A peaceful afternoon is shattered when Garak's shop is destroyed by an explosion. Although the blast initially appears to be accidental, further investigation reveals that the explosion was, in fact, rigged to look like an accident. Sisko and Odo ask Garak who might want him dead, but the Cardassian is, as always, secretive. However, Odo learns that the blast was triggered by a sensor favored by Flaxian assassins, and realizes a Flaxian named Retaya arrived that morning.
Questioning Retaya reveals nothing, and Odo allows him to leave, then cancels Garak's security escort, hoping this will coerce Garak into sharing what he may know about the assassination attempt. Later, when Odo boards a Runabout to follow Retaya, Garak awaits him. Odo reluctantly agrees to let him go along as he follows the suspect. Unfortunately, they learn little about Retaya's motives — his ship explodes just as he goes into warp.
An analysis reveals that the Romulans were behind the explosion. Odo surmises that they hired Retaya to kill Garak — but why? Odo learns from an informant that the Romulans may be planning to invade Cardassia. He is also told that five former Obsidian Order operatives "coincidentally" died the day Garak's shop exploded. Odo shows Garak the list of dead men, then confronts him with the deduction that Garak blew up his own shop just to get Odo involved. Garak finally admits that he and the deceased were all associates of Enabran Tain, the past leader of the Obsidian Order. Realizing Tain might also be in danger, Garak attempts to contact him, and upon learning his former boss left mysteriously the day before, sets off with Odo to find him.
Garak instructs Odo to head for a planet near the Cardassian border where Tain has a safe house. Before they arrive, however, they are intercepted by a Romulan Warbird and captured. Inside the ship, they are brought before Tain, who shocks them with the news that he ordered the attempt on Garak's life.
Tain tells the pair that the Romulan Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order have joined forces, preparing to take a fleet of Romulan and Cardassian warships into the Gamma Quadrant. Their mission is to destroy the Dominion by eliminating the Founders, after which Tain plans to resume his post as head of the Order. Hence, the reason why he ordered the deaths of Garak and anyone else with information that could be used against him. However, now that Garak is on board, Tain offers his protege a chance to work with him again. Despite Odo's warnings not to trust Tain, Garak says yes, leaving Odo to face the Romulans and an uncertain fate.