The security guards at the ballroom door were even bigger than Martin had imagined. The lead had to be at least 6’7”, and his scarred forehead and dreadlocks were as intimidating as his demeanor.
“Can I help you?” he asked. Martin reached for his ID, which dreadlock read carefully before presenting him with his VIP badge.
“Thank you, Mr. Dial. The Ripley Foundation has asked me to watch your back this evening and keep the press away, if you don’t mind.”
“Certainly not. It is their event after all. Would you be so kind as to help me find Mr. Ripley? It looks like quite a mob in there.”
The ballroom was packed indeed. Martin caught an elbow within a few steps of entering and he could barely hear the woman's apologies over the din of the crowd. The jazz combo on stage seemed content to render a slow beat rather than try to overwhelm the room full of conversation fed by the open bar.
With dreadlocked shadow in tow, Martin made his way towards the stage. A middle-aged woman with a diamond broach stopped him midstream.
"You're Martin Dial, aren't you?" she asked. "I need to talk to you about my husband. Or at least he was my husband. Jakob Waterman."
"Yes, I remember. He's one of the nine. Congratulations."
"That's what I need to talk to you about, Mr. Dial. He's not Jakob."
"I'm sorry. What do you mean?"
"He's different. He knows things--things that happened after he... after he died."
Martin felt a silence come over him. Her eyes were pleading and she was shaking like a leaf.
"Mr. Dial, I have to tell you something else. Jakob meets with them--the others you brought back. I don't know what it is, but they're planning something they call the Exodus!"