Borinoff focused on his hands. He ignored the thinness of his mottled skin, and he relaxed his muscles, waiting for the trembling to abate. He couldn’t mess this up.
When he regained full control of his fingers, he moved his right hand toward the model, placed the tiny wooden rod in place and held it for a five-count as the glue hardened.
He held his breath. Anticipation grew as time slowed. His fingers were rock-solid, holding the drain-pipe against the side of the model building, and when he released the tension, the glue held.
Borinoff let the air escape from his lungs, and admired his work. Against the wall, the detail was nearly invisible, the drain in perfect alignment with the corner, the top touching the tiny gutter.
If anyone were to look at this model, they would miss details like this. At least, they wouldn’t be conscious of them. But if things like the drain were missing, the model would feel wrong.
It was the same with the interiors, only partially visible when peering through the windows. Details were important. The model was constructed of details. It required time and patience, and the ability to see beyond the here-and-now.
It was the perfect companion to his business life.
Borinoff breathed deep, then rose from his chair and paced the well-worn path around the table. And he let his mind drift, let his thoughts return to the message he’d received.
Vattek was dead, by his own hand.
Borinoff was one of the first to hear the news—he’d requested his more reliable sources keep a close eye on the man for a few days—but it was no longer secret. And the reaction was much as Borinoff expected—surprise at the manner, but knowing acceptance at the death itself. And no sadness. Even those who worked closely with the man saw him as a means to an end rather than a friend. He would not be mourned.
Borinoff remembered the man when he first started out, taking over Khorin’s empire in a bloodless coup. The man showed promise back then, but he was greedy, wanted too much too soon. And he always looked to the next deal, to the next victory.
He was ruthless and driven, and naturally he wanted to deal with Borinoff. Everyone did.
Vattek’s office had been spotless and impersonal, confirming Borinoff’s suspicions about the man. And he knew that, while the two of them could make a few deals, Borinoff would have to be careful. More so than normal.
That was only a few years ago, and in that time Vattek had built up his empire. The man boasted that it was the biggest in the districts, stretching further than even Borinoff’s. And Borinoff let the man boast, didn’t argue, didn’t talk of the deals nobody else knew about. Instead, he watched. He observed how Vattek worked with others—or rather, how he abused them with a smile.
Couldn’t fault the man’s commitment to his dreams, and there were many like Vattek. Borinoff had worked with them all, had given and taken as appropriate. But he’d always kept his distance, focused on sustaining his own operations. And they’d all—at least, all who were still alive—accepted Borinoff’s position eventually.
But, three months ago, it had become clear that Vattek was after more than Borinoff’s contracts. He wanted Borinoff gone. Vattek yearned for complete domination. He wanted his enemies dead.
Borinoff wouldn’t rush. He watched some more. His sources spoke of the man’s daughter, of her mother’s abandonment by Vattek. Others spoke of a son, and another mother discarded once she’d given Vattek what he wanted.
He used his offspring as pieces in his strategies. There was no love, no attachment. And Borinoff understood what he needed to do.
His screen pinged. He pulled it from a pocket, read the incoming missive.
Talk of deals, in the wake of Vattek’s demise. Talk of bartering amongst the man’s many contacts, of threats and violence.
Borinoff smiled. He swiped the screen asleep, and sat back at his model.
From this angle, he could look into one of the windows. The tiny furniture in the room was awry, and there was a stain on the flooring. It might have been a kind of premonition, had he included a second stain from the other body, or a model of the gun on the floor.
Or maybe this room was in honour of the death of Vattek’s daughter.
Borinoff’s patient surveillance paid off. He discovered the truth behind Vattek’s leaking funds, planted seeds in Vattek’s head. Then he let drop the contact he had, one of the best.
There was a moment when Borinoff wondered if Rodin was good enough. But he should never have doubted the man. Of course Rodin would think for himself, and he’d uncover the real culprit rather than the one Vattek accused.
The reaction to Vattek’s assassination of his daughter was predictable. Who would trust a man who condoned such an action?
Borinoff had expected the fall to be longer, hadn’t believed the man so insecure that he’d take such a drastic way out. But it was better this way. The sudden emptiness created by his death left others fighting over the scraps. Left Borinoff free to keep his own operations ticking over.
And when things settled down, Borinoff would forge new deals. He’d help others, keeping his enemies close, benefiting those who would otherwise want to act like Vattek. Rather than gain more power, he’d let others have power for themselves, while ensuring that he always retained the majority.
Domination wasn’t success. Survival was. And the secret was in the details, in what was hidden, in what happened behind the walls.
Smiling, Borinoff reached for the next piece of drain, lifting the delicate wooden rod from the desk with thumb and finger, focused on the work at hand.
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In The Dark