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Texas Redux-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
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Transitory Unease-Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
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The Hit Woman's Hand Book-Fiction by J. Brooke
Stones Girl-Fiction by Don Stoll
One Day in the Suburbs-Fiction by Mitchel Montagna
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Happenstance-Fiction by Michael Stewart
You Were Supposed to Be-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
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Swimmer-Flash Fiction by Mark Cotton
Wordsmith-Poem by Meg Baird
Hey, Aunt Libby-Poem by Alex Salinas
Three Colors-Poem by Melissa Dobson
The Ladderites-Poem by David Spicer
My Kind-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
Night Colors-Poem by Luis Berriozabal
Doc's Death-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Gopher-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
A Hot Summer Night After Wine-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Conception-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Married Life-Poem by Michael Keshigian
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Early Morning at a Friend's House in 1972-Poem by Robert Halleck
Pelican Bay-Poem by Robert Halleck
Right Through the Heart-Poem by David Boski
Sky Burials-Poem by David Boski
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Cartoons by Cartwright
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Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Noelle Richardson © 2019

The Hit Woman’s Hand Book


J Brooke




Montreal, winter, satiated with snow, brutish winds, icescapes of awe had come the day Mandel Beckwith’s new life had Vogued, thus changing forever.

Sunday, the streets were moving, French was spoken in cafes, churches were filled and Canada’s northern jewel was alive.

A Black limousine hit it out of the city, time moved, it always moved.  The limo was now on a rural road; there was white snow everywhere, brittle blue sky, countryside, sleet-tipped forests. It was nature at its wildest. Off in the distance, red brick buildings loomed, Gothic Cathedral, towers of St. Anne's Private School for privileged young girls.

There was quiet in the stretch, there was always numbness in these peoples lives. A Chauffeur was driving, handsome Carl, uniformed, knowing something, eyes peeking into the rearview mirror, at her. She was white, young like the snow, hair, skin, indigo eyes set along the crippling beauty of something God had made perfect. He could not help himself, he knew nothing was perfect, especially her, for she was magnificent, filled with demonic genius, run amok. He knew the dark secrets of her young life, and that repulsed him as well as terrifying him.

Behind her façade of beauty, wraiths dwelled, he knew that too.

Her Father, The General, medals, pressed uniform, ram rod back, patent leather black shoes, reflecting his daughter’s white blond hair, sat silent as he stared through the mirrors of his sun glasses.

Mandel sat, quiet, between her father, her mother wearing pearls, pearl earrings, diamonds on wrists, fingers, heavy woolen dress, cashmere white coat, white gloves on her matron mother’s hands. Mandel was a secret pressed between mother and her father The General no one knew. Her mother’s sweet perfume made Mandel want to vomit, as did their mere presence.

The limo slowed, began to drive up the winding brick driveway towards the ancient school. The Chauffeur’s eyes flicked back through the mirror at the girl’s titanium blue eyes. Her eyes locked, loaded on the mirror, flicked, seem to smile, perhaps passing a message back to him. His message was cryptic. "Be careful young lady, be very careful.”

The Limousine stopped, Nuns, old and wizened, black and white robes, withered skin, friends of some obscure God (what did that ever get anyone) moved along the red brick walkway of the school. Fundamentalists, Pentecostal head cases, no friend of Jesus, the true God.

There were girl’s eyes, faces peeking from windows, upstairs, down stairs, wondering who would be the latest victim at a brothel the rich off loaded their children at so they could continue to live trouble free, self absorbed lives.

Mother, General, daughter exited, as the chauffeur delivered matched bags to the snow-covered ground. Words passed back and forth between mother and Nuns, it was a banter Mandel had heard before. 

"Please Mother Superior, help us, wean her away from this writing, this reading, you are our last hope." Whatever. 

The penguin replied. "Not to worry, we are who we are; we are St. Anne's after all." Blah, blah, fucking blah, blah, blah as their words hurt Mandal’s elfin ears and her twisted savant brain.

More sonnets passed between parents and Nuns. Mandel stared at the red brick, fogged windows, and then at floor after floor of girls laughing, pointing, gawking.

Her mind held a crushing IQ, beyond genius, it flipped French, Italian, and now Greek passages within the cortex of her brain. She was tall, 5-9; string thin, she will be taller, thinner in the coming years, even more beautiful, if that was at all possible.

Her breath fogged, her face, sharp nose, full lips, watery eyes wide on her face, Pisces eyes, cheek bones, white eyebrows, all of it would be weapons in the future for her. There were no white trailing scars on her elegant face, but one day there would be. She was just barely sixteen years old, yet she held the pain and brilliance of a deviant seer, her brain, a straight jacketed psychiatric patient gone insane, banging around a padded cell. She now was so close to freedom from her jailers that she could literally taste it.

