Hey all; what follows is the debut 'issue' as posted on a DC-fanfiction site known as the DC2. I don't know if I'm allowed to post the address on her for sake of violating some vague rule or another, so I'm not going to risk it. But for those of you who would like to read up on fresh and exciting adventures featuring all your favourite DC heroes, simply search DC2 - you'll know the site you're looking for when you see the title.
Now, without further ado, I present the start of my ongoing fanfiction series - Hellblazer!
"RagnaRock" Part 1 (of 3)
Drury Lane, London, 23:37
The rain was lashing down from the cloud riddled night sky, the light of the crescent moon playing off the droplets as they continued their bombing-run on the teeming humanity standing out on the paved streets far below. But these were die-hard clubbers that waited in the soaking, bitter chill of the winter downpour; they all knew what they'd signed-up for when they'd decided to get dressed in their glad-rags and handbags, despite a weather forecast in the minuses and one great, big, gray storm cloud plastered squarely over the capital. But it was [i]their[/i] capital, [i]the[/i] party capital of the UK (if not the whole of Europe) and nothing – not rain, nor snow, nor the damn apocalypse – was going to stop them getting into their favourite clubs, dancing the night away, and getting completely [i]trashed[/i].
Even their clothing was an outspoken testament to their stubborn determination, a huge middle finger to Mother Nature who, in turn, retaliated with a further drop in temperature, the rain striking the miniskirt-flaunting, midriff-baring populace like needles, pumping liquid nitrogen into their very cores. Many foolish clubbing wannabes attempted to stamp-out the cold, only to have their pumps smash into the lake that was swelling under the queue's feet, splashing the legs of all nearby, who shot them furious looks.
Only one girl had seen the sense to bring an umbrella, and she held it close to her head to avoid any unwanted attention from strangers seeking shelter (and then some, she was sure). Even her friend, the guilty party in this entire stupid idea of a night-out, had been denied the mercy of cover from the freezing downpour.
Serves her right, groused the dark-haired girl as she observed her drenched companion from under the brim of her umbrella, dragging me out on a night like this! An' just when I'd bought that new Gerard Butler DVD, too…!
"Wet, are we?" she growled, fighting back a sneer at the sight of her friend's morose expression. "Good."
"Aw, come on Gemz – lemme under there!"
Gemma Masters started to lift her umbrella reluctantly, and was rewarded for her compassion when freezing water found its way onto her neck, trickling slowly down her back like some malicious ice cub. She let out a horrified squeal, and drew the umbrella down firmly again until the spindly metal frame scratched at her scalp. "Forget it," she struck out her bottom lip, casting her eyes to the rippling ground. "You wouldn't take 'no' for a bloody answer, so now you can just stand there an' ruddy well lump it!"
"Witch," mewed her friend piteously. "Hate you…"
"Yeah, yeah, me too, darlin'," drawled Gemma, bringing her gaze up to the deep-red neon sign that flashed rhythmically above their heads, bathing the puddles at their feet in light that turned the waters the hues of blood. She sighed, "What sort of stupid name is RagnaRock, anyway? Some kind of tacky Viking gimmick, right? Ugh... an' you don't even like heavy metal, Steph!"
Stephanie Hill drew herself up to her full height in indignation which, with her heels on, made her tower over Gemma. But any irate look she may have been firing off at her sheltered friend was wasted, as Gemma could no longer see her face from under her umbrella. "That's not true! I love heavy metal, me."
"Dear, you forget: I've seen your music collection. An' trust me, Britney ain't heavy metal. Neither's Robbie bloody Williams."
"Hah!" Stephanie crossed her arms in what, she hoped, was an air of superiority. "What about Guns N' Roses, then, huh? Huh?"
The umbrella tilted back as Gemma shot her friend a sceptical glance. "They're a rock band, Steph, not heavy metal. And that CD's your Dad's."
