A String of Lost Opportunities

December 14, 2016:

John Constantine arranges to meet Zatanna at the Tin Roof Club to talk about his joint investigation with Batman, and the fact that Giovanni Zatara was in Gotham.

Tin Roof Club - Gotham City

A posh nightclub in Gotham City.



Mentions: Giovanni Zatara, Batman, Jessica Jones, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Mammon the Demon Prince of Excess

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

14 From: Constantine At: Wed Dec 14 18:43:57 2016 (Conn)
Fldr : 0 Status: Read
To : Zatanna Zatara
Subject: Text Messages

They're from John. They read:

'two questions
who is kellan fargus
why was your da in m. kazinsky's apartment'

15 From: Zatanna Zatara At: Wed Dec 14 18:51:44 2016 (Conn)
Fldr : 0 Status: Unread
To : Constantine, Zatanna Zatara
Subject: Text Messages/Replies from Zatanna: don't know a kellan fargus,

Replies from Zatanna:

dunno a kellan fargus.

2 q's:

how did you get my digits?

16 From: Constantine At: Wed Dec 14 18:55:03 2016
Fldr : 0 Status: Read
To : Zatanna Zatara
Subject: Text Messages/Replies

was that first one a serious question, or are you having a laugh?

re: #2: sounds like we should chat.

ps: probably a demon wandering around Gotham. look both ways before crossing the street

It's late. The flurry of cryptic text messages were exchanged hours ago, and a tentative time set to discuss them in person. John tells her he'll send her another text when he's found somewhere suitable, and the text arrived about half an hour previous, instructing her to ask for him when she arrives, that he'll have a table sorted out.

Which he does. It's a VIP table in the back of the lounge, beyond the heavy velvet curtain marks off the boundary between civilian and celebrity territories. And as nobody in Gotham city outside of occult circles knows the name 'John Constantine,' it may at first seem a bit of a puzzle as to how he managed to worm his way back there at all.

At first. And then one might, as they're led into the back, pass by the gambling lounge on the opposite side of the club, and it would all start to make sense. Nobody in Gotham City, outside of occult circles, knows the name 'John Constantine.'


There /is/ a table involved, though it's low to the ground, just like the expansive seating that rings it. Cushy bench seating with a sloped back, piled with pillows. Opulent, inviting. Expensive. The place vibrates with an undercurrent of hedony.

John is there, settled back in a comfortable sprawl, his coat draped over the seat nearby and his arms spread across the back of the sofa. There's a bottle of top-shelf scotch on the table in front of him. Beside it, one empty tumbler, one half-full. The level of amber liquid in the bottle suggests he's had one of those already.

There is also a pile of bills wrapped in currency straps, little bricks of wealth. There's a hostess doing her dead-level best to chat him up, and he's playing the game, but he's too distracted to put in much in the way of effort.


She had been reacquainting herself with tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed and /ridiculously cute/ Detective Richard Grayson when Constantine texts her, because of course he does. The smartphone emitted its haphazard buzz-buzz from the back of her pants pocket in the midst of banter with her Criminal Justice class' guest lecturer, absent fingers fumbling for her phone before she takes a quick look at the text scrolling on the screen. The number does not come from her personal list of contacts, as they are very few and far in between, though there has been a couple of additional names since Timothy Drake put his information in.

The number comes from Giovanni's digital rolodex, which Zatanna downloaded to her phone right after her father's disappearance, and because John was a mutual acquaintance, she had changed his information in a fit of fiery, teenaged fugue once their affair eventually crashed and burned. So when she sees DO NOT TAKE HIS CALLS flash on the caller ID, she can't help but groan and shove it back into her pocket.

She'll deal with it later.

After a much needed conversation with Bruce's eldest son, she finally turns her attention to the messages left on her device, the last line prompting a widening of her eyes before her thumbs fire off responses she should have sent a few hours ago, her heart hammering in her chest - suddenly, her exasperation no longer matters, because John bloody Constantine seems to believe that her father was in Gotham.

Despite her fondness for the goth-glam end of the fashion spectrum, she dresses in an elevated sort of style that helps the hostess believe that she is twenty-one, according to the fake ID that she has magicked out of her driver's license with a simple transfiguration spell. Still clad in what she has worn to class - coat, designer jeans, expensive boots - she heads further into the VIP lounge (what) and into the back room where John is waiting for her. She pauses, takes a look around and sighs.

