John Constantine: Hellblazer #184 (July 2003) Solicitation Text : In "The Wild Card," the first of three linked stories that provide a great jumping-on point for new readers. John and Angie travel to South America in search of information about the shadow dog. The first stop is the small town of Juliema, Brazil, where John encounters an old friend and is drawn into a game of poker...a game with terrifyingly high stakes.
Sitting alone in the Ojardim bar in Juliema, Brazil, Angie Spatchcock ponders the circumstances that have led her there as well as John Constantine's ability to traverse the globe with neither passport nor plane ticket to his name. Angie's musings are interrupted by the arrival of a stranger who introduces himself as Paho Bokhari. Expressing his disappointment at not finding Constantine in Spatchcock's company, Paco hands Angie a playing card (the Joker) as three more strangers enter the bar. Bokhari leaves with the three newcomers after one of their number accuses him of having "left the game".
Deep in the Brazilian rain forest, Constantine kneels in a large clearing coated with ash. Towering over the edge of the clearing is an unusual monument made from foliage that bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain swamp dweller of John's acquaintance. When the monument lumbers to life and addresses Constantine, informing him that the ash circle is intended as a memorial to a battle that was fought there in the past, John deduces that he's standing in the spot where the Parliament Of Trees was destroyed. Constantine cracks wise, angering the Swamp Thing, causing it to fully posses the monument and lunge towards the Englishman. John calmly informs the elemental that he has a job for him.
Meanwhile, on a balcony overlooking the Ojardim bar, a game of poker is in progress. Paho, still flanked by the three men, arrives - having apparently fled the game after seeing the hand he was delt. A man wearing an ornate jewelled belt - who Bokhari addresses as Goterrez - is running the game. Retaking his seat at the card table, Paho folds. After winning the current hand, Goterrez accuses Bokhari of staring at his belt before telling him that someone broke into his house three days previously but took nothing - despite having searched through the closets in his bedroom and ignoring the silver, paintings and first edition books that they contained. Goterrez notes that he wears his belt at all times.
Back in the ash strewn clearing, Constantine and Swamp Thing share a tense reunion, with the elemental marvelling over John's ability to anger him with the simplest of quips. Constantine fills swampy in on recent events - telling him about the three doors and the looming threat of the mysterious shadow Dog. A reluctant Swamp Thing agrees to do a little investigating of his own in the Green.
Goterrez's winning streak drives two of his three competitors from the poker table. Bokhari tries to cut his loses but Goterrez will have none of it, revealing that his house is protected by a magical spell that marks all of those that intrude. Pulling back Paho's shirt to reveal the word "Ladrao" (robber) scrawled across his chest, an angered Goterrez insists that Bokhari stays for one more hand. Goterrez spices things up a little by invoking some blood magic, binding both his and Paho's soul to the outcome of the game - guaranteeing that only one of them will be walking away with their soul when the final hand is played. Goterrez tells Paho that he played a game with a woman named Elena under the same rules. A woman that Bokhari appears to have had a history with.
Constantine arrives back at the Ojardim bar, much to the irritation of Angie, who lays into John for leaving her on her lonesome for a good six hours. Constantine makes his apologies, telling her that the Swamp Thing has agreed to help, musing "that's one down, one to go".
Above, the final hand is dealt... Paho requests three cards... Goterrez just the one.
Angie tells John about Paho Bokhari and hands him the playing card. Studying the joker, Constantine quips that it could've been worse, "it could have been the ace of...".
Paho exclaims "...spades" and leaps from his chair, howling a string of expletives. Angie looks up from her seat at the chaos ensuing above her. John decides it's time to make his exit, dismissing the barman who's just pulled him a pint in perfect Brazillian. Her suspicions raised, Spatchcock gets the bar's bouncers to restrain Constantine.
Attracted by the shouting below, Goterrez orders the bouncers to bring John up to him. Goterrez surmises that Paho used a 'borrowing' to switch bodies with Constantine. Now forced to play the game in Bokhari's pace, John is unable to meet Goterrez stake of twenty thousand dollars. A nonplussed Goterrez suggests that Constantine could cover his stake by putting his soul on the line. Left with no choice, John agrees...only for Goterrez to remove his belt and place it on the table. The implication is made that the belt contains a captured soul, meaning that Constantine needs to put a second soul on the line to meet the stake.
John convinces a less than sure Angie to throw her soul in with his and calls on Goterrez to show his hand...
...three aces and two kings.
Constantine, in Paho's body, turns over his own cards...
...four threes and the two of hearts....four of a kind.
Goterrez is shocked, unable to reconcile Paho's flight with the strength of his hand. Speaking in John's body, Bokhari reveals that Goterrez has fallen for an elaborate sting. Before he can fully comprehend what is happening, Goterrez is stabbed by one of his own men - a man who had agreed to work with Paho in return for being made the manager of the Ojardim bar.
Angie is understandably furious with Constantine for not letting her in on his little plan but John insists that he had to keep her in the dark in order to make it convincing enough to fool Goterrez. His precious belt back in his possession, Paho delivers on his end of the bargain he struck with John - telling him that the Shadow Dog came from Eden.
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