"Oh, alright," the glammed-up girl seem to visibly deflate before her friend. "So I don't like heavy metal at all – god, Gemz, you're just like your uncle sometimes, you know that?" Gemma flinched at the light-hearted accusation; Stephanie had once asked her what it was, exactly, that her Uncle John did for a living and, in a state of panic, Gemma had settled on 'detective'. Which was true, in a sense, despite being a lie by omission – but, then again, how could you explain someone like Uncle John to the everyday person? It was best if Stephanie thought he was simply in the 'force and left it at that. Still, that couldn't stop the uneasy twinge Gemma felt in the pit of her stomach every time his name was dropped. It was almost as if its very mention was an omen in itself of something bad on the horizon.
"Yeah, so I don't like the music," Stephanie repeated with a shrug, "can you honestly blame me? I mean, what losers do? It's just hammerin' on your instruments an screamin' obscenities down the mic, ennit? Speakin' of which, didn't your Uncle –"
"Don't even go there," Gemma almost snapped, catching her friend's surprised, hurt expression. "Geez, sorry, Steph. It's just, well, I'd rather not, y'know? Not tonight…" I don't want tonight to turn into 'All about John Constantine Night', she added silently. "So," she went on, forcing some cheerfulness into her voice, "why are we here, then? I'm guessing we're not shuffling about in the belting rain just so you can happen to catch pneumonia in time for our French Orals…"
Finally, like a train pulling away from a station after the tracks had been cleared, the queue for the RagnaRock nightclub began to flow forward to a chorus of sodden cheers.
"So?" Gemma urged, finally sharing her umbrella with her eager, snivelling girlfriend. "Spill the beans, or I'm heading home…"
"His name's Erik," Gemma groaned, rolled her eyes; that figured – it was always about a boy with Stephanie. The girl just couldn't help herself, couldn't help telling herself that she was in love all over again for the umpteenth time that year.
"Erik," Gemma stated flatly, unimpressed. "And you think you're gonna meet him here again, tonight, is that it?"
"God, I bette, Gemz – he works here, after all. He's the only reason I'm coming here a second time…"
"He what?" she exclaimed, almost dropping the handle of her umbrella as she stared, wide-eyed, at her friend. "He bloody works 'ere? Jesus H. Christ, Steph! We're barely finishing our GCSE's –"
"Ssh! Do you wanna let everyone know we're underage, you stupid cow?!!?"
" – And already you're chasing older men?" swallowing hard, Gemma stared coldly down the line before he, her eyes quickly fixing on the barrel-chested Nordic giant the club had hired as the bouncer. "Ugh," her nose wrinkled, "it's not Dolph Hurl-gren over there, is it?"
"Gimme some credit, Gemz."
"Oh, thank God…"
"He looks about the same age, though."
After several minutes the pair found themselves at the front of the queue, the bleached-blond hulk standing before them, barring the entrance like a formidable statue. "Heidi?" he grunted, his accent thick and gruff.
Gemma gave her friend a puzzled look, but Stephanie simply mouthed 'I.D.'
"Oh," she fumbled with the umbrella as she patted down her pockets for her fake I.D., only to have Stephanie stop her with a hand on hers. Puzzled, she watched her friend poke her head out from under the brim of the umbrella, flashing the bounder a bright smile, her teeth flashing crimson with every pulse of the neon sign above them.
"Stephanie!" the Nord took a step back, "I did not recognize you. You haff come to see Erik, ja? Good, good…he vill be relieved to see you."
If the way this giant of a man had phrased that last statement hadn't been enough to arouse Gemma's suspicions, the feeling she got when the bouncer looked her in the eye definitely got her attention; like a hive of bees in her head, buzzing furiously away and pushing at her brain from all sides. She hadn't felt anything like this since she'd come into contact with a hypnotist who'd tried to erase all memories of the world Uncle John lived in. But that was an age ago, a different life, a different Gemma Masters. I'm probably just on edge from all this talk of Uncle John, she thought, as if trying to reassure herself. I'm sure I'm just jumping at shadows…
Stephanie made to go in the club, but turned back when the bouncer stepped back to block Gemma off. "No, Sven – she's with me. Erik told me to bring her."
