Excerpt Reveal: The Third Instinct by Kent Lester - Tor/Forge Blog

Excerpt Reveal: The Third Instinct by Kent Lester

The Third InstinctA high-octane thriller that sets Dan Clifford against ancient secret societies vying for power in the modern world; in the vein of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series.

In The Third Instinct, author Kent Lester brings his signature blend of cutting-edge science, history, and pulse-pounding action to the next Dan Clifford adventure.

A shadowy group of bio-hackers called the Firemen threaten to worsen the Covid pandemic by releasing an even more lethal version of the pathogen. But what drives the Firemen and how do their motivations relate to the wealth of the Roman Empire and to the third basic human instinct?

The answers may lie with prediction scientist Dan Clifford. Unemployed and struggling with two years of pandemic isolation, he is rebuilding both his career and personal life. His plans to propose to his adrenaline-junkie girlfriend, Rachel Sullivan, are interrupted by the FBI. Dan must connect a maze of clues from the shadowy underworld of Savannah’s hacker community, to the ancient powerbrokers of Rome and in doing so, uncover a hidden agenda of big Pharma and a two-thousand-year-old battle for control of public opinion.

The Third Instinct will be available on December 6th, 2022. Please enjoy the following excerpt!


From his vantage point behind a hedgerow of azaleas, Victor Moody peered out across a large expanse of freshly mowed lawn, the dew shimmering on the grass in the moonlight. The security door was on the side of the building standing silent and exposed, bathed in a pool of light, its security pad beckoning him forward like an actor to a stage.

Victor struggled to focus, the incessant drone of crickets roaring in his ears, driving him mad. He was still coming down from his last five Xanax, the dullness receding into the background as a fresh surge of adrenaline crawled its way up the base of his spine toward his brain like an insect skittering over raw synapses.

He jerked spasmodically, neurons firing in a rush.

Breaking out of the Xanax haze left him raw and jittery but his mind needed to be perfectly alert, hyperaware for this next task. His muscles seized again and he rubbed his shoulders for relief, noting the crisp sound of his Tyvek jumpsuit sliding against bare skin. The crickets grew louder, threatening to shatter his control, barely balancing on a knife’s edge.

The quicker this ended, the sooner he could seek relief in a bottle of pills. Victor struggled to stop the trembling of his fingers, studying the smooth flesh of the featureless digits. No fake nails today, no danger of leaving behind an errant forensic clue. He rubbed his hands together vigorously, struggling to coax the circulation back into them. After another quick scan of the area, he unzipped the overalls and slipped out, naked save for a thin jockstrap. Then, padding silently across the lawn, he reached the door, taking care to avoid both security cameras along the way.

He hesitated. It took several glances at the numbers scrawled across the back of his hand to get the security code right but his efforts were soon rewarded by a satisfying click. Entering quickly, he left the door slightly ajar and the alarm system off. Inside the high-tech building, security cameras scanned the interior in a slow predictable pattern, which he had memorized. He counted out the cadence, waiting for the nearest camera to reach its zenith.

Then, Victor Moody began a long and graceful dance down the hallway, pausing, leaping, and scurrying with purpose at precisely timed intervals. His senses were hyperaware, his eyes dilated to the point where every shadow seemed vibrant and liquid.

He knelt at one intersection, counted out the cadence, turned right, and raced down the hall, past another intersection, then knelt for a brief moment. One final lunge placed him at the second security door.

The camera behind him began its lazy pirouette back in his direction. There was only time to punch in three numbers before leaping back against the opposite wall for another three seconds, then forward again for the final three numbers.

Another satisfying click echoed through his skull.

He slipped inside the inner sanctum, taped the door latch flush, and eased the door shut. He knew from previous visits that there were no cameras in this high-security area—too much to hide. Comfortable for the first time, Victor moved boldly and quickly. It took only a few minutes to find the precious vial.

A sudden spasm dislodged the glass container from his hand and he watched as it tumbled end over end in slow motion toward the floor. A movement quicker than his mind could register found his hand underneath the vial, an inch from the floor.

Victor sighed heavily and struggled to calm himself. He could not risk another unexpected spasm, so he wrapped the cold vial in gauze and stuffed it into his jockstrap. Even with the insulation, it was like walking around with a chunk of dry ice in his groin. Wasting no time, he returned to the laboratory door and counted the cadence.

The dance began again.


Five minutes later, he reached the exterior and raced across the damp grass to the bushes, heart pounding against his chest, nerves screaming under his skin, as if they would explode from his pores at any moment.

Once behind the cover of azaleas, Victor placed the sample, still icy cold, into a vacuum bottle, slipped back into his overalls, and raced back to his car, a scant flush of relief soothing his ragged nerves.

Once in the car, he greedily gulped down five Xanax and tried to catch his breath. He’d made it through the gauntlet of cameras. There would be no trace, no DNA, no fibers, no body hair.

No fingerprints.

A perfect heist, by a ghost.

It better pay off, he vowed to himself.

Cranking the car, Victor Moody backed out from behind the hedgerow and sped off into the languid Savannah night.

Click below to pre-order your copy of The Third Instinct, coming December 6th, 2022!

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