Mr. Gone

Mr. Gone

by Gene Triplett


Publisher AuthorHouse

Published in Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


Jack Ritter was once the juvenile delinquent scourge of Oklahoma City, specializing in grand theft auto and one of the best in that criminal line of work. When the cops were getting too close and life with a drunken, widowed mother and a wild little half brother were starting to take their toll, he’d fled to start a new life elsewhere as a straight citizen.

Sample Chapter

Friday, May 5

When Jerome dropped him off at the corner, Jackson Ray “Jack” Ritter flicked his cigarette into the flowing gutter, took a deep breath to steady his nerves, and started walking west on Sheridan.

It was a nice spring evening for a stroll, even in downtown Oklahoma City, where walks at dusk used to be risky at best, until the citizens had voted for a new sales tax to slick things up a bit. Now there was a brand new baseball park just three blocks behind him in Bricktown, said to be one of the very best in the minor leagues. There were new upscale restaurants and night spots as well, in the former deserted factory district, reborn as an entertainment destination.

To Ritter’s right, directly across the street, tiers of scaffolding were the visible evidence of major renovations underway on the Myriad Convention Center, the town’s largest event center, where most of the major touring rock and country concerts were held.

Things had changed a bit since Ritter had left.

The brief thunderstorm just ended had cleansed the air of exhaust fumes, left the heady scent of fresh rain, made the pavement on Sheridan shine in rippled colors from the late sunset, the car head beams, neon signs and tall vapor streetlights.

He checked out the cars parallel-parked at the curb as he strode along, at the same time watching the people he passed on the sidewalk. He moved at a casual pace, hands in his pockets. Nobody paid much attention to him: tall, clean-cut, blond-haired white guy in a light-brown silk sport coat, white button-down shirt, no tie, faded Levis and green-on-white Reebok track shoes. He looked yuppie, law-abiding, harmless, and a decade younger than his actual thirty-four years – the way he wanted to look at the moment.

He had a flat strip of flexible alloy up his right sleeve, 20 inches long, three-quarters of an inch wide, half a millimeter thick, notched on one end – a tool commonly known among car thieves and cops as a slimjim.

Thunderheads billowed high above the tall buildings as he moved west, the formation colored deep purple and limned with gold by the sun that had already slipped below the horizon. It was about 8:30 on a Friday night, and there was an unusually large number of cars parked along the downtown street, for this time of the evening – unless, of course, there was a bigtime rock or country concert going on in the Myriad.

Or, a regional church conference, complete with Christian-rock concert, which was in progress in the Myriad right now.

Ritter glanced across the street at the sprawling concrete and glass structure that stretched for a block along the south side of Sheridan, saw late-arriving people hurrying across the wide street toward the Myriad entrances. Tonight’s flashy holy business was already underway in there; muffled sounds of pipe organs and choir pushing against the high rafters of the arena.

The Myriad’s underground garage was already full, the entrance guarded by striped sawhorses and rent-a-cops. But nobody was tending the overflow parking on the street, except for the occasional passing prowl car. Ritter had read in the papers that a portion of the proceeds from the event were going to the families of the dead and also the injured survivors of the Murrah Building bombing, which had taken place just three weeks ago, give or take a few days, turning the city, the state and the nation on its ear. The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the history of the country – 168 dead, including 19 children. He counted himself lucky that none of his relatives or friends were on the list of dead. His loss had occurred three weeks earlier, completely unrelated.

He came up alongside the automobile he wanted, the one he’d spotted a few minutes ago when Jerome had driven him by here, scouting for jewels. This jewel – a black 1986 Buick Grand National.

He stopped and fished around in his jacket pockets, like a man digging for keys or cigarettes, came up with cigarettes and lighter, fired one up while his darting eyes checked both sides of the street and both ends of the block. He put Marlboros and Zippo away, stepped down off the curb and walked around to the driver’s door of the Buick, took a drag on the smoke with his left hand while dropping his right arm down his side, letting the slimjim slip out of his sleeve and into his grip, hanging down along his leg. He took another look around and slid the slim down between the metal and the glass of the door, moved it back and forth like a pendulum until it caught where he wanted it to catch. He pulled up slightly, felt and heard the satisfying click, pulled the tool up and out, reached down with his other hand, grasped the handle and opened the door.

He accomplished all of this in less time than it took most people to unlock a car door the regular way, with a key.

Tossing the slimjim into the passenger seat, he got in and chunked the door shut, closing out the sounds and smells of the street. Now he was in the hushed confines of someone else’s private, mobile domain. Another person’s ride.

An old feeling charged his senses. Stealing a car was like slipping into someone else’s clothing, being enveloped in the scent, the body-mold, the very essence of another human being; finding articles in the pockets that provided clues about the owner. It was a mental and sensory exercise he had always enjoyed when boosting automobiles – a means of income he’d given up several years ago, when he’d left Oklahoma City to establish a straight life elsewhere.