"Well, I'm impressed," she tells him, setting her book bag down and taking a seat across from him. "There's no takeout box in sight."

She manages to keep her voice level and laced with her signature brand of lighthearted sass, but he knows her better than she could ever admit to anyone, and he can taste nervous energy radiating from her body, lighting up her nervous system like a Christmas tree.

Her father was in Gotham.

/Her father was in Gotham./


The hostess looks less than thrilled that he has company of /any/ kind, let alone a young woman. It means she's less likely to be able to separate him from some of the green rectangles on the tabletop, which is eighty percent of what she was interested in.

John follows her gaze, tracks Zatanna's approach, eyes lidded, lazy. He waves the hostess off. "We're going to need some privacy. There's a love." He watches her go in silence, and only once she's been gone for several full seconds does he turn his attention back to the young woman opposite. "Mmm. It's almost like there are things you might not know about me," he suggests, through a ghostly, quickly-passing half-smile.

Grudgingly, he separates himself from the comfort of the sofa's reclining back, leaning forward to brace one arm on the table, the other hand slowly sliding the bottle and empty glass across to her side. With his sleeves rolled up, a few small scrawlings of ink are made evident, a periodic jumble of symbols and script that break up the uniformity of complexion. "Hell of a day," is all he says.


As he leans forward, Zatanna leans back, sinking into the cloud the cushions behind her provide. She takes the time to take a breath and close her eyes, a real effort levied to stem the deafening rush of blood pulsing in her ears. He was waiting, she knows, but her deliberate pause is more for herself than her companion; the last time she explained her father's situation was in Bruce Wayne's tastefully decorated atrium, where she nearly broke down in tears in front of Gotham's favorite son - certainly not the favorable first impression she had wanted to give him, especially as she had been there to ask for a favor. It had been less about distress, really, and more because of the overwhelming relief that came with the revelation that she didn't have to hide from him; he knew what her father was.

It was the same with John Constantine and that was also the last thing she needs to do in front of him.

Reaching up, she unbuttons her coat, unclasps its high collar and the decorative brass button keeping it closed. Dumping the bundle next to her, she reaches for the glass and the bottle, pouring herself a shot.

Yes, because this is healthy.

She takes a swallow, letting it burn down the back of her throat - but it is a smooth one; amber melted down, with just the right amount of peat.

"Daddy's been missing for months," she tells him at last. "He got a call one night when we were in Barcelona and he said he had to look into something. It was one of those late night calls, the ones I've learned not to ask about, and I didn't ask this time because he always returned and if he had to go on an actual trip, he regularly kept in touch. That was around four months ago and I haven't heard a single word from him. I followed his trail to New York the week I returned stateside, and that led me back to Gotham."


It isn't easy to stun John. His life is a patchwork of Sudden Bullshit, and by necessity he's had to become a highly adaptive human being. It's the only way to survive when you're being unexpectedly assaulted by infernal monsters every ten bloody seconds.

This news, though, stuns him. She'll be able to tell just by looking at him; the way something in his manner changes, something buried down deep. It moves beneath the calcified layers of other attitudes and personas that form a thick crust around anything that might even remotely resemble genuine emotions, like a shift in tectonic plates.

He has good reason. John has a hard time imagining Zatara ever abandoning his daughter without telling her why — which means that he either couldn't, and is therefore in one seriously dangerous world of shit…or he's dead. Both of those possibilities curdle something in him. Heartless as he may pretend to be, Giovanni is one of his oldest…friends? Constantine doesn't have many of those, and after their argument some months ago, he's not sure that he still has this one, but what few people manage to survive long enough in his acquaintance to earn his respect and loyalty mean /something/ to him. He doesn't think overly long about what that /something/ might be, but—

"Shit, 'tanna." His worry bleeds out around the edges of his tone of voice. "And you haven't made any headway on it since you've been here?"