Looks, more secret stares shared by her and the stoic chauffeur, perhaps a conspiracy was in play. The conversation ended. Mandel in her white cashmere coat, black leather gloves, red scarf, and red knee socks cheek- kissed The General, her mother, nothing to be said now. Mother Superior, along with her second, Sister Anne, smiled at the darling tall child. She smiled back, they began to walk. Mother Superior held the fragile girl’s gloved hand as Carl followed the trio towards the great oak doors. He trailed behind, carrying luggage and also carrying a secret that he knew and would not miss. He would not miss that odious secret, and was bitch-slap glad he would have no part of it any longer.

Once inside, Mandel's eyes became illuminated.  She gazed at the rectory and then the work offices, the towering hallways, sky lights showing fluttering snow, floor to ceiling windows which all showed the great courtyard leading to the girl’s rooms.

They reminded her of Paris, in books she had read of a hundred years ago. The school was elegant, old, refined, and filled with whispering and walking girls, dressed in white blouses and blue skirts. All were toting books, back packs, secret porn, MTV brain crap in their brains. They all wore white stockings and black polished shoes. They were soiled virgins, living lies, and no one wanted to hear about it.

Through the double oak doors, Mother Superior leading, Mandel, mind on fire, close at her side, the Chauffeur lagging behind, watching, wondering, knowing and glad she would soon be gone.

The courtyard, Oaks, Willows, Elms bending from snow, red brick, fountains, iced breaths; summer will come and there will be flowers everywhere, not now though.

Through more double doors they passed. Slowly, they walked down a wood paneled hall, black tiles inlaid into the floor, polished, sheen on them, throwing up a reflection from the last remnants of the sun silhouetting off of her white skin and hair.

Inside the room, it was private, vast, white sheeted bed, small oak dresser, tall oak armoire, dressing mirror stuck into its doors.

There was an oak desk with a computer mounted on it. Mandel smiled at The Mother Superior. They passed kind banter back and forth. "Unpack my child, rest, wash if you must, come to registration when you are through, we shall chat."

White teeth, a virgin’s smile, a purr of words, lies.

"Yes Mother, thank you, so kind, I will see you in a moment, I am very happy, I am such a lucky girl.”

The bent back Nun moved to the door, hesitated. Her grey eyes stared at the Chauffeur, at Carl, who had laid the bags to the oak floor. She waited, her face cracked in wrinkles, as then the girl and man stared at one another. Moments passed, Carl peeked at the door, then at Mandel, he sighed, moved forward, hugged her slender body, stepped back, they locked eyes.

Something passed, no words needed here. He nodded, turned, walked to the door. Taking one last look at the girl with such translucent skin, he nodded, and with Mother Superior watching, he walked away.

Moving to the window, her face was expressionless, was like a slab of ice as she stared out of it. Sartre was in her mind, his words, his genius mixing with her gift, few could understand this; she did though. Time moved, then the Chauffeur was there leaving footprints in the snow. At the limousine he hesitated, exhaust fogging from the limo’s tailpipes. He looked to her window.

Inside, Mandel smiled, pressed her palm against the window. Carl nodded; both lovers knew that they would never see each other again.

Turning, she stripped her cashmere coat off and then let it spill to the floor. Stepping before the wall mirror, she stared at her naked body, except for her knee socks and patent leather school shoes. She was a white tendril of skin, muscle, sinew and bone. Her breasts were non-evident, her ribs accordion and stark, striking against her paper-thin skin. Her hips were like a child’s, they would always be that way; genetics was cruel for others that way.

To her, her body was a tool and a gift of wonder. The socks and shoes made her giggle. Kicking off shoes, socks follow as they were taken off of her tiny toes and small feet.

Barefoot, nude, she laughed, did a dance, twirled and then threw her arms up into the air; she was manic. She centered, stared at the miraculous image of the white, shaved diamond, set between her legs. She knew on the open market it was worth a fortune, and she was ready to peddle it to the highest bidder. She was a very bright girl.

She had read enough of the great writers to know a female always paid for their freedom or imprisonment one way or the other. It was always a trade off. Become a whore, get paid, respected, be a power provocateur and never give it up for free and always better than some dinner some guy paid for so he could fuck you after. Get married, peddled it for nada, white fence, house, cars, hope the muck you married wasn’t a lying puke and would never get tired of fucking you.

On the mercury slat of reflection now that was staked into the oak she saw herself and she was mesmerized as she jacked her finger between her legs. She wanted to masturbate, knew that she was on the clock, time for that later.

