Karen flicked through the pages of the murder book. No one had ever seen it, it was her own private book of the dead. It reminded her, as if she needed reminding, that life was unfair and that life was breathtakingly, brutally brief. All those cliches and poems and songs, they were all true.

The itemized progress report just inside of the blue ring binder had halted at the first entry. The first entry was a photograph of the girl as she had been. Before life dealt her that hand. And what a hand. The second entry was one she had managed to procure, without asking. Stole it, she knew. A photograph of the girl as the world had last viewed her, twisted and contorted in a pile of straw. Dead.

Rule Number one: The House always wins

But Karen kept on playing. The game might be bent, but she never cashed in her chips. She would never fold.