The following is an excerpt from The Rising Order, by Claire Isenthal, available now from Greenleaf Book Group.
Killing had always been easy for Wolf. Pulling a trigger . . . easy.
Slight pressure. Release. Slight pressure.
Easy. Satisfying. Predictable — the sounds of chaos the exact same every time. The thrill of pain inflicting more pain. It would never get old. How the air would sizzle in each round’s wake, a tingle of exhilaration rippling outward. Like a wizard with a wand, Wolf could control a crowd, summoning a stampede with a single wave.
Tonight, it begins. My life’s work. My masterpiece.
Bass notes low enough to vibrate the entire stadium pulsed through him. Lights dimmed in unison, fading until darkness swallowed Soldier Field whole. Pinpricks of light materialized as cell phone flashlights bobbed and swayed, creating the illusion of stars dancing in the night sky. Thousands of cheers echoed throughout the open arena, drowning out the rain. A sold- out concert, exactly as planned.
Wolf stood guard on the outskirts, next to a sound booth tucked in the football field’s back corner, careful to avoid the spotlights now swirling over the crowd. Illuminated faces stacked in the stands above him blurred together. “Green Line. Green Line. Green Line,” they chanted.
He couldn’t believe this many people would actually pay to see a band with such a dipshit name. Heavy raindrops slid over the edge of his hood, spilling a wet trail down the collar of his orange work crew jacket. Nerves raw from adrenaline, sweat clinging to a concealed suicide vest strapped to his body. Just in case. He inhaled, relishing the moment, tasting the cool air in the back of his throat. The tiny hairs on the back of his hands stood on end.
I’m ready. For years, I’ve been ready.
Two dead audio techs lay at his feet. Blood oozing from their slit throats glistened black in the dark. His concentration wasn’t on the shrieking crowd or their pumping arms. It wasn’t on who would die, but how many. Saliva filled his mouth as if he’d just bitten into a sweet summer plum.
I can’t wait to kill the rest of them, he thought. To seal the fate they made for themselves.
Blue numbers glowed from the face of Wolf ’s watch. “Sixty seconds, Falcon.” He glanced over his shoulder, shifting to shield Falcon. Protecting the mission’s commander came above all else. Duty first. Self last. A mantra that had been ingrained in him years ago.
Falcon stooped over a large crate, cracking open its latches. “This is the one.”
He tossed the lid aside and pulled out blocks of dense foam and several AK-47s. He passed a rifle to Wolf ’s eager hands. Wolf slung the strap over his chest and reached for another. Warm and familiar, the weapon’s weight wrapped around his shoulders. Elation coursed through his veins, igniting every cell. His skin was on fire.
Now this . . . this is what pure joy feels like.
Falcon hooked a grenade launcher beneath the barrel of his AK-47. A beam of light glided over his face, illuminating a soft smile. “Alright, masks on. It’s time.”
Wolf’s heart thrashed in his eardrums, muffling Falcon’s voice. The silky fabric conformed to his face. Behind it, a concealed part of him roared to life. By tomorrow, the world would fear the masks’ crimson color. He jammed the magazine into the rifle and pulled back on the charging handle. The round clicked into the chamber. His finger hovered over the trigger.
Slight pressure. Release.
Now, the world will finally have to see me, he thought. And this time, they won’t forget.