Though the opposite was often assumed, Jonathan did not like records. He was the second child in a family of people who cared nothing about music. He had never gone to a concert, or even voluntarily listened to a song in over three years. In fact, while many of his neighbors assumed he was an over obsessed collector due to the piles and piles of records clearly visible out his front window, Jonathan had grown so sick of records, he had thought many times about setting the piles on fire. Only one thing stopped him. The records were all his mother’s, and his mother was dead. While Jonathan had never liked records, he did love his mother.
Jonathan was 28, and lived in a small house on a street named Zepperdee Lane in a town called Allenville exactly 14.92 miles from his childhood home, that was now almost vacated except for Jonathan’s retired father who did nothing but try to fit in at nearby country club golf courses. Jonathan worked at a car insurance company that was definitely scamming it’s users. He was neither tall nor short and had a forgettable haircut and forgettable white shirts and honestly, was a pretty forgettable person. He had heard his neighbors talk about him on the sidewalk as he watched from behind his living room pile. He was just the record man.
“Small black coffee. No milk, no sugar,” Jonathan said loudly towards the Green Mermaid drive-through speaker. Green Mermaid was Jonathan’s least favorite coffee shop and cafe, but it was the nearest to his house.
“Sorry, did you say you’d like Green Mermaid’s National Mermaid Week Kale and Kiwi Smoothie?” a scratchy voice replied.
“Horrible strategy…” Jonathan grumbled under his breath. “No, I’d like a small plain black coffee.” He enunciated each consonant with slight anger.
“Okay, got it. Get our National Mermaid Week Kale and Kiwi-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jonathan sighed, and drove to the window.
“One small black coffee for Jonah?”
Jonathan shook his head but resigned to accepting Jonah as his name.
“That’s me.” He said from his small gray car, reached up to grab the coffee, and drove away.
While listening to an NPR podcast on the appalling creation process of most orange juice, about six miles down the highway on his way to work, Jonathan saw a convertible turquoise sports car appear in his rear view mirror. The driver was wearing pitch black sunglasses and a pinstripe suit. His hands were gloved and one was resting on the top of the car door. Jonathan squinted in the mirror and was shocked to see that in the driver’s free hand, he held a gun. And it was pointed right at Jonathan.
Jonathan panicked, while trying to keep his hands on the steering wheel. He constantly checked his mirror, trying to decide whether the gun was pointed specifically at him, or just a nearby bird or tree. He decided against the latter. The Fort Nill bridge was coming up, and Jonathan’s exit off the highway was just a mile beyond that. If he could make a speedy break off the highway, the turquoise sports car might not be able to follow. And so he would arrive at his car insurance company, park his car in the deck, and sit down to lie to gullible car owners over the phone. It seemed like a nice idea.
But as the two cars drove onto the bridge, Jonathan could see the man with a gun lean over the side of his door, so the gun had a better angle at the back of Jonathan’s head. Jonathan shrunk back against the seat, trying to be a turtle. The two cars were about halfway over the Fort Nill bridge when Jonathan heard the shot. A metal bullet zipped past Jonathan’s face and crashed into his windshield. The heat from the bullet left a burn on his cheek.
“Shit,” Jonathan said to himself. “Really dodged a bullet on that one.” As he tried to regain composure he looked back into the rear view mirror hoping this was a one-round game. What Jonathan saw terrified and probably permanently scarred him.
The blast from the shot had sent the gun spinning, and it had crashed into the man’s face, knocking him out. His car was now spiralling uncontrollably. Faster than a skilled axman could chop a tree, the car crashed into the rusted metal bars of the bridge, and toppled over the edge, man and all. Cars all around Jonathan had stopped. They stood still waiting for a boom. But there was no boom. The stylish turquoise sports car slipped silently into the breezy river and sank to the bottom. And then there was utter silence.
Just the next day, Jonathan was sipping a cup of pea tea he didn’t really like and desperately trying to work up the courage to call the police, as he had been too shocked the day before to do so, when his daily newspaper arrived. He rarely read it, as it was written by a club of bored retired folks who often got facts wrong. He usually only scanned the front page. Jonathan was surprised to see his own face and that of the man in the sports car on the front cover in black and white (which was all the newspaper had a budget for). The title read, “Jonathan Breezy, 28, suspected for murder of famous singer and proffesional clown, Moe Ron.” Moe Ron. Jonathan’s mother’s favorite musician. Of which she had many records.
Jonathan was wearing a clean white shirt, due to a shocked tea-spitting incident minutes before, and was heading out the door. He needed to get to the office of the Allenville Community Daily Newspaper and ask them where they got their information and if they would please run a new article on how he was 100% innocent. While no one under 60 believed a thing in the Allenville Community Daily, the seniors pretty much swore by it, and Jonathan very much did NOT want a bunch of old folks trying to track him down. He also needed to head to the Allenville police station and try to explain the situation. And maybe ask them what Moe Ron’s deal was.
