Longform

Friends with Benefits

Page 4 of 6

Meanwhile, things started disappearing from Martin's apartment. First it was a few books. Then a vintage Stetson hat walked out the door unannounced. Shah liked a Guildford watch Martin had and told him he knew where to get it fixed. Martin let him take it and never saw it again. (Anderson says that Shah loved to keep mementos of his victims.)

"So I should have known then, but it just got worse and he got more and more aggressive," Martin says. "He kind of takes people hostage. He said he could put slow-acting poison in people's air-conditioning. He told me if I didn't do what he said, then bad things would happen to me."

One night, Martin, Shah, Henry Dyches and a homeless man named Jason whom Martin says Shah attempted to enslave dined together at One's A Meal. By this time, Dyches was deep in the clutches of Alz­heimer's and had just over a year to live. Shah was growing tired of the old man's doddering.

According to Martin, after Dyches returned to the table from an unfortunate trip to the restroom, Shah screamed at the old man for wiping shit on his own shirt. "First he said he was gonna shoot him down in a ditch like the Nazis did to the Jews, and then he said that all he would have to do is push him down the stairs at his house and the police wouldn't say anything because he was just an old man."    

"Dennis was just horrible to this guy, just really, really mean and abusive," Martin continues. "He thought it was funny. I thought it was a nightmare."

And still he couldn't break away. "He would start screaming at me, make me feel like I was back at home fighting with my dad," Martin recalls. "He knows all the buttons to push. I've been in recovery for a while now and I've seen all this stuff. I was drinking at the time. I am an alcoholic. And he knows how to use this stuff, how to push all these buttons."

Martin's health was declining, and his nerves were shattered. Martin claims that he was starting to exhibit most of the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning. While he admits that his drinking had increased, he says that his low-grade funk continued for about 18 months after he got sober.

Around that time, Shah would say things like "Boy, if you got another DWI, you'd really be finished."

Martin now thinks Shah was trying to get power of attorney over him and access to his grandfather's will. In any event, on November 5, 2007, Martin went to Marfreless and enjoyed some cocktails with a judge. After Martin drove to Ruchi's and got out of his car, a cop came running over and told him he'd hit a car on the way to his parking spot. Martin says his attorney later proved nothing of the sort had happened, but Martin was nevertheless convicted of DWI several months later and has been on probation ever since.

When he returned from jail after his initial arrest, Martin says that he suspected his apartment had been rifled. Faced with having to install an ignition interlock in his Ford Elite, he decided instead to give up driving for a while. Martin entrusted the title to Shah, who said he would sell it for him. Martin says he never saw the car again, nor a penny of the proceeds.

As Martin continued drying out, he started to see that Shah had brought nothing but trouble to his life. Shah was still calling, though, and even though he was on probation and thus forbidden both to drink and to frequent bars, Shah was more than happy to both indulge himself and ask his shakily sober buddy Martin to come along.

"He was drinking and I didn't drink," Martin says. (He's been in court-mandated AA for several years now.) "Yeah, I would say he drinks a lot. And he kept trying to get to me after I got the DWI. He'd call me up and say, 'We're having a bunch of drinks. Why don't you come on over?'"

Once Martin finally got free of Shah's grasp, one aphorism of Shah's strikes him as singularly ominous.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax