John Constantine: Hellblazer #169 (February 2002)
Issue synopsis written by J. White
John's in Los Angeles, "The City of Angels", and while walking once again begins another train of thought about where he stands on America. John's view on America is quite interesting, seeing it as the place where once the "Old World" Brits colonized with their ways of the past, could use it again to have its advantages. One of them, John illustrates, is a place where the older ways of English thinking could feel younger and hard again. It's at this point John enters a nearby bar.
Elsewhere, a limo pulls to a large estate. A small, bald priest steps out and is greeted by Fredo. The priest asks how Fredo is, and is responded to very vaguely until the priest answers his own question. As they continue through the mansion Fredo tells him he's been repeating the way he feels over and over, just like everyone else. They stop outside at a large swimming pool as they both see a man taking a leisurely dip. The man swimming immediately recognizes the priest, referring him to Father Sean. Sean greets the man as "Stanley" but before he can continue he is immediately corrected for his choice in names. Flustered, Father Sean corrects himself and apologizes explaining that he forgot. Manor explains that Sean didn't just call him Stanley because he forgot, but because he specifically told him not to. At that he requests for a towel.
Back at the bar John receives a welcome with a huge glob of snot landing onto the sleeve of his trenchcoat. An agitated John verbally threatens his 'attacker', telling he should be offering him medicine after a viral launch like that. The man responsible apologizes for his sinus problem and offers to substitute whiskey for medicine. Reluctantly agreeing, John thanks him immediately after only to be told he's glad to be seen again. A miffed Constantine tries to make a face with a name.
Stanley Manor continues with Father Sean, informing him that a man by the name of Jason had died in an "accident" that occurred the previous night. Father Sean asks if it was because of Stanley's responsibility, leading to think S.W. was the fault of the man's death. Manor muses on his own responsibility and who is in fact responsible for himself. Jason's cause of death is not made known, but Manor reveals he did die "with a smile on his sweet face". This news worries Sean who, under the eye of Manor, thinks the two had some kind of involvement. In protest Father Sean questions what Manor thinks his involvement with Jason was. Brushing it off Manor assures the priest that everything he says is purely gossip; talk that makes light of others indifferences or makes the big people bigger while cutting down the smaller ones. It's something that Father Sean knows all about and that Stanley desperately wants in on. Manor asks Father Sean to tell him the sins that he hears on a daily basis.
From behind John a scruffy looking man holds out his hand revealing a small congealing substance coating his fingers which he asks whether or not John knows what it is. With a simple look, but no answer the man reveal it to be blood - his wife's. An unimpressed Constantine passes it off as her monthly cycle rather than something serious. The man looks taken aback before the bartender reveals it to be dried ketchup. The familiar man beside John states that ol' Wally shot his wife back in 1976 while cleaning a loaded gun after the two had a drunken argument. Seems Wally doesn't have the heart to let it go anymore. A somber Wally feels like it happened just like it was yesterday. That word leads John to finish the moment with the remaining lines of a Beatles tune.
Back at Stanley's mansion Father Sean finishes a startling confession about an angered young woman. This sends Manor to goad Sean, asking why he forgave that girl of her transgressions without her truly repenting her sins to him. The lives of youth go on slowly collecting bits of memories to store into the mind. Manor compares this to Father Sean's ability as a person with a photographic memory.
A drunken sing-along ensues back at the bar with John and others giving their musical renditions of Beatles classics. As they finish John recalls how much he hates the band, but remembers some of the songs. It puzzles him that he can't remember the simple details but can remember the entire song he hasn't heard in ages. John's cold-ridden friend suggests that it might be the memories Constantine needs for the road ahead and it's that memory that keeps us from going insane.
It's Manor's own sick delight in hearing the torment of others that led to him giving Father Sean a lucrative offer to visit regularly him. Father Sean dictates the conversation piece to his amusement word by word. Manor brushes his words off, calling them "the follies of youth". Father Sean's reasons are slightly less obvious, though. The money that was offered was thought best to be used for a better purpose for Father Sean's devotion to the greater good. Manor contribution to build an orphanage in return for the sins of others could help but seem analogous to S.W.'s own ruined childhood. Dismissively, Manor shrugs this observation off, claiming the only reason Father Sean agreed to their transaction was to collect money and nothing else. Now Manor has made a different reason for needing Father Sean. He wants the hard truth of these sins, and not the confession used to get away from the past.
It's just hit Constantine where he remembers seeing the familiar face of his bar-side friend, even though he doesn't appear to know John at all. Even though he was a bit more heavyset in those years he still believes him to be the same man he met at a bar in Dublin, Brighton, San Francisco and even New York where they've encountered various conversations similar to the one they now engage in. The two agree that they're never the same on the outside but that they are on the inside, implying that everywhere in every bar and pub there's always a man in the stool next to you.
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