Her mind was bending again, thoughts of suicide, never far away, raked her brain. For a genius, it was a constant thought for her, one that would never leave her in a lifetime. She thought of a passage, from Rimbaud, it calmed her, his madness, his words.

She was going, anywhere, for her mind never stopped showing clips in Technicolor of what had happened to her.

The late-night visits from The General, the touching, the smell of Bourbon on his lips, the rapes, it began when she was eleven years old. All of it and so young, yet, she is a Genius, she knew what was happening, yet what could an ex-virgin do. Do, well she was doing it now, for there were other reasons for her great escape.

She had heard them talking, and she had been terrified by their words. Paxil, Neurotin, Zoloft. All of the ABC’s of drugs ice cold parents give gifted children to control them, to break them, to change them. She had read all of the books, Van Gogh, Rimbaud all dead in their thirties. Amadeus, Beethoven, all these men and gifted artists, mad, insane, prolific, and what if their parents would have drugged the beauty and creativity out of them?

She did not know what or who she was, for her gifted and troubled brain bled constant test patterns, mostly sparking in pain from her past, and what her future would be if she stayed. Saving her own life, she felt worthless, yet there was something out there she thought she would find, at any cost.

Her eyes blinked, blinked again, mood swing, they were always there, those horrendous manic personality changes. Her brain cleared, she was now someone else again, a happy maniac, a girl with a mission as insane as allowing her father to fuck her was.

Blinking, once, twice, she jerked her head, twisted around, threw her tiny ass out, and slapped it. She giggled, liked the pain, there would be more, it was apart of her makeup, it kept her sane, displacing mental pain with the physical.

Turning, she moved to her bed, flopped on it, and giggled. She kicked her legs into the air, shaking them wildly.

She calmed, thought, so much rapture in her head. Standing, she hefted a leather valise, plopped it on the bed, unzipped it. She plucked a pack of Marlboro's, took the filter from the pack with her full lips. From the bag, a chrome-Zippo, she revolved it in the palm of her hand. She allowed it to settle. Staring at it, she saw a military insignia, a red dragon welded to its chrome plate. It would be a lifetime companion to her, almost bringing her one day to a violent death. She did not know this, as she flicked it to flame, lit her cigarette, then exhaled through her nose. The transformation was beginning, she could hardly wait.

Bone-colored, like a filament of white smoke from her cigarette tip, she glanced into the mirror, watched the stranger, the new girl, the better girl staring back at her.

It was now time. She bent to the valise, retrieved a black, just below her thighs mini skirt, and donned it, no panties, nothing to constrict her from feeling alive. She whipped on a pair of blood red tights, then heavy black motorcycle boots and, then a skin-tight black tank. She snapped it between her wet legs, groaned, she was sexual, and that excited her too. From the valise she took a heavy black leather bomber jacket, spun before the mirror, legs apart, boots stuck to the floor, tough girl, new girl, adventure girl, she smoked more.

Lifting her skirt, she dropped her tights, leered at the sterling wedge between her legs, smiled, she was turned on. A brain genie, she was in the know, got it, knew this sole living organism, her bling would be a passport to her new life. Eager to use it, any way she could to get what she wanted, when she fucking wanted it, she smiled. She was a self-absorbed maniac on a roll.

No time to waste, she grabbed a small black leather backpack, stuffed it full of clothes. She hesitated as she pulled a black iron .38 from the pack, spun the chamber, giggled and then placed the snub barrel between her lips. It was her father’s, he would not miss it until it was too late; it was already too late. She could taste the acidic gun oil. She pulled the hammer back with her thumb and pulled the trigger. She thought of incest.


She giggled, slapped open the chamber, saw one copper cartridge cap, grinned, whacked it closed, fate was on her side. Grabbing a box of cartridges, she threw both handgun and bullets into the pack, zipped it, shouldered it, smoked more and, then crushed the butt dead on the floor with her boot heel.

No time like the present, she figured. Walking to the door, she turned, saw the last baggage of her old life, giggled, she was bullet proof, youth and its careless ways. The door snapped closed, she was gone.

Walking with attitude, she lit up another smoke, inhaled, and left a cloud behind her.

She cruised to the end of the hallway, two by two down the steps, a genius altruistic self-destructive lunatic, moving to her own tune. Confidence and new cigarette smoke leaking from cantaloupe lips she moved, adrenaline pumping, she busted a move through the door. In the courtyard now, girls gasped, pointed, she was laughing, mind fucked, fueled, a Titian pencil sketch roaring in her mind. Several excited, chattering, goofing schoolgirls tagged along behind her. She was their paramour.