The change in his expression has Zatanna averting her eyes immediately, though she could sense it; it makes her stomach curdle, her ribcage constrict to half its size, and the pain is so sharp that she feels herself suffocating around the touch of whiskey lingering in her tongue. There's a slight tic in her jaw, the pale, delicate hinge locking upward and for a moment she says nothing, drinking in the swirls of rich color that dominates the lounge's decor. It gives her something to focus on, to anchor her thoughts upon. Anything to keep herself from exhibiting the full extent of her distress.

She takes another sip from her glass, and ends up draining it. She sets it on the table, and when she refills it, it is half the amount that she had poured herself initially. Not a stranger to underaged drinking, she knows how she is when she is inebriated, and heads it off the pass before it starts.

"Something keeps destroying my leads before I find anything substantial," she tells him. "Chinatown in New York was where I found out that Daddy was looking for the original copy of the Liber Consecratus, which led me to Gotham - it's one of the pieces being auctioned off in the GAC's centennial. But it took me raising the dead to get that information….Madame Chong, she's part of the same network as Gerry Craft and the others. I never knew her but Daddy spoke of her once or twice. Her body was a husk when Jessica and I found it - she's the private investigator I hired in New York to help me out, it's not like I'm a great detective on my own."


John's attention shifts uneasily elsewhere as she visibly struggles with her composure — to his glass, which he lifts and looks at for an unnecessarily long time before putting the glass to his mouth. He can give her that much, at least.

At some point after she begins speaking again his brow begins to rise ever-so-slowly. He says nothing until some moments after she stops speaking.

"Didn't know you and the goddamn Batman were well-acquainted." The pieces hardly constitute a puzzle. If she could only find out about the book from a dead woman, stands to reason the Bat didn't have a better lead than she did. Especially if he was incapable of bending auction-house rules to get John through the door.

He takes a moment to put back the rest of his drink, sets the glass down with the same sort of surprising care with which he handles most objects other than himself. He's got magician's hands, sleight-of-hand hands, after all. "Parked myself outside of Kazinsky's building today. I wanted to scope things out, find out if there were traffic there. Doesn't look like the police twigged to his residential address. Maybe they couldn't find a paper trail." For his part, John did not use a paper trail; there were enough chunks of Kazinsky blasted across the floor of the prison that he didn't have to go out of his way to pocket one that night in the Asylum.

"I was planning to bring in a psychic I know, do a little bit of psychometry work, see if she couldn't learn something about this Gottfried character, but Batman shows up and decides he wants to poke around in there, as well. So, what the hell. I'm not going to tell him to piss off, am I?"

He snares the bottle by the neck, drags it back and splashes the insides of his glass. "He takes samples, fingerprints, whatever. It's a nightmare in there if you know what you're looking for. Didn't look much out of place, but Christ almight, 'tanna, there was something /sick/ in the air. Blood on the walls and ceiling, too, but it didn't show except under UV. Shouldn't have been possible. Not with that much blood, and maybe not at all. That plaster looked spotless."

He cups a hand around the back of his neck, dragging at the tight bands of muscle just beneath the skin. His gaze is trained on the tabletop, distant, remembering. "When he finished doing what he was doing, I worked a little knack of my own. We saw a little of Kazinsky talking to his contact, Gottfried — they were using bowls, pretty simple stuff — and Kazinsky leaving the flat. I thought that would be the end of it, but after he disappeared, this portal in the wall opened, and there was your da." Silence for two beats, three. Blue eyes flick up to her without any of the rest of him changing position. "That was all, though. Nothing else. Faded right after that. Bats tells me about the connection between your da and the Liber Consecratus, asks me to look into it. I told him to get me access to it, but he's a bloody hardcase, inn'e?"

He gently arrays his fingertips around the circular mouth of his glass, lifting and dangling it, considering. "Tell you what, though. If Giovanni's spent all of this time looking for that book, I don't think he was in Kazinsky's apartment trying to prevent a ritual, or even hunt down the incidental demon I think he netted. He wouldn't be fucking about with things like that when he'd know you've got to be upset and looking for him. So somehow, Kazinsky is tied to this book. Maybe…" In the pause, the wheels continue turning. "Maybe Mammon wants the book. Use an agent to tempt a mortal into going through with the ritual, to acquire it? But why bother? He's got plenty of underlings to spare, there's no need for him to come up here and do it himself." It doesn't quite fit. John's intuition probes the cracks in his theory gently, but he remains unsatisfied.-


His first few words nag her for a moment, so much so that Zatanna nearly misses everything he says, especially the most important facts - the ones that have something to do with her father. Dark brows stitch in the middle when he mentions Batman and how they end up in one another's company, spending the day in a serial killer's apartment and putting together their knowledge based on their very unique (and different) areas of expertise….which stands to reason that the two of them together have managed to put together a clearer picture of what happened in there than any regular detective could piece together, though that nagging sensation continues to tug at her belly.