It was nice in here, smelled like leather and a young woman’s expensive perfume. There was also the fainter smell of fancy after-shave, but a musky female scent was most prevalent.

Ritter decided, as he slammed his fist down on the plastic casing of the steering column, breaking it apart with a loud snap, that the Buick belonged to a young Republican couple who believed in God, favored American muscle cars, and occasionally – and just recently, in fact – enjoyed having sex in their automobile.

He pulled a short flathead screwdriver from his side pocket, used it to pop the chrome façade off the ignition lock, then pressed the tip of the screwdriver against the exposed switch. The 3.8-litre SFI turbo roared to life and hummed like a chorus of contented bears under the gleaming, droplet-covered black hood.

Ritter smiled to himself around the cigarette that dangled from his lips, pushed the button that made the driver’s window go down, looked over his shoulder for a break in the traffic, pulled the console lever into DRIVE and snaked the Buick out from the curb.

Yeah, a young, conservative married couple with strong Christian beliefs. No psychic feat figuring that one, with the fish-outline decal and the little red-white-and-blue flag sticker displayed side-by-side in the lower center of the rear window, and the gawdawful Christian rap music that started thumping bass-heavy through the surround speakers when Ritter switched on the high-powered stereo that was crammed into the dash. He found Christian rock music offensive enough – like when Ronald Reagan once quoted from a Bruce Springsteen song, as if the old squareheaded Gipper really had a clue what the Boss was really singing about the good old U.S.A. But Jesus gangster rap? Talk about your contradiction in terms.

He walk on the water

Give sight to the blind

Make a cripple man walk

With his powers devine

Yo, all the little homies know Jesus is the way

All the little homies know Je-Je-Jesus –

He hit the eject button as he angled into the left-turn lane at the Robinson intersection and stopped for the light. He tossed the cassette into the handy trash barrel on the median, no longer feeling bad about stealing a young couple’s flashy ride.

When the green arrow flashed he turned south on Robinson, stabbing his cigarette out in the ashtray, watching the rearview mirrors and side streets until he was climbing the curving ramp up onto the eastbound Interstate 40 overpass. He began to open it up then, racing away from the wild purple-and-orange sunset and the sparse cluster of skyscrapers silhouetted against it.

It had seemed so easy, but Ritter never allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of confidence. He held the brawny Buick at a safe 60 all the way out past Del City, Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base – all the metro satellites that surrounded Oklahoma City on its southeast edges – and when he was beyond the gravitational pull of OKC and its adjuncts – out in open country, rolling green pastureland turning blue-black in the gathering night, he turned on the radio. Big surprise, it was tuned to a conservative call-in talk station, and he heard some half-wit (or half-drunk) air conditioner repairman defending all the conspiracy idiots’ paranoid idea that the government had had prior knowledge of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown OKC, and didn’t do anything to prevent it.

Ritter cranked the dial over to 100.5 FM, zipped up the volume in time to hear Robert Plant’s wailing cover of “Your Ma Said You Cried in You Sleep Last Night”. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, nodded his head in time to the raunchy shuffle. He found, to his surprise, that he was pumped. The apprehension he’d felt earlier, riding around with Jerome, had melted away.

It had been a long time since he’d committed grand theft auto. He was walking the wrong side of the line again and liking it more than he wanted to.

It had also been years since he’d left Oklahoma behind, along with its mixed bag of memories.

He reminded himself of his reason for returning, plus his immediate destination, which was cause for utmost caution and concern.

He had an appointment – set up by Jerome, shifty kind of a goof he’d met only a few hours ago at the airport – to deal with some dangerous people. This stolen car was a required part of Ritter’s introduction to these folks.

And from what he’d been told, if he didn’t make just the right first impression on this bunch, they might just kill him.

Nice homecoming, he thought. Haven’t even had time to stop by the cemetery and pay respects to his mom, with Mother’s Day only a couple of days away.

He drove deeper into the night, as it grew darker.


Following Jerome’s directions, Ritter took a rural-road exit off the interstate and ended up in the dark middle of nowhere with a double-barreled shotgun pressed against the side of his face.


Excerpted from "Mr. Gone" by Gene Triplett. Copyright © 2017 by Gene Triplett. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Gene Triplett

Gene Triplett

Gene Triplett is a veteran newspaper journalist who served ten years as city editor of The Oklahoman, the state's largest daily source of print and online news. He's won numerous awards for his breaking news and entertainment coverage, film and music reviews, and feature writing. He lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with his wife, Carol. Wheel Man and Mr. Gone are his first two novels.

View full Profile of Gene Triplett

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