Lord of Order

by Brett Riley

The Purge is here. New Orleans must die.

Long after the destruction of all electronic technology, the Bright Crusade rules the world as a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Gabriel Troy is Lord of Order for the New Orleans Principality. For years, he and his deputies have fought to keep their city safe from the attacks of the Crusade’s relentless enemies, the Troublers—heretical guerillas who reject the Crusade’s rule and the church’s strict doctrines. As their crowning achievement, Troy’s forces capture the Troublers’ local leader. The city has never been more secure.

Alarming intelligence leaks from Washington: Supreme Crusader Matthew Rook plans to enact a Purge—the mass annihilation of everyone deemed a threat to the Crusade. Rook orders his forces to round up all but the blindly loyal and march them to New Orleans. Once the prisoners have been chained inside, the Crusaders will wall off the city and destroy the levees. The resulting deluge, reenacting the Biblical deluge of Noah’s time and the city’s devastation during Hurricane Katrina, will kill everyone inside.

Forced to choose between the Crusade and the city he has sworn to protect, Troy and five other conflicted conspirators gird for battle, fully aware that the looming apocalypse will demand horrific choices, test their faith, and require them to join forces with their sworn enemies.

Due to COVID-19 Gathering Restrictions, and in the interests of protecting the health of our community, the March 2, 2021 launch of Brett Riley’s THE LORD OF ORDER will be a virtual LIVE event broadcast from several locations. It will feature Brett reading from his second novel along with presentations from a variety of people. And a couple of surprises! More information about this very special launch party will be available soon.

Author picture

Brett Riley is professor of English at the College of Southern Nevada. He grew up in southeastern Arkansas and earned his Ph.D. in contemporary American fiction and film at Louisiana State University. The published author of a body of short fiction, and the ghost thriller, “Comanche,” Riley has also won numerous awards for screenwriting. Riley lives in Henderson, Nevada.

“In a dark future America, the ruler thought to be God’s spokesman on earth will become not only corrupted by absolute power, but also driven to genocidal madness. To save mankind, people of faith must risk their lives, and their very souls. Lord of Order is a remarkable dystopian novel from the imaginative author of Comanche.”—A.D. Hopkins, author of The Boys Who Woke Up Early, (09/10/20)

“The writing, very to-the-point, without frills or unnecessary ornaments, is really good—tight, straight, charismatic, atmospheric, drawing me in and dragging me along in a relentless pace through the whole book”—Dieter Moitzi, Goodreads.com. (08/17/20)

“Riley does a brilliant job of describing each character. Each one has a specific role to play and struggles with how they will cope with the changes that are occurring around them. The story moves rapidly and is captivating.”—Richard Butts, Netgalley.com (08/31/20)

“Debut novelist Riley tells a quite deliciously twisted tale. The novel is a lot of fun, with a very entertaining story and a great cast of characters.”— David Pitt, Booklist. (04/10/20)

“One of the best meldings of the traditional detective novels and the supernatural that I’ve read in recent history. I really enjoyed this book. It’s more ghost adventure than detective mystery, but if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’ll enjoy Comanche. 4-Stars”— Kristopher McClanahan, Tabletops and Tentacles(06/05/20)

“Brett Riley’s COMANCHE is the best western-horror-thriller-ghost story-PI novel ever written. COMANCHE is a rollicking ride. Fans of Joe Lansdale and James Lee Burke, Brett Riley is the author you didn’t know you loved.” —Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland and Gangster Nation. (02/28/20)

The Cemetery

The man stood on the crumbling road. Green grass grew through its many fissures. Old, faded symbols with long-forgotten meanings stretched into the distance down its center and near its edges. To the man’s right, the boy rubbed his eyes, blond hair tousled and pillow-matted. He stood nearly as tall as the man, his father, though he had not yet seen twelve summers. To the left, the girl shielded her face against the rising sun, her curly red hair billowing in the breeze. Soon they would follow the road down the hill to the graveyard where, among monuments great and small, dew sparkled on the grass, though not for long; the air already felt warm. A scorching late June, portending a July that would fell strong men in their fields. But not yet. First came the telling.

