- My real problem is that London will kill me long before anyone else gets the chance. Not the people. The city.
Appearing in "The Spark and the Flame, Part 3: The Big Smoke"
- The Riddling Butcher
- Cult of the Cold Flame
- Philip Croyden
- Labyrinth Snare
- Croyden's Compass
Synopsis for "The Spark and the Flame, Part 3: The Big Smoke"
On top of the fact that John Constantine is in a race against the blood-hungry Sargon the Sorceress and Mister E to find the final piece of Croyden's Compass, he is afflicted by a further annoyance. John Constantine is cursed, and the city of London itself is trying to kill him. He may not last more than ten minutes.
Regardless, he arrives at the terminal to find his old friend Julia waiting for him with her car. He plants a kiss on her lips, only to be rebuffed; she's married now - he's been away a while. John chose her because she is reliable and has learned to use her fear, though she is not fearless. This is put to the test quickly, as the curse begins to catch up with them. Cars begin ramming them from every angle, and though Julia tried to give them magical protection, the curse is very powerful. As she begins to regret ever helping him, John calls for her to stop the car - thanks to someone else's spell, they're not in London anymore. Unfortunately, where they are is something of a hellscape.
John explains that this is one of many psychic spaces; labyrinth snares which contain the overflow of nightmares in each city. Usually, there is a way out - but John can't find it by the usual methods. They are interrupted by a disturbing entity of malformed and misplaced body parts, who claims to have ruled this particular labyrinth for forty years. He offers John a noose, claiming that death is the only escape from it. John rejects the noose, angering the creature such that it threatens to jam its thumb into Julia's eye. Casually, John lights a cigarette and claims that he can offer their tormentor something particularly nice in exchange for their being allowed to leave.
John and Julia are returned to London at night, and he decides it would be best if she stayed away from him for now - he would rather not see her get hurt, as this curse is much worse than he thought. She muses that adventures with him are never boring at least, and he jokes that if she'd married him when he proposed years ago, she could have had this kind of excitement every day.
Stepping inside an optics shop nearby, John immediately finds himself threatened by Sargon and Mister E, who have beaten him there. Sargon hopes he has brought them the dial of the compass, so that they can complete it once Mister E coerces the proprietor of the shop into revealing the location of the compass' lens. It is clear to John that the old man doesn't have a clue what they're talking about - but he knows where the lens is. John points out that the shopkeeper's name is Philip Croyden - only son of Angus Croydon, who created the compass itself. John reveals that Philip has been looking through the lens without ever knowing what it was. This is because his eyes are the lens.
Having built up to this moment intentionally, John watches as the Riddling Butcher, once-ruler of the labyrinth snare crashes through the window and unleashes a magical blast into Mister E's chest. The creature turns to Philip, and takes his eyes. Wheeling around to face Sargon, the Butcher can sense her blood relationship to John Sargent, who first trapped him in the labyrinth snare. Exacting his revenge, he attacks, as John remarks that if he can't have the compass, she certainly won't. Besides, he owes her some pain for having murdered his friend Chris.
John knows that Sargon will survive the encounter, but he still takes the opportunity to escape - as much an escape as a city with a grudge against him can afford, anyway. Fortunately, Sargon had pointed him to a shortcut. He can use the snare to travel, and avoid the curse.
Some time later, John manages to get back to his little apartment in New York City, and places the dial among his other curios and artifacts. Despite preventing Sargon and Mister E from gaining a powerful weapon, John lost a friend and allowed his enemies to learn too much about him. The Cult of the Cold Flame will be after him again soon, and angrier. Not to mention the Spectre's intent to collect his soul will likely come back to haunt him.
Even so, John has the advantage, if not an outright win, and it's time to begin pressing his luck.
- This book was first published on May 8, 2013.
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