Ookay…then again, maybe I'm not. Something's not right here. Closing her umbrella, Gemma stepped around the man-mountain that was Sven, and hurried to join Stephanie as she entered Ragnarock. I'm definitely going to have to watch myself, Gemma sighed reluctantly, feeling a simple night-out had seemed too good to be true. Just my luck…
Once inside the main foyer it was like they'd both stepped back in time; the walls were plastered with faux-stone brickwork, complete with cracks between the window-sized bricks large enough for lifelike prosthetic rats to nestle amongst the layers of dust. To the right was the cloakroom, to the left toilets. Directly before them was a pair of heavy double-doors of wood and iron, torches blazing on either side in black cradles, flames licking up at the blackened ceilings. Smoke seemed to be crawling out from under the doors, and Gemma started, fearing a fire.
"Relax," Stephanie laughed, walking up to the doors, "it's just dry-ice. You ready…?"
Without waiting for an answer (which, Gemma was sure, would've been a flat-out 'no'), she pushed open the doors – which weren't nearly as heavy as they seemed – and instantly Gemma was struck by an explosion of sound, lyrics in a thick Finnish accent barely audible over the din of an unbalanced sound system too focused on the bass.
"The heart of Turisas was forged by four winds,
In a smith, high up in the skies!
On an anvil of honour, with a hammer of blood,
The Four Winds pounded!
Battle – Battle METAL!
Battle – Battle METAL!"
"Charmin'," groaned Gemma, already massaging her aching forehead, "God, what have I let myself in for…?"
"Come on!" roared Stephanie, running into the thrashing crowd beyond the doors, quickly becoming lost in the sea of bodies and darkness. "I want you to meet Erik…!"
That was the last thing Gemma heard her say…
Earls Court, the next morning.
Of all the bloody…
You think you know someone, like – that you can trust them after all these bloody years, and what do you get for your damn trouble? They bloody well let you down, is what happens: a good fifteen years I've been patronising his establishment, it was always my first port of call, every morning. An' there's always been forty Silk Cut with my bloody name on 'em, 'Care of ruddy John Constantine', and all that!
But nooo… Not today, when it's utterly pissin' it down and the nearest alternative store is a good ten minutes away.
It's bloody criminal…
John Constantine shivered, and pulled the lapels of his sodden tan trench coat closer to him as he picked-up his pace in the face of the unrelenting deluge. The little nicotine demons in his skull were roaring for appeasement, his lungs raw and yearning for the tender caress only the finest French cigarettes could bring.
Grimacing, John mentally kicked himself for the seventh time since he'd left his apartment; he should've known that smoking the last fag the night before – rather than leaving it for the morning after to see him over until he'd made it to the corner shop – was just asking to jinx his damn luck. And now, here he was, soaked to the bone and royalled peeved without a single puff since he'd gone to sleep last night. So much for riding the synchronicity highway…
He was almost so desperate for a fix he started contemplating tonguing the first car exhaust he saw running. Almost, he smiled bitterly, but not quite.
"An' you can quit it right now, you spiteful ~$*£," he muttered darkly as he cast his gaze skywards, flinching as Mother Nature retorted with two direct hits in his eyes. "Damn it, like I don't suffer enough on a good day…"
Through the noise-filter of the downpour John could just about make out the Coke-emblazoned signs of the newsagents. "Sweet salvation!" he cried hoarsely, running the last several feet. He was about to burst through the door and do his best 'wet dog in from the rain' impression when a sign on the shop's notice board caught his eye. Or, rather, a clutter of signs; over a dozen 'Missing Persons' notices that he would've normally dismissed as either a)bad luck, b)a case for the police, or c) belonging on milk bottles. But not this time.
No, this time the sea of faces stopped him in his tracks, the first faint peal of alarm bells sounding in the recesses of his mind – and for good reason. For one thing, each and every one of the 'Missing Persons' was female, aged fifteen to eighteen. And they'd all gone missing in the space of the last fortnight.
"Huh," he continued to mull these strange facts over in his head as he entered the newsagents, shaking the loose droplets of rain off his unruly blond hair. "Odd…" Maybe the ol' synchronicity is working after all, although I wish I was wrong…
"You speak of the missing girls, my friend?" enquired the Indian shopkeeper with a welcoming, but sombre smile.
John fixed him with a hard look, wondering if the man across from him was a psychic. "How…?" he began.