The man embraced the children. The girl laid her head against him. Below them, the meticulous workers cropped the graveyard grass with handheld shears and their own sweat, dumping the detritus into cloth bags. When the sacks were filled to bursting, the landscapers tied them with heavy string and left them behind. Several dotted the ground like mottled warts.

Other workers scrubbed the monuments with horsehair brushes and water from barrels in horse-drawn carts. The clean stones marched outward in neat, straight rows. In some sections, marble gave way to wooden crosses. Unless the history books were wrong—always a possibility, given how long they had been banned, how nameless heroes hidden in darkness and damp had extended them with cramped and often near-illegible handwriting on flimsy parchment—the cemetery had once been reserved for the honored dead of a great army serving a country called the United States of America. Now, even the word country sounded archaic. Countries existed only in books and tales told around hearths. Generations ago, the Cult had risen, blasting old Earth and its ways into scree on which nothing could find purchase.

But all that was already known. The children had come to learn something both more and less than the wide world’s story.

The girl fidgeted. Sweat gleamed on her freckled face. The boy stood as still as stone, but he was older. Only weeks ago, he had come to the man with questions about how things came to be. By custom, the man was bound to answer. So here they were.

We’re looking for a grave in the very back, the man said. The workers won’t reach it until dusk. Perhaps even tomorrow. Gather your packs and follow me.

He grabbed his poke from where it lay at their feet. Like his father before him, he had packed it with full canteens and jerky and a single blanket, the barest of provisions.

The boy and girl shouldered their own packs, and the three of them set out. Soon enough, they could not avoid stepping on graves, but they did so with their heads bowed, silent. Sooner or later, everyone returned to the earth.

They walked until the children’s breath tore in and out of their lungs, until they grunted with every step, until sweat soaked their hair. The man seemed oblivious to their struggles. The children did not cry out or complain.

Finally, the man followed a row of sturdy white wooden crosses. The grass grew midcalf high. The cemetery’s rear border was lined with thick foliage, as if it were the edge of the known world. Near that tree line, one cross stood three times as tall as the others. This grave had been tended even as the others grew their green beards. Surrounded by the lush blooming whites and purples of dogwood and crepe myrtles, the cross was made of polished stone the bleached color of desert sand. It had been festooned with flowers now in various stages of decay—red roses shriveling against the base, orchids and lilies lying wilted and desiccated. The man stopped before this monument.

He took off his pack and spread their blanket over the grave and sat cross-legged, back straight, the pack beside him. He motioned to the children. They unshouldered their burdens and sat, one near each of his knees in the shadows of the trees and the cross. The man closed his eyes for a moment and gathered his strength, knowing the tale would be long and the telling hard. But it was his duty, and he had never shirked duty in his life.

He opened his eyes and said, We come to celebrate what is and mourn what was. Here, we acknowledge the growth of your bodies and your minds. Here, you learn where you come from and who you are. You must remember what I tell you today for the rest of your lives. I’ll not tell the tale again, and one day, you must come to this place and tell it to your own children. That is your charge. Take this greatest of all gifts—knowledge—and pass it on in your turn, and you will perpetuate all that is good in the world. You will stand vigil against the vile, the destructive, the cruel and unmerciful. There is nothing more at stake today, and nothing less. Do you understand?

The children nodded, solemn, eyes wide. Crickets struck up their low, buzzing orchestra. The sun trekked across the sky. The Earth turned. And the man began his story.

