Coming Soon by Ernest Thompson

Out Clause

If you could get out of your life, bad marriage, dead-end career, self-destructive pattern of mistakes and missteps, would you? Not terminate but renegotiate. If someone offered you an out clause, would you take it?

Every year, half a million Americans go missing, thousands never seen again. Where are they? People fall off cruise ships—or were they pushed?—or cliffs or bridges or get lost in blizzards or dense forests, their cars found deserted on lonely highways. What if there’s a connection? What if there’s an organization called Out Clause that, if you qualify, takes whatever money you have and provides you a new existence, a new identity and lifestyle commensurate with the investment you’re able to make (in yourself)?

What if there’s a mad philosopher named Oxton Paris who has devoted his life to helping other misfits and misanthropes who find their way to Out Clause begin their lives anew? What if he oversees a far-flung network of facilitators and observers who’ll arrange passage, then stay close enough by to ascertain that the Travelers, as they’re called, adhere to the compacts to which they’ve committed: to accept their new lives, to abjure all contact with their pasts and, this is the killer, to live a better life, to be better people, because if they fail, their remains will be found washed ashore or in the scrub brush beneath the cliff or near the car or when the snow melts? What if only one in four will succeed, the success rate that Oxton feels is representative of the human morality?

What if Kane, a troubled New York detective who as a child found his father’s body hanging from a tree and has been obsessed with suicide ever since and tracks the cases of what he calls No Bodies, eventually stumbles onto the trail of Oxton Paris and a Faustian deal to make with his own soul? 

What if Oxton herds four Travelers to Central America and plays the game of seeing which one will rise to the challenge and earn his or her Out Clause and which three won’t? That’s the story; could it be yours?