The death of a friend brings Constantine and Zed to Chicago. Bernie, a record producer who produced Mucus Membrane’s only album, was believed to have killed himself. Of course, this is “Constantine,” so the answers are never that black and white.
A woman comes to Bernie with an acetate music recording she needs authenticated. She insists that he not listen to it, and he swears he won’t. But this recording is legendary, and after the woman steps outside to take a call from her daughter, Bernie can’t help but sneak a listen. The blues music plays for only a moment, then is replaced by a horrible sound. Bernie’s breath turns icy and his headphones are frozen to his ears. “Don’t make me do it!” he screams as he rips off the headphones (and a good chunk of skin). Then he takes a letter opener and plunges it into his head.
Constantine and Zed start at the coroner’s office. Using a pickled hand, some blood, and a spell, Constantine wakes up Bernie’s corpse for a few brief seconds. All he is able to offer is “the voice on the acetate,” “so cold,” and “moonrise.” Zed Googles the words and decides it must refer to Moonrise Records. The owner, Marcus Mooney, is still alive.
They pay Marcus a visit in a nursing home, where he is literally on his death bed. They ask him about some mysterious acetate and Marcus is terrified. He relates a story about a Memphis blues singer Willie Cole, whose story sounds suspiciously similar to a dozen “deal with the devil” legends littered throughout music history. Willie is said to have sold his soul to the devil in order to gain musical success. While Marcus was recording with him, the studio turns freezing, a black slime fills the room and eats Willie alive, then vomits his bloody, digested bits back into the room. When Marcus picked up the acetate, it was ice cold and he heard whispers. He tried everything he could to destroy the recording, but when he couldn’t, he packed it up and hid it away behind a wall, hoping no one would ever find it. An investigator was asking him about the recording just a week ago. He happened to see the name on the proffered check: Fell. Constantine recognizes this name, but then Marcus “sees a shadow” and he codes. While Zed races for a nurse, Manny appears and gives Marcus the kiss of death.
Constantine never explains how he knows Ian Fell, and when he and Zed break into his mansion and interrupt him rocking out, I assume he is an old punk band mate. But Ian has never seen him before. The same woman who brought the acetate to Bernie comes in – she is Ian’s wife, Jasmine – which explains why Zed has been periodically smelling jasmine while doing her fortune teller shtick. It doesn’t take any prodding for Jasmine to admit that she was the one who made the deal with the devil, not her husband. Ian had been diagnosed with cancer and given a month to live. Anton, a soul broker (aka the ambulance chasers of the underworld) came to her at the hospital and offered her a deal: her soul for her husband’s life. It had nothing to do with his fame or fortune. Jasmine thought it was a joke, but signed his contract anyway. When all the writing faded from the parchment she signed, Anton would return to take her soul. But then Anton came back, earlier than expected, and offered a trade: if Jasmine brought him the Cole acetate, he would tear up the contract and Jasmine would get her soul back.
Jasmine was supposed to meet Anton tonight. Constantine goes in her place, finds Anton, and threatens him. Anton begs him not to say the name “Ian Fell,” but he does, and Anton gives up. “You just blew the deal.” Laughter from the shadows brings Constantine to the next room, where he finds Papa Midnite watching televangelists. Midnite thanks Constantine – now he knows where to find the acetate. Constantine is not ready for Midnite to have that much power. Unfortunately, a couple of Midnite’s thugs knock Constantine out.
He wakes strapped to a metal grate at some abandoned work site. Midnite injects him with an anti-coagulant, then makes a deep gash on his arm. The plan is to let him bleed to death, slowly. He will have about four hours – this way if Midnite needs to ask him any further questions about the location of the acetate, he will be able to. He leaves a bottle of “Vitamin K” a few feet away. This will clot his blood, and he figures if Constantine can get to it, he has earned his life.
Meanwhile, at the Fell mansion, Jasmine, Ian and Zed are waiting around to hear from Constantine. They hear music coming from upstairs. Ian and Jasmine’s daughter has sneaked the acetate from its not-so-secret hiding place on the top shelf, and is playing it. The grown-ups rush in and pull her away from the record. They think they got to her in time, but when they burst in, the little girl’s eyes are glowing. Of course, nothing ever comes of this. Either the kid will show up in a later episode… or this was pure time-filler. Midnite’s thugs break into the home and Jasmine gives it up easily. While waiting for Midnite, the thugs handle the acetate, and it has them in their clutches.
While bleeding slowly, a homeless man comes upon Constantine. He ignores his pleas for help and instead steals his shoes. The homeless man turns into Manny, who feels that Constantine’s moral compass is wavering. He thinks Constantine wants to use the acetate to bargain for his own soul back. Then he changes back into the homeless man. He offers the man an enchanted card that can become whatever kind of card it needs to be. In this case, a platinum card. The man wants it but thinks he can only use it if he kills John. Before he can strike, Zed shows up, knocks him out, and rescues Constantine.
They next head to a nightclub. Morning has come and by the time they arrive, they see the cops dragging dozens of bloody corpses out of the building. A deaf busboy tells Zed that the thugs broke in, played the album, and the place went mental. Zed sees an actual white tiger – it is a sign that they need to go to the local college radio station (their mascot is a white tiger). That is where the thugs, now under the influence, are planning to play the acetate.
With only one set of headphones, Constantine heads inside while Zed and Chas figure out a way to get the radio station off the air. Constantine battles his way into the radio station to the tune of Sex Pistols, but his headphones fall out and he falls under the crippling spell of the haunted recording. Luckily, Midnite shows up and shoots the record player, breaking the curse. This doesn’t destroy the acetate, so Constantine starts chanting. The thugs are locked in the booth with the acetate and are exploded. When Midnite enters, he sees the acetate has blown a center to hell in the middle of the floor.
A deal is struck with Anton: he will eat the contract (literally). Jasmine willg et her soul back, but Ian’s cancer will return. He is optimistic that his treatment options are better now than they were 20 years ago.
And back in his secret voodoo palace, Midnite sets a Constantine voodoo doll alight.