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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