Jonathan arrived at the newspaper office about nine and a half minutes later. This “office” would be better described as a garage. No, it was a garage. Four people were sitting at a fragile foldable white plastic table with practically ancient computers barely balancing on top of it. Computer cords were covering multiple square feet of the cement floor, and a large printer sat in the back of the room. It was buzzing annoyingly. A melting pint of ice cream and a bottle of root beer were sitting on the crack of the foldable plastic table.
Jonathan stopped outside the garage and cleared his throat. “Excuse me, are you all the Allenville Community Daily Newspaper?”
“Well, Gertrude and Betholomew are at that new theme park in Pensacola, but yes, this is most of us,” a woman with a fancy scarf said. “Do I know you?”
“Well, I don’t know if you know me, but I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” Jonathan lifted his newspaper next to his face, open to the front page. He pointed to himself. “See this?”
The woman squinted and blocked her face from the glare of the sun. “Oh, yes! We are celebrating with root beer floats! We wrote that very successful article all last night!”
Jonathan sighed. “Yes, but see-” Jonathan stepped closer to the table. “That’s me on the right there.” The woman nodded, paused, and then said, “Ohhh!” She tapped the man next to her on the shoulder. “Arthur, we’ve got us a celebrity!” Arthur was mid-root-beer-float-sip, and swallowed quickly.
“Well I’ll be darned, you’re the man in our most recent story! Come take a photo for a story in the future! We’ll have to share this with our dedicated readers!”
Jonathan was confused, but agreeably walked over to their camera booth, which was just an iPad on a stand.
“Smile big!” Arthur suggested, and tapped the small iPad button with a large thumb. He frowned at the outcome, and made Jonathan smile for another photo. About ten photos in, Jonathan asked through clenched smiling teeth, “So… you all think I’m a murderer?” Arthur was too busy trying to take a decent photo, but a woman across the table responded.
“A murderer?! No! We don’t just welcome murderers into our office like that.”
Jonathan raised an eyebrow. “Did you not spend all last night writing an article about how I murdered Moe Ron?”
The woman gasped. “Oh my god! We did! Arthur! Run!” Arthur was startled and dropped the iPad.
“Wait, no! I came to tell you guys that you got it wrong! I’m not a murderer!”
The woman across the table looked puzzled for a second, and then relaxed her face. “Well thank goodness, I told you — we don’t just welcome murderers into our office like that.”
“Um, sure,” Jonathan said, skeptically. “Anyways, I’ve come to ask if you would please write another article, explaining that I’m completely innocent.”
“Why would we do that?” Arthur asked, blowing off the iPad.
“…Because I am?” Jonathan said.
“Innocent. I’m innocent.”
“Oh, okay. Can you prove that?”
Jonathan walked down the street dismally. After realizing he had no good proof of his innocence, the Allenville Daily had rolled down their creaky garage door in front of him. Not only had Jonathan failed at convincing them to write a second article, he had come to the conclusion no one would believe him, as he had no evidence at all. He decided he would still go to the police station, to prevent his story being further twisted.
The Allenville police station was a brisk walk across town, sandwiched between two sandwich shops. There was very little crime in Allenville, so the officers spent most of their time playing in the chief’s private-office-turned-arcade. Just the last month, half the department had been laid off due to inactivity.
Surprisingly, when Jonathan stepped through the door, the buzz of the office hit him louder than seven bellowing blue whales. The room was packed with people – three officers, a farmer, a woman in a Green Mermaid outfit, and a barbershop quartet.
“JONATHAN BREEZY!!!!” A tall cop screamed, “YOU’RE THE MURDERER WE’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR!!!”
The noise in the office stopped abruptly. The farmer pointed a long finger at Jonathan. “That’s him, alright!”
“Get down, under your chairs!!!!!” Another officer yelled. Everyone in the room blinked at this officer, as there were no chairs to be found.
“Darnit.” The officer said. “Budget cuts.”
Jonathan raised his hands up and stood silently watching the commotion calm down. “I don’t know how else to defend my self, but I simply am not a murderer,”
The farmer scowled. “LIAR! Liiiiii-aaaaar! I saw him push Moe Ron right off that bridge!”
A short and until now silent cop cleared their throat and put out an arm, signalling the farmer to please shush.
“I would like to see a quiet line on the left of the room right now.” They said, like a kindergarten teacher. The farmer, woman in Green Mermaid costume and barbershop quartet shuffled to the left.
“Good. Now, as you know, you are all here as witnesses to the death-”
“MURDER!” The farmer screeched.
“-Of Moe Ron.” The cop continued, frustrated. The barbershop quartet raised their hands synchronously.
“Yes, except for you.” The cop turned to Jonathan, “They were here as entertainment for a lighthearted work party,” The cop explained.
“Now,” They said, turning to the farmer, “Would you please explain to me in an inside voice what you saw yesterday morning? And you, Jonathan, you can go stand behind the desk. They pointed to a desk in the back of the room.
“He could be armed!!!” The farmer said defensefully. Jonathan sighed.
“I’m not.” The farmer clenched his teeth but continued.