"…I'm not," she tells him at last. "I'm not acquainted with the Batman. I met him once, he insulted me and I slapped him the night I ran into you, though I supppose my little indiscretions in Europe might count as an acquaintanceship to him."

That nagging tug remains; Zatanna frowns visibly, it's right there, at the tip of her brain…

Tabling it for now, overt surprise falls over her expression. "All I know is that Daddy was trying to track down the book, I wouldn't know what he's doing in a serial killer's apartment. I'm thinking the same thing, that whatever led him there, I don't think it's to stop whatever's going on with Kazinsky and if he did know something about the book, our only lead on that just went up in smoke." But as much as they managed to collect a few more pieces, they only seem to generate more questions, namely what the hell her father was doing in Kazinsky's apartment.

And the /state/ of it. Something sick, John says.

She falls quiet for a few more moments, feeling her stomach sink. She was clever in her own right, but nothing compared to John, and she is no genius. Now, more than ever, she wishes she was one or the other, or both.

"It's Mammon's schtick to want more and more, so no matter how much shit he has, he will never be satisfied. Maybe he wants to add the book to his collection - it's one of /the/ tomes on Necromancy and the pages hold information to /get/ more information, which is always useful. I don't know, John." She cradles her glass between her hands. "Maybe we shouldn't be looking for a connection between Kazinsky and the book, or Mammon and the book. Maybe we should be looking for a connection between Mammon and this Gottfried guy."

There is a pause, her face lifting to give Constantine a hesitant expression. "…I mean…it makes sense, right? Like you said, Mammon has a lot of underlings, and whoever this Gottfried guy is, he was the one who put all of this in Kazinsky's head. Maybe he's not an agent, maybe he's a partner."


It interests him that she refutes any connection to Batman. It's indicative of a number of intriguing and even alarming possibilities, but it isn't time to talk to her about information security and healthy amounts of paranoia. It's time to focus on the conversation about her father. He sets the rest aside for another time.

People with only a passing acquaintance to her drinking companion might say that he never listens to anyone, but that's patently untrue. He /listens/ to everyone — carefully — but he often chooses to discard their advice and do things his own way, once he's heard what they have to say and judged it for himself. So he's quiet while she joins in his ruminations, letting the possibilities continue to play themselves out in his head. Her last suggestion prompts the shape of his mouth to change, lending his consideration weight. "Maybe," he says, very slowly, with great caution. "He and the book are the only leads we have. I don't think we needed Kazinsky, for what it's worth. I think we got most of what we could from him. But 'tanna, I still don't see what could be so important about the book that Mammon would agree to abandon his throne to come up here on an errand like that one. That's a big risk. It's just asking for one of the other Princes to wander in and pick a fight on his turf, and even if that didn't happen, you know…there are other celestial forces that pay attention whenever one of the opposition appears in the earthly realm. It's not like they can just come and go as they please. There are consequences."

She knows these things. These are basic things, and they'd have covered hierarchies of hell ages ago, but he's talking through his dissatisfaction, as though going over the awkward angles might help him make better sense of them.

It doesn't.

He drains his glass, sets it aside with a little flick of the wrist that sets it spinning up on one corner of the bottom of the glass, lights winking and strobing across the glossy shell.

"I need to see that book," he concludes.


Very intriguing and disturbing possibilities, enough that it nearly manages to trump the burning need to know what the hell her father was doing in a mass murderer's apartment. As Zatanna watches the spinning glass quietly, the nagging sensation in her gut grows, blossoming like a thorny rose in the pit of her bowels, scratching at her insides and drawing enough blood that she could almost taste it at the back of her mouth; rust to spice the remains of peat and smoke.

And yet, she can't escape it, the possibility looming in front of her like a hulking beast, staring at her with disconcerting eyes obscured behind white lenses.

