Grave Stakes

They were big, mean-looking thugs, the corners of their down-turned mouths frothing with betel-nut juice. And the message they delivered to Huang Mei-shu that day last August was almost too horrible to contemplate. "We have your sister," they said. "She stinks. Pay $5,000 if you want her back in one piece." Huang's first instinct was to avoid trouble and fork over the cash. But times were tough for the Taipei slum-dweller, and the most she could rustle up was $500a sum the kidnappers gruffly rejected. Scared and desperate, she went to the police. They refused to help....

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