1

Gabriel Troy crouched beside the blown-out windows as bullets whizzed by and pockmarked the wall. A double-barreled shotgun lay in the dirt and broken glass at his feet. His right hand clutched the .357, its barrel pointed up. He stuck his left index and middle fingers through the hole in his shirt and yanked, ripping most of the sleeve away. With the makeshift rag, he applied pressure where the bullet had gouged a shallow two-inch-long trench across his right shoulder. The wound bled and pulsed, but the arm seemed sound. Regardless, he could not stay put for long.

When the heretics had spotted him and opened fire, Troy had ducked into the Danna Student Center, a building where, if the histories told true, scholars had gathered for meals. Its windows had been shattered long ago, its walls vandalized with paint and edged weapons of who knew what kind or origin. Some of the graffiti looked old enough to have been written before the Purge. The floors were covered in dirt, broken plaster, shards of glass, animal droppings, and piles of rotting leaves.

Still, the façade seemed sturdy. A few Troubler guns ain’t gonna bring it down. If we live through this, I’ll assign a renovation crew here. About time somebody did.

The shells of old vehicles had, over the long years, been hauled away to the western dumping ground, most of the burned and ruined buildings repaired or razed, but some, like this one, had never been touched. Always too much to do, never enough time.

A rifle blast disintegrated part of the wall over Troy’s head. No time for ruminations. He grabbed his shotgun, stood, and ran, hurdling rubble and firing through the glassless windows. At the end of the hallway, he ducked again, leaning the shotgun against the wall and pulling the pack off his back. He dug through it and found some bullets and reloaded his Magnum, listening in vain for cries from outside. Reckon I missed em all. Well, I was runnin and shootin blind.

Scattered small-arms fire suggested the Troublers had hunkered down in the Peace Quad, but at any moment, they might stop pressing their luck and rabbit. If they crossed Broadway in Willa McClure’s direction or headed back across Calhoun where old Ernie Tetweiller waited, things might get sticky. The girl and the elder were mainly supposed to be noisemakers, kicking up enough ruckus to herd the Troublers toward Jack Hobbes or Gordy Boudreaux. If that failed, the Troublers might duck into one of the unlocked buildings and turn this firefight into a siege. I gotta drive em toward St. Charles, and I gotta do it now.

But even that presented risks. If the Troublers crossed St. Charles, they would disappear amid the crops and trees in Audubon Park. As directed, the field workers and foresters had slipped away as the time for the raid drew near so no citizens would be harmed, but even Santonio Ford would struggle to track the Troublers if they split up. At best, pursuing them would mean a firefight on open ground or in a wooded spot of the Troublers’ choosing. Best if the battle ended here.

More shots—from Bobet or Marquette Hall? Those buildings had been renovated during Tetweiller’s tenure as lord. Troy had earmarked them for storage and apprentice housing, but no one had moved in yet, meaning their doors were bolted with heavy chains and padlocks, the keys to which hung on a wall in Troy’s office. Still, the Troublers could perhaps break through the fortified windows. He could not let that happen. To keep them in the open, he would have to show himself without getting killed and then lead them across the horseshoe-shaped drive facing St. Charles. If he could manage it, he and his crew could neutralize the entire nest.

Another shot tore through the wall, showering him with dust. You had to laugh at the irony, or maybe cry—a gunfight in a place once called Peace Quad. He reached into his pack and pulled out six grenades, three smoke bombs, and three concussives and cradled them in his left arm as he closed his eyes. Lord, keep me and mine safe. Guide my hand. And forgive me for the wrongs I’ve done. Then he took a deep breath, selected a concussion grenade, and pulled the pin. He threw it out the window as hard as he could and crawfished back the way he had come, tossing grenades every few feet, alternating the concussions and the smokes. Halfway down the hall, the first concussion grenade exploded. The roar echoed and amplified off the surrounding buildings. The student center shook. Chunks of earth and grass spattered the wall behind him. Dust and smoke blanketed the quad, and from somewhere in that miasma, human voices screamed.

Troy retrieved his shotgun and the Magnum. Then he kicked open the splintered door and dashed outside, firing into the gloom. They’re hurt and blind, he shouted. Rip em to pieces.