Doors slammed opened, crash, bang, shudder, she was modeling down the hall, past the administrative buildings, Nuns, teachers gawking, more girls juking behind her, party time, for everyone but the Sisters.

There they were, the doors to freedom, her new life, a way cool and amazing life she was certain of. Not that far now, she was on the grift, a predator drone with software pre-programmed in one direction, a life of depravity, art, music, misery, what the fuck, as long as it was something beside being bored to death.

Mother Superior gathered up an army of one. Sister Anne, Mum, stood at the main entrance, shocked, frightened, something in black leather, red stockings, white hair and a face like one of Lucifer's fallen few was moving in on them. Party Girl approached, oh man was she flaming, resembled one of those parables out of Rushdie's Satanic Verses, one of her favorite books.

More girls trailing, buzzes of gossip, it can't be, no way, rad, finally someone was going to escape, gas the place, hop the wall, fucking tunnel out, whatever. The girls were building IDs into a frenzy as their new Pied Piper of cool trolled for their souls.

Chewing away on her Bubblicious, smoke stacking from her Bambi nose, hip hopping, Mandel strolled up to the Sisters of Mercy, looked at them, jived a bit, and then grew silent. Her blue eyes were melting their Catholic eyes, their wrinkled fingers gripping and re-gripping their crucifixes, the ones with Jesus stapled to them. If they messed with her, she would load her .38 and shoot them dead, way dead. She knew that no one gets out alive in the end. Fuck, everyone knew that. 

She mused, giggled, blew a bubble, popped it, and then plumed smoke into the freaks’ eyes. She giggled, thought, let God deal with the afterbirth, he was a stone-cold pro trash hauler of souls, and jest wait a sec, another Philippine church would fall on some crowd of true believers’ heads. She liked thinking slang and smut; that was who she was also.

Now, a standoff between the pimped-out geishas of the Papa in Rome and a hurricane of god’s savagery, beauty and decadence had begun. They no more got it, than if some priest had sodomized them, instead of some innocent altar boy, the usual suspect.

About fifty teenage cum guzzler cheer leaders, who thought fellatio with the football star was fine for a first date, buzzed behind her.

The sisters, scattered words, stuttered something like. "Miss...Ahhh, Miss Beckwith, wha...wha is the meaning of this...Wha...what is happening." Something like that.

Chewing away at pink bubble gum, she glanced back at her fan club, then back at the traumatized oldsters. To their horror, she stoked a smoke ring into their faces, violently racked her hands into their chests.

The gals flew back, hit the wall, fell on their butts and, then leered at the demon hovering over them.

Mandal smiled, and purred. "God is dead, you bitches. Get a life. I am so out of here."

They gasped. She flicked her cigarette butt at Mother Superiors tunic. Sparks and ashes ignited, the Nun slapped at them, beat at them, she was terrorized. Where was God when you really needed him? That selective miracle bullshit, and the answering of your prayers that never seemed to work. That is, unless you got lucky, and your prayers were answered and you sold your golf clubs at a white elephant sale.

Mandel, winked, looked back at the crowd, slashed through the door; her crowd of adoring adolescents followed her.

Across the snow and the promenade she cruised, a happy girl fast becoming the slut she had always dreamed that she would be. She hit the side of the road, one more vagrant lunatic on a mission, a thumb thrown out to the road. At the door, the girls gathered, as did the Nuns, gawking, staring as they clutched their hearts, quite literally just seconds from strokes.

A few minutes passed, and then an eighteen-wheeler roared up, spewing steam and diesel fuel from its chrome stacks, saw a white sugar cube hitchhiking along the curb, stalled out. A door flew open, she jumped in, and as the door smacked shut, time was suspended for a lick, a time click, the crowd hushed, why fucking not.

Brief moments vaporized as the Sisters prayed what they were witnessing was an illusion, as then the semi's window rolled down as Mandal’s MIDDLE FINGER raised to the sky, struck out at her fellow prisoners, her ex-jailers.

The Nuns clutched their hearts, several staff rushed to their assistance. One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes four, the entire team of girls erupted into an avalanche of roaring cheers.

Mother Superior fainted as the girls jumped up and down shaking their booties, screaming as the truck ground into gear, and then cranked down the road, over a hill and was gone.

Thus, was how Mandel had hip-hopped into her new life.

Art by Noelle Richardson © 2019

j brooke is a writer with over 100 credits, and never lists them. It's simple for j, for it’s never what you have already written, but what you are going to write next. Contact info: jbrooke2001@yahoo.com

Noelle Richardson comes from a relatively large family and has been illustrating and painting for about twelve years. She writes a little on the side, plays a couple of instruments and dabbles in tattoo design.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2019