“Yesterday morning I was driving my truck of produce from Allenville to Bosewac. It was filled to the brim with corn and apples. There might have been some watermelon, a few of those have started to sprout. Which is really weird, considering they’re not usually in season, but I guess it’s a lucky year,” He shrugged.
The cop sighed. “Sir, could you tell me more about the actual incident?”
“Oh! Yes, yes. Well anyways, I was driving my truck, and I got to the Fort Nill bridge when I saw Moe Ron in a fancy turquoise sports car. Man, he is so cool. Well anyways, the car in front of him is Jonathan Breezy’s lame gray toyota-” Jonathan frowned. He liked his car. “-and all of a sudden Jonathan sends a teddy bear flying from his window. This thing hits Moe Ron smack in the face and he loses hold of the wheel and his beautiful car is spinning uncontrollably and speeds like a hurricane right off the side of that bridge and down into the cold, dark, deep, cold, very dark water.” The room was silent. The farmer took a deep breath. The cop chuckled lightly.
“A… teddy bear?”
“Yes, sir! Saw it with my own two eyes.”
“Why would Jonathan, a grown up, have a teddy bear in his car?”
“Stuffed animals are actually quite nice companions!” Someone in the barbershop quartet said. The cop sighed.
“Okay, thanks.” The cop said to the farmer.
“And you?” They turned to the woman in the Green Mermaid costume.
“Marina Keppel. I’m a Green Mermaid employee. I was working the drive through yesterday morning. I think I might have been the last person to see Jonathan before Moe Ron’s death.”
Jonathan looked at Marina, and realized she did have a familiar voice. She was the National Mermaid Week Kale and Kiwi Smoothie woman. Jonathan grumbled, apparently loud enough for Marina to hear, because she continued with,
“Jonathan was in a mood when he drove up, I guess I only made it worse when I badgered him about our specialty drink – company policy – and then got his name wrong. I actually only connected Jonathan and Jonah once I saw the picture in the Allenville daily.”
“You unironically read that thing?” A cop asked.
“Oh, no, not unironically. It’s total crap. It’s a little funny though sometimes.”
Jonathan chuckled. But then he reheard what Marina had said.
“Wait, but, I wasn’t in a mood yesterday morning.”
Marina shrugged. “Sure seemed like it,”
Jonathan frowned. He knew he was not necessarily a positive person, but he didn’t mean to come off as a grump, either.
“So Ms. Keppel,” The short cop said, “Did you happen to see a teddy bear in Jonathan’s car?”
“I wouldn’t know. I handed him out his coffee, that’s all. We’ve got security cameras on the drive through because of that skunk feces scheme last year, but they’re horrible quality. I doubt you’ll be able to see anything.”
The cop nodded. He turned to one of the other officers.
“Hey, Merce, can you contact Green Mermaid for the footage?”
“Have you not been listening this entire time?”
“No, it’s okay, I’ll get the records.”
The cop named merce took a home phone from the wall and dialed 10 erratic beeps that made Jonathan wince. A Green Mermaid staff member picked up, their voice just audible to Jonathan.
“Sir..?” The voice yawned.
“Yes, hello, can I speak to Lana Green?”
“Yes, your boss.”
“Okay, gimme a minute.” The voice proceeded to yawn again and loud eating sounds could be heard over the phone.”
“Uh, kid?” Merce asked.
“It’s my lunf bweak,”
The police station sat in silence for seven minutes and thirty eight seconds while the staff member ate a crunchy thing and then a drink.
“Well, have you spoken to Ms. Green yet?” Merce asked, frustrated.
“What? Oh you’re still on the line. Ms. Green doesn’t come in til 11:45 am. Sorry.”
“Gah, you could have told me that seven minutes and forty nine seconds ago,” Merce sighed. He was about to hang up but thought the better of it.
“Hold on kid, you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Wha-what- what do you want? Are you a cop? Oh god I bet you’re a cop,” The voice mumbled
“Yes, I am a cop.”
“Okay, first things first, I promise I didn’t mean to kill Mr. Hampfley’s iguana. It was a total mistake, besides that thing is so small and blends into the sidewalk I-,”
“Uh… okay, kid. I’m not here to ask about this iguana incident, but you might want to apologize to that Mr. Hampfley. No, I’m actually here in search of corroboration of a murder accusation.”
“Oh, uh, okay.”
“Were you on shift around 8:40 am yesterday morning?”
“What job were you working at? Did you happen to see anything strange?”
“Oh god, what happened? I was just grinding ice.”
Marina interjected, “Yes, some of our more picky customers prefer very fine ice.”
“Isn’t that just… water? Ah, nevermind.”
“Oh hey!” said the voice from the phone. “My boss is here now, a car just pulled up.”
“Oh great! It’s only 11:20?”
“She must be early,” the voice said.
A bell of a door opening was heard, as well as a voice saying something to the staff member. Then, abruptly, the phone hung up.
“Hey! Kid!” Merce called into the disconnected call.
“Well that was a waste,” The short cop said.
“Did they hang up?” Asked one of the members of the barbershop quartet, from the far side of the room.
“Oh, you guys are still here. You can go home. Thanks for the patience, though.”
To be Continued…