A Feast of Friends
Writer : Jamie Delano
Art : John Ridgway
Cover Artist : Dave McKean
Colors : Lovern Kindzierski
Letters : Anne Halfacree
Editor : Karen Berger
Issue Synopsis : Having barely escaped Mnemoth's embrace, John heads straight for Papa Midnite's club. He searches for Midnite in all of the club's usual haunts - the secret casino, the sex shows - but it's not until he reaches The Arena that he finds him, soaking up the primal howls of the crowd that have gathered to watch two of his zombies smash each other into pulp. Apparently Midnite needs the crowd's bloodlust to charge up his batteries for the coming battle with Mnemoth. He mocks Constantine's squeamishess before leading him to Lester.
Gary is being kept like an animal in the pens usually reserved for Midnite's zombie slaves. He begs John to free him, saying that he fears for his life around Midnite and his men. John tries to calm the frightened junkie, saying that as soon as Mnemoth is caputred they'll be on the first plane home. Gary asks for some heroin, but John refuses; he wants to use Lester's craving as bait to attract the demon-swarm so that he and Midnite can "put a whammy" on it. Constantine promises Lester that they'll both walk out unharmed and returns to the elevator. Once inside, he collapses, sickened to the core by the lies he's just told.
Exhausted, John plans to turn in for the night, but he finds himself in a waking nightmare when he opens the bathroom door to find Sister Anne-Marie, a dead member of the Newcastle Crew, sitting on the toilet waiting for him. John discovers he is not the only visitor, as he the ghosts of Frank North and Benjamin Cox step out of the wardrobe, and Emma's spectre emerges from behind the curtain. Constantine channels his fear into anger, demanding to know why she's brought these horrors into his life. Emma does not reply, but stands silent before turning to join the other ghosts. They continue to stare at Constantine, who cracks and says that he's sorry that they were killed by the Invunche (in Swamp Thing #37, 46, 48), but that they knew the risks. Their continued silence makes John realise that it's not their deaths that they're angry about, but Gary Lester's. Constantine tries to justify his plans, but the Crew just continue to gaze at him. In frustration, John turns out the light and curls up in bed. In the darkness, he hears Emma's voice, soft and sweet and close to his ear, whispering goodnight. He cries himself to sleep.
Having finished dining on the priest it possessed at the end of Hellblazer #1, Mnemoth soars out through the roof of the church and into the New York night, gloating over the rich delicacies of desire available in the big city. After possessing a bodybuilder (who devours his own flesh), it picks up the scent of Gary Lester somewhere on the horizon, and begins to move...
John is rudely awoken by Midnite's zombie servant, who rushes him up to the tower's roof where the Voodoo Lord is already waiting. Lester is brought in and strapped into an (unplugged) electric chair, ready for the ritual. Constantine, his eyes hidden behind reflective shades, comforts his friend, telling him that once it's all over he'll get a shot of the finest Thailand heroin, straight into the vein. As the ritual begins and Lester is splashed with chicken blood, a dark blot appears on the sun, then begins to approach Papa Midnite's tower. Realising how big the demon has grown, Lester tells John that the bottle won't hold it. When John doesn't reply, Gary realises the truth - he's not only the bait, but the trap as well.
The swarm covers Lester's face as the millions of insects enter his mouth, nose, ears... his skin stretches grotesquely, the movement of the flies visible beneath his flesh. As Mnemoth completes its posession of Lester's body, the stretched skin contracts back into its original shape. Constantine quickly cuts the binding tattoos into Lester, but he barely has time to finish before Lester snaps back into consciousness, breaks his bonds and launches himself at the conman. John quickly talks Lester out of his rage, buying enough time to strap him into a straightjacket and administer the heroin. As Lester is carried back down to his cell, John demands whiskey and cigarettes.
It's hours later and Lester is still screaming. John, unable to tear himself away, sits amongst the remnants of whiskey bottles and cigarettes. Finally, Lester falls silent and John peers into the cell. The last thing he sees is the Newcastle crew seeing their old friend off into the afterlife. Frank North flips John the middle finger as the drunken magician falls unconscious.
John wakes in a pool of vomit and self-loathing at the feet of Papa Midnite. The voodoo king orders Lester's cell bricked up and tels John that if he is to succeed as a true magician, he must divorce himself from his human attachments. John gives a characteristically flippant reply before groggily making his way out onto the street. John's day is momentarily brightened when he sees the Newcastle Crew waving to him from across the crowded New York street, apparently having forgiven him. He realises he is mistaken, however, when Gary Lester steps out from behind him and goes to join his ghostly companions.