continue to disagree on this one.”
“Works for me, then. There a reason you decided to pop by, or just doing a wellness check on little old me?”
“I came to tell you that Chandler is being revived as we speak, and we checked Lara into the hospital under an alias. If you’d like to see her, just ask for Doctor Hussain. She can point you in-“
John hopped down from the car and shook his head.
“Nah, I’ve put the poor bird through enough. Let’s give her a chance to rest.”
Elijah raised an eyebrow, surprised.
“Are you sure?”
John nodded wearily, and Elijah, recognizing the tiredness in the expression, gave him an understanding nod in return. He stepped aside as John pushed past him, then called out, “And where are you off to now, exactly?”
Not looking back, John replied, “To grab a pint. Seems to be the only thing I can do in this city that I don’t fuck up.”
While on the surface John looked outgunned and outmanned by C’s forces, it really wasn’t anything he hadn’t dealt with before. He was a craftier, more experienced combatant, which enabled him to go up against the more arrogant C’s gang and prevail in this game of cat and mouse between two masterminds. C’s ruthlessness and resources just couldn’t stack up when it really came down to it.