"Almost everyone has mentioned them!" the smile widened, but John wasn't sure if he was meant to find this reassuring. "It is very tragic, indeed. I just hope they catch whoever is responsible, and fast."
"Yeah, or whatever…"
"Sorry, my friend…?"
"Nothing," John shrugged, "force of habit, guv. Forget about it…got any Silk Cut? I'm dyin' here…"
"Ah!" the smile widened even further still, and John feared the man's face would split in two at the jaw. The shopkeeper turned and snapped a white and purple box of twenty from the shelf. "You are a man with fine tastes, my friend! Five-seventy for you."
John's hand dipped into the pocket of his trench coat, his fingers brushing the leathery skin of his wallet when he paused to look back over his shoulder at the shower outside. "On second thought, better make that forty," he muttered darkly, "another trip through all that and I'll bloody dissolve."
"Right you are – that's eleven-forty, then. Tell you what, for you my friend, just eleven."
"Much obliged," John smiled thinly, fished-out a ten-pound note and a single pound coin and placed them on the counter. He took the two packs of twenty, pocketed one and tore the plastic wrapping off the other like an over-eager birthday boy. He took out the first cigarette of the box, pocketed the rest, and brought his lighter up with a practised flourish. He paused only when he caught the shopkeeper's eye. "You don't mind, do you? It'd be like tryin' to commit arson in Atlantis if I lit-up out there…"
The other man laughed, mystified. "You speak of strange things, my friend, but go ahead! It makes a pleasant change to be asked first, though…"
"Diamond," sighed Constantine, pinning the cigarette between his lips as he raised his lighter to it, cupping the flame that leapt from it despite the absence of wind or rain. The tip ignited instantly, glowing like embers as he inhaled deeply. He held the first lungful of sickly-sweet smoke for several seconds, eyes closed in revelry as he savoured the moment. A bloody age, he thought blissfully. "Ahhhh…beauty," he breathed heavily, the plume of smoke that billowed from his lips quickly dissipated by the ceiling fans above. "Cheers, guv'nor, you take good care now."
"You also, my friend – safe journey!"
John stopped before the door, eyeing the rain with a smirk as he brought the lit cigarette to his lips once more. "Dunno about safe," he answered, "but I'll sure as Hell feel warmer…"
He left the shopkeeper to his amused chuckling, pausing only for as long as it took him to finish the first cigarette and move on to his second, during which time he looked over the sea of missing faces once more. All girls. All teenagers. All within the last two weeks. Somewhere, in the far corner of his mind John preferred to ignore when he could help it, what few facts he was faced with began to add up to an answer he prayed was wrong.
'Ang about, his hand delved into his coat pocket at the first sign of vibrations, retrieving a Nokia flip-top cellphone. He held it at eye-level, letting it ring for several seconds as he glared at it ruefully. He could commune with the dead via their skulls, but he'd be damned if he could ever get used to the concept of wireless communications. Sometimes, he felt modern technology was the most terrifying magic of all.
He let out a reluctant sigh, flicked open the phone and pressed the 'answer' button. "House of Pies."
"Uh," a barely audible sniffle sounded in his ear, "Uh-Uncle John…?"
Just like that, all sense of wry humour evaporated. John gripped the phone tighter, sliding his cigarette to the opposite corner of his mouth. "Gemma?" his brow furrowed, the rain taking a backseat suddenly, unnoticed as all his senses focused on his niece. "What's wrong, luv?"
"W-where are you, Uh-Uncle John? I-I need," a choked sob, "I need to see you. Where…?"
"Calm down, Gemma, I'm at the newsagents, headin' home now. You…?"
"Already at yours. H-how long…?"
"I'll be there in five, luv. You just make yourself a cuppa an' sit tight, alright? I'll be right there…"
"They've got her, Uncle John," a deep, shuddering breath, "they've taken Stephanie…"
At that last word, John froze on the spot, his blood ran cold; Stephanie Greene was one of Gemma's best friends from school. She was also sixteen. "Who, Gemma? Who has taken Stephanie?" he asked hoarsely, already dreading the answer.
"The monsters, John: the monsters took her…"
To Be Continued
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Until next time!