'I don't have time to look after an entitled European party girl,' she hears him rasp in her memories, the vividness of it enough to feel his whisper all over again.

Did Bruce /send/ the Batman after her? Did he know who he is? If there was anyone in the city who would know and pull strings for that kind of protection, it would be him. And while it was considerate and touching, that doesn't parse with what Bruce said that night about not putting much stock on the city's vigilantes.

John's own musings push up another troubling possibility, the ramifications of which make her hairs stand at the back of her neck, goosebumps crawling over her skin. Because John is right and she knows this too - /everything/ she knows about Heaven and Hell and its major players were part of his two year curriculum.

"John, I almost don't want to think about what could be big enough for Mammon to leave the throne in the first place," she says quietly. "You know as well as I do that there isn't a lot out there that would make it worth it." And the rarity makes it all the more worrisome.

His last remark has her exhaling an exasperated breath. "Don't we all at this point," she says dryly. "Don't worry, I'm on it. With luck, it'll be in my hands before the clock strikes twelve in the New Year."


The glass slowly ceases to spin, its tight pirouette widening out into a hoop-like roll, until it finally clatters to a stop. He's watching her, though, and his gaze is closed off, inscrutable, the way it is with most people when he's thinking something he isn't sure he wants them to know about. He hasn't looked at her that way in a long time.

"I don't know about that," he says, carefully. "I don't know that we all do." He lapses into a hesitant silence, watching her all the while, until he finally ventures, "Zatanna, your da is after this thing, and he's gone out of his way not to be found while he's doing it. Not by anyone — even you. There's a real chance he doesn't want you to get involved. And I'm not /saying,/" he continues, lifting a hand as though to quell any fiery outburst, "that you shouldn't do whatever you're thinking about doing, because it's your family, love, I'm not going to presume. Just…think about that, eh? And be really bloody sure you want to get involved with that book before you do. He doesn't do things on whim, your da. Not things like this. If he's trying to keep this business away from everybody else, including /you,/ he's got his reasons, and we don't know what they are."


This isn't the first time she has heard the same advice, though to Zatanna's infinite credit, she doesn't even so much as throw a protest in John's direction when he attempts to make her consider this. She is also coming from the fresh, ecstatic high that her father is still alive and that was almost enough for her to sink into the ground with relief, never to resurface again for the next year. It has been growing, bubbling over, in the last few months and the most recent two weeks included enough stressors to threaten all of it to boil over.

Some part of her, the rational part of her, acknowledges that John's advice is worth considering. She should be content that her father isn't just alive, but is out there, doing what he does best.


Emptying her glass, she pushes it away, reaching out to take her coat and shrug it on her shoulders. "I have considered it, John," she says, slowly moving to stand up, dragging her bag towards her by the strap. "And you're probably right. I should be content with knowing that he's alive and I should leave him to his business. But if he's trying to do this alone, you know as well as I that whatever it is, it's probably beyond dangerous and I can't just….I can't just leave him alone, John. Now that I know how it /feels/ like when he's truly gone. He's all I have."

Pulling frustrated fingers through her hair, she gives him a glance. "I'll let you know once I have the book," she says. "Meanwhile, you watch yourself, okay?"

With that, unless stopped, she turns to leave.


He doesn't stop her. For a moment he watches her while she gets her coat on, mostly ignoring what she's saying because he knows what she's going to say, anyway, and he never intended to argue the point. So he watches mostly because he feels like it, and because, reflexively, he wonders for a moment if he shouldn't suggest she stay, have a few drinks with him, do some /actual/ catching up about the last few months. A conversation that doesn't involve charred remains. He still hasn't spent much time thinking about their time together /before/ Giovanni gave his ass the boot — doesn't much want to; doesn't really want to dissect it all — but there were some good times, right? There had to be something there worth reclaiming.

And then the words 'how did you get this number' float through the space behind his eyes, and they kill the small spark in his chest dead before it has time to catch on anything.

"Sure," he says, not sure what he's agreeing to, but uniquely equipped to provide the right response. "You too."

He settles back into the cushions, tilts his head back, and watches the kitschy light display on the ceiling, mulling over decade-old memories of Giovanni Zatara.

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