The Print-Shop

Kermit works at a print shop in the city. He hardly ever prints out photos anymore, but one day a man came up to print a single six-by-four.
“Your name’s Kermit?” Said the man after reading Kermit’s name tag. “The Muppets were around in the seventies. Did your parents live under a rock?”
Kermit was tired of always having to explain “I’m named after my maternal grandfather.”
“Why’d they name you after him? Didn’t they realise you’d be picked on by kids at school?”
“…yeah, and by strangers too. I guess they didn’t realise. So which is the photo you’d like to print?”

The customer showed Kermit the photo he wanted.
“Would you like it stretched or cropped to fit the photo size?”
“That’s none of your goddamn business!” Kermit was mildly surprised at the man’s violent outburst. His face had turned bright red. Kermit had seen weird stuff before, having worked in retail for some time, but this would go high up on the list of oddities. He didn’t dare ask the significance of the photo.

“That’ll be twenty cents. Would you like your receipt?”
“Of course I do! If I spend money, I want a receipt.” The man barked. “And why are you so pale? Geez!” The photo had already printed, so Kermit handed it to the man in a pretty little envelope that was designed to hold a hundred photos. With a smile he wanted to say to the man “that’s none of your goddamn business.” Instead he said “Have a nice day.”

So strange was this interaction, that Kermit decided to investigate the image file that was still sitting on the print-PC. It was a highly compressed file that had obviously been cropped from a larger image. In it was an ancient stone building standing on the side of a mountain. It was kind of pretty, but not at all familiar.

Delete.

Later, a detective received another letter in the mail. In the envelope was another six-by-four photo. He pinned it to the display board next to a seven similar photos arranged in a nine by nine grid. They were all cropped from the same larger image. The puzzle on the board was becoming clearer, but there was still one piece missing.

The next day, the strange man came back to see Kermit at the print shop. He had another photo to process. Kermit had learned from the last interaction – no small talk. He processed the file as quickly as he could, but what he saw was shocking. There were seven dead bodies mangled on the steps of an ancient stone ruin. It was another part of the image he’d printed yesterday.

Kermit suppressed his emotions and all he could think to do was put a tiny watermark in the corner of the image. His printer could manage 1200 DPI, so he could make it really tiny. He put in the logo and contact details for the store.

Print.

Again, the man insisted on a receipt. As he carefully folded it to place in his wallet, Kermit noted the name he saw on the driver’s license.

Two days later a detective came to speak with Kermit. “There was a store watermark on a photo we received in the mail…” It was the clue the detectives needed. From that point forward the pieces all fell into place. Thanks to Kermit, a serial killer was captured that day.

T

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