Don't miss this startling stand-alone tale! In a British prison, a shape-shifting product of the Babylonian backstreets called Julian is about to have some fun at the prisoners' expense. Now, the prison has become a kind of living Hell – even more than before – which should make John Constantine feel right at home when he poses as an inmate and tries to dish out his own rough justice to demonic prisoner number 666.
Belmarsh Prison, England: Billy Draper's been a bad boy too many times and now he's been put in solitary confinement. But he quickly realises that 'solitary' isn't quite the right word, as a hand taps him on the shoulder. Confinement is, however, and no matter how hard he bangs on the door nobody comes to rescue him. Other hands reach in through the walls and dig their fingers into his flesh, tearing his face off and his belly open, and dragging sticky, bloody entrails out everywhere.
Elsewhere in the prison, Julian - the demon who killed John's girlfriend Phoebe years ago, now disguised as a 20-something human male - is psychically tapping into Billy's agony, delighting in his work. The following morning the guards open Billy's door to find him intact but shell-shocked; he acknowledges Julian, who is walking past - as do the guards, who are on first-name terms with him. Julian looks down on the prison that he now runs and sees that it is good.
Out by the Thames, Terry Greaves is being confronted by some officials who say that they have proof of how the siphoned off public funds from construction projects and threaten him with prison unless he gets one of his men to go into Belmarsh and get to the bottom of whatever's happening there. Terry, of course, turns to John, who refuses out of hand at first, but agrees once Epiphany begs him to go - citing her uncle Pat, who killed himself rather than go back inside - as a good reason to find out what's happening.
On the third day inside, John lets himself be beaten up in the showers; two guards watch and masturbate. John notes that this is unusually grim, even for a category-A prison. Later that day he finds Billy crying in a corner. Billy says that he's going to kill himself before they put him on suicide watch and take away his only chance. John asks what's driven him to this, and as Billy starts to explain, Julian steps through the door. Julian mocks John for letting himself get locked up and tells him to leave them alone. John stands up for Billy and Julian leaves, warning John that his wards will be useless inside the prison.
He's right: despite covering the walls of his cell with sigils, John is unable to stop Julian's spirits from entering the cell, and pretty soon he's being flayed alive.
The following morning Epiphany comes to visit John. She notes that John looks extremely unwell, and John says he's sick inside. Epiphany says that if John can give her some of his saliva, she'll analyse it and try to come up with a solution. He's happy to oblige.
Later on, John finds Billy dead in his cell, his wrists slit with a sharp blade. Julian 'passes by' and mocks Billy, saying that he'd got the knife for him, and that his death doesn't really matter as he didn't have much 'left inside' any more. John, in a fury, attacks Julian and is dragged away to solitary.
A few days later, Epiphany returns, saying that she's worked out the molecular change that Julian is putting John through and has formulated a protective pill. She slips it into his mouth, wrapped in plastic, when they kiss, and tells him to fast for a day before taking it. Just to be sure, he fasts for three days before necking the pill. That night Julian is unable to attack him, and the following morning John confronts him on the stairway. Julian tries to slip away, but is visibly weakened - a fact that interests the predatory category-A prisoners watching the altercation.
John throws Julian down the stairwell and, seeing their oppressor suddenly weakened, the prisoners set on him, kicking and stamping him to death with their big, burly boots. His mission complete, John is freed from the prison and collected by Epiphany, who drags him away home.
- Epiphany's uncle Pat was seen in Hellblazer issue 275 complaining that something odd was going on in prison; his suicide occurred off-page after the issue and this is the first time it has been referenced.
- Julian was also mentioned in Hellblazer issue 275 and was last seen in person in Hellblazer issue 257. He gave himself up to the authorities, off-page, in Hellblazer issue 264.
- John mentions that he suspects Julian killed Phoebe - which he did, way back in Hellblazer issue 257.
- The old Indian man who appears to John is The Sadhu, last seen in Hellblazer issue 264.
- Julian says that Phoebe was 'cut to ribbons', although when John found her body in Hellblazer issue 258 he noted that she had no physical injuries.
- Possibly not a goof, but the cover appears to imply that the issue's title is 'Solitary', while the interior title is printed as 'Inside'.
- Belmarsh is indeed a real prison located in London.