HellBlazer #157    HellBlazer #157 : And Buried...

   Writer : Brian Azzarello
   Artist : Steve Dillon

Fresh from his violent backwoods excursion, John Constantine arrives in the Half Shell bar, which is located somewhere in the middle of America. Making his way to the bathroom, he passes two youngish men who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a third who appears to be running late. With the load on his bladder lightened considerably, John returns to the bar and finds Agent Turro waiting for him. The two exchange their now customary barbs, with Turro making pointed references to the recent events involving Constantine in Doglick. John and Turro continue their verbal sparring as the third man arrives in the background and joins his friends. The late arrival is in no mood for his friends derogatory remarks about his time keeping, so he cuts right to the point and pulls a copy of Time magazine from his jacket and points to a picture contained therein of some mercenaries operating out of Sierra Leone. The man's two friends are in shock when they recognise one of the mercenaries as someone they thought dead at their hands.

Turro works on a plate of oysters before pushing a piece of folded paper across the bar towards Constantine. John refuses to take the bait, leaving the paper untouched in front of him. The three men in the background continue their discussion about the picture in the magazine - one of them suggests that it's just an old picture taken before they killed him but the late arrival points out that the man now has a distinctive skull tattoo on his hand that he didn't have when they did away with him. The third man tells his friends that he tried to get in touch with the photographer who took the picture but the day after talking with his secretary, the photographer was found dead. He then went to the mortuary but the man who dealt with the corpse was hysterical and refused to talk with him. One of the other men suggests that the three of them head over and get physical with the mortician until he tells them what they need to know - but his friend points that that course of action would be futile given that, according to the morning newspaper, the mortician in question hanged himself the night before.

Not Dead Yet

Turro continues to goad Constantine, trying to get him to look at the piece of paper. He suggests that someone from John's past, with the resources and ability to get at him, is trying to make his life a living nightmare. One of the anxious friends in the background has come to the conclusion that they should dig up the dead man's body in order to prove that he's really dead. Only one of the friends remains convinced that the man in the picture is someone else, and his patience is rapidly running out with his two spooked colleagues. When one of them speculates that the supposedly dead man's wife, who committed suicide shortly after he apparently died, may actually have been killed by her husband then the sceptic loses his head and shouts at the late arrival for getting them all so worked up over nothing.

Turro offers Constantine the folded paper a final time and the Englishman finally gives in, opening it up to reveal just one word written on it - "Highwater". Visibly annoyed with the FBI agent's constant jibes, John warns Turro that he shouldn't think that he knows him - the agent replies by making mention of a young fifteen year old girl by the name of Katrina Bogdonovich. Constantine seems shaken by this and pockets the paper, agreeing to go to Highwater. The late arrival points out that the man in the picture has a scar running from ear to ear around his neck - a scar they gave him when they cut his throat and left him for dead. The bar man interrupts their heated discussions by handing the late arrival a postcard that arrived at the bar for him - it reads "See you soon" and has a Sierra Leone postmark. The three men sit together in stunned silence.

As Turro and Constantine leave the bar together, they pass a patron entering through the front door. John notes the ornate skull tattoo on the back of the patron's hand and quips to Turro "...That bloke there, I'd heard he was dead...".

(long term Hellblazer readers may recognise that this story telling trick was used previously in issue #51, not sure why Azzarello regurgitated it here).

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