Let’s hope they ain’t figured out I’m talkin to myself.

To his right, the sharp reports of a large-caliber pistol. That’s gotta be Boudreaux, some unseen Troubler cried. Fall back.

Troy smiled. Willa McClure, the kid he had left on the other side of Broadway Avenue, had done her job, keeping the Troublers in the quad. He fired toward the voice. Someone grunted and fell. The flat crack of a rifle to his left. A Troubler hacked and coughed and started to sputter, like someone gargling heavy syrup.

Get the hell away from the street, said a woman Troy could not see. Hobbes must be over yonder.

They’ve got us on three sides, a man responded. Should we break into one of these goddam buildins or what? Where do we go?

Thataway, said the woman. Troy’s comin, and I don’t plan on waitin here until he shoves his shotgun up my ass.

Troy raised the shotgun and fired into the smoke, both barrels, but if he hit anyone, they kept quiet. He pressed forward as he reloaded, squinting against the smoke and gunpowder, stumbling over holes gouged in the grounds until he reached the back wall of Bobet Hall. Then he turned right and headed toward Broadway.

I hope Willa don’t shoot me. Still, better to take my chances there than on Calhoun. Ernie’s got worse eyesight and a bigger gun.

At the building’s corner, a middle-aged Troubler crouched, trembling, a shotgun clutched in his dirty hands. He wore sweat- and mud-stained breeches and a ragged roughspun shirt. His eyes were closed, his lips moving. Troy crept up and shot him in the back of the head with the .357. The man slumped over, hindquarters in the air, blood and brains caking the brick. Troy stepped over the body and trotted toward St. Charles, leaving the Troubler’s shotgun behind. He had no free hand to carry it.

Eight Troublers huddled up ahead. They spotted him and ran. Half of them broke south beyond Marquette Hall, heading for the horseshoe driveway and into the killing box. Boudreaux had hidden in the old Holy Name of Jesus Church, while Hobbes and his .30-06 lay somewhere in Thomas Hall. As soon as the Troublers entered the horseshoe, both deputies opened up, Boudreaux’s shotgun blasting low peals of thunder, Hobbes’s big rifle cracking. They fired three or four times each. All four Troublers skittered on the pavement, dead or dying.

Troy pursued the other four, one of them a woman. They had nearly reached St. Charles when someone in the brush across the street shot three times, and the male Troublers fell onto their faces. The woman ran ten more feet before she realized what had happened and stopped, her hands in the air.

Santonio Ford stepped out of the tree line, his long dreadlocks flowing behind him, his rifle pointed at the woman’s head. Troy raised a hand. Ford nodded.

As Troy approached, the Troubler spit at Ford. You’re a goddam ass licker, she said. Hope you enjoy them chains around your neck.

Ford watched her, impassive.

Troy kicked her in the back of her right knee. She grunted and fell, but she did not cry out. Her black hair hung in grungy strips, streaks of gray at her temples. Her green eyes blazed like twin emeralds in her ruddy face. Her lower lip was split open and bleeding, and when she smiled, her teeth shone bright red. She looked no more than five and a half feet, barely 120 pounds. And yet this woman had caused more trouble in the New Orleans principality than any other single person in the history of the Bright Crusade.

She spat blood onto Troy’s boot and sneered. And look here. If it ain’t the ass hisself.

Troy struck her in the head with his shotgun’s stock. She fell over, unconscious, her left eyebrow split open, blood pooling beneath her.

Pleased to meet you, he said. Then he looked at Ford. Good shootin.

Hardback: $27.00 US      ISBN:  9781945501418  — First Edition: March 2021
Paperback:  $18.00 US     ISBN: 9781945501432 (not yet available)
ePUB: $10.99 US              ISBN:97819455011425
Audiobook: Unabridged, (Under production)
$26.00 US                        ISBN:  9781945501579

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