PLAYING IT OUT • by Dale Ivan Smith

“You are afraid,” the fortune teller told Anthony Torelli. She dressed like a gypsy, and her heavy-lidded eyes seemed to gleam with dark secrets.

“I know that.” Sweat dripped inside his shirt. “I want to know why.” The air in the little house was stifling, and the incense made his head swim. “I gotta see how this plays out.”

Her fingers moved over the calluses on his left hand, and down to the base of his thumb, and she shook her head.

“You should leave,” she said, her voice a whisper.

Anthony frowned. “What do you see?” All this last month fear kept twisting his gut. He hadn’t slept. He couldn’t eat in peace. Damn fear made him jump at his own shadow.  He even broke into a sweat when no one was there. He did not know why he was so scared. And doing what he did for a living, being scared shitless could get him killed.

It made him break down and tell Mario last Tuesday when he visited the old guy in the nursing home. Mario had suggested visiting the fortune teller. Mario had been an enemy once, a fixer for the Giovanis, but he was stuck in an iron lung, thanks to losing out to Anthony’s father fifteen years ago in a turf war between the families. Pappa’s boss had won that war, too. Mario told him she would have the answer. Mario said she was an old friend of his nephew Gino. It sounded crazy, but Anthony decided to give it a shot.

The fortune teller had to know why. He couldn’t keep on like this.

Her red lips pursed as she studied his palm. She released his hand and wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I do not have an answer for you. You must leave.”


She shook her head. “Just leave.”

“Damn it, tell me!” He grabbed her hand. “I won’t leave until you do.”

She twisted in his grasp. “Please just leave.”

“No.” He gripped her hand with all his strength and she cried out.

“Stop it!” Tears filled her eyes.

Anthony released her. “Don’t think of getting up,” he said.

She dropped her head. A single tear splashed on the red tablecloth.

“I’m not leaving until you tell me what the danger is.”

“If you stay, death comes.”


“My husband is coming. Please, I don’t want you to hurt him.”

“Why would I? I don’t know him.”

She did not meet his stare. Anthony swore under his breath. You couldn’t trust people who wouldn’t look you in the eye. It usually meant they were hiding something, lying, or both.

“I don’t want anyone to die.”

“Why would that happen?” Anthony’s right hand brushed the pistol grip of the 9mm Glock holstered inside his suit.

“You are a dangerous man,” she said.

“I’m not going to hurt anybody who behaves.”

The back door slammed.

Her gaze pleaded with him.

“Lisa!” a voice roared.

Anthony stood halfway out of his chair.

“Please,” she said. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Leave.”

A man burst through the curtain behind the woman. “You bitch,” he said. His face was flushed. “I told you to give up whoring!”

Anthony could smell the booze on him from across the table.

“She’s not turning a trick here,” Anthony said.

The man glared at him. “You’re the last john she ever does.”

“I ain’t whoring here,” Anthony said.

The man laughed. “Bullshit. I’m going to fix it so she never whores again.”

Anthony squared his shoulders. Beating women was wrong. “You gotta go through me first. He drew the Glock.

The man cursed and lunged at him.

The gun coughed three times.

The fortune teller screamed.

Three crimson splashes erupted across her husband’s chest, and he fell.

Anthony looked down at the corpse. “You should have told me,” he said to the woman. “I would have left.” He holstered his gun.

She laughed. “I didn’t want you to leave.”

Anthony saw the little Beretta in her right hand an instant before she pulled the trigger. The bullet smacked into his chest. Anthony collapsed back into the chair. He blinked, and coughed blood. The room grew dark.

Her words seemed to come from far away. “‘Play out two strings at once’, Mario said.” She laughed. “He was right.”

Dale Ivan Smith grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and works for the largest public library in Oregon, where he has the privilege to work with patrons from a wide variety of backgrounds and diverse reading interests. He has had stories published in 10Flash magazine and Every Day Fiction.

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Every Day Fiction

  • This story needed another edit. I found myself counting up typos rather than reading purely for enjoyment.

    Apart from that a well written story with a nice twist, even though some of the plot was a bit implausable.

  • Stacey Flynn

    An enjoyable weaving of circumstances and foreshadowing but more descriptive language would make this more interesting writing.

  • Bada bing, bada bong. I like it, forget the typos all ready.

  • Found it entertaining, suspenseful and complete. Characters within a pleasure.

  • Mary B.

    Her fingers moved over the calluses on his left hand, and down to the base of his thumb, and shook her head.

    Her fingers shook her head? Sorry, but that didn’t even make sense. Like Paul, all the typos and errors pulled me out of the narrative. This was a clumsy story. It didn’t make sense in so many ways, like why he would go do what his old enemy said.

  • ajcap

    I like it when the end surprises me and this ending did. I didn’t find it clumsy at all; but, now that particular sentence is pointed out, I see the problem. As I read, though, I didn’t stumble. I knew what he meant. Obviously my editing skills need work.
    As for visiting the fortune teller, what could it hurt? Old enemy’s advice…so what? Harmless woman who might be able to help his problem, how was he to know she was the problem?
    Ending made it all good for me.

  • I don’t know what “playing out two strings at once” means, which is probably why I don’t understand the ending. 🙁 Up until then, I was completely engaged in the story. I didn’t notice the typos either.

  • rstefoff

    Nice! Knew she was up to something but figured Anthony was going to get killed somehow–Mario’s revenge. So the double murder was a good twist.

  • Tom

    This story has all the right elements, but I think this was just one of those storylines that just don’t work. You know, one of those sparks you get but while you’re writing it just doesn’t work out, and I felt like the storyline was incredibly forced. Great job on including all the elements — clear conflict, resolution, backstory, characters, and so forth — but the story itself just didn’t appeal to me.

  • Jen

    What Tom said.

  • Pronoun issue corrected re: fingers/head; thanks for pointing that out, Mary B.!

  • Sorry to be the grammar nazi, but the only typo that I noticed is still uncorrected: “I want know why.” Paragraph two.

  • “I want know why” has now been corrected; thanks, Debi!

  • Another edit, “Mario said she’d was an old friend of his nephew Gino.” “she’d” should be “she” or “that she”.

    I think the ending really makes this story, and makes a lot of the build-up make sense.

    I’d never heard “play out two strings at once” before either, but it seemed from the context to be much the same as “kill two birds with one stone”.

    I gave this a four.

  • I have now corrected “she’d”; thanks, Bernard! I’m very sorry, I seem to have a proofreading brain-cramp with this particular story.

  • I was drawn in nicely by the opening and the breezy pace early in the story. As the story developed, it seemed to lose momentum, giving way to a somewhat forced intricacy of plot. I did like the twist ending, but didn’t buy the cookie cutter husband at all. Still, I enjoyed reading this.