As a driver working nights in some of the tougher parts of the landlocked cities on the western edge of Orange County—including Cypress, Stanton, Westminster, Buena Park and Anaheim—suspicious-looking passengers are easy to come by, he says. He admits that throughout his career as first a taxi driver and now an independent chauffeur, he has given rides to some of the wrong people.

"If you discriminate too much—you know, this one looks like he's in a gang, this one looks like a criminal—you get no action," he says. "The majority of people who want to take a taxi in some of these places are shady people."

That night at the Anaheim motel, soon after he notified police about the body rolled in a blanket, they stormed the hotel and arrested the men, he says. Moments later, as he was talking to the cops, he spotted one of his regular rides lurking around: a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound woman named Angela.

Mashayekhi sifts through his old news clippings in his motel room
John Gilhooley
Mashayekhi sifts through his old news clippings in his motel room

On his way back to his room, he says, Angela blurted out, "You're a snitch."

Mashayekhi says he never found out what happened to the arrested men or the body in the blanket.

By last November, it had been two years since he'd seen her, but suddenly, out of nowhere, there she was. Angela was standing on the exact same corner he used to always see her, he says. She told him she had been in prison and was now on parole.

She paid $20 for a ride to a neighborhood, somewhere on the western edge of Anaheim or eastern edge of Buena Park. She told him to wait around the corner. She left, and then she returned a few minutes later. "I wasn't very comfortable with her because she knew I was a snitch," he says. "But what can she do in the car? I did make her sit in the front because if she sat in back, she could hit me in the head or something."

But nothing happened. She returned and got a ride back. He gave her his card, made of yellow construction paper with the words "Towncar Ride Good Price" and his phone number. She'd call him for a ride next time, she said.

*     *     *

Ten days after seeing Angela, "Hector" calls. He says he knows Angela. He says he wants a ride to LAX. Mashayekhi says he considers himself streetwise, but the prospect of a $150 ride to LAX and a couple of other factors helped him let down his guard.

"I'm pretty crafty; I'm very alert," he says. "I've been doing this a long time, and I've never been hurt before.

"But two things fooled me. One was that the house was in a nice residential area. It wasn't in a drug area. And the guy's sitting around, decorating his Christmas lights. He says, 'Do you like these lights?' He has a big smile on his face," he says.

"But I saw he had a shaved head, tattoos. I was a little apprehensive. But then again, the Christmas lights, decorations, the residential area. And again, 99 percent of the Mexicans are good people. They're a traditional people, hardworking people."

Mashayekhi leans over the Norms table and, in a low grumble, says, "Only 1 percent of these murderous gangsters are around."

When "Hector" asked him into the garage for help with his luggage, Mashayekhi followed.

Moments later, Mashayekhi says, he was on the floor, bloodied and groveling for his life. Another man, a chubby-cheeked kid of about 19 walked in. He pulled off his shirt to show off his gang tattoos, Mashayekhi says.

"I'm the type of guy that faints when I get a shot, so imagine, me in the locked garage. The blood is flowing. I touch my eye, I said, 'I'm bleeding.'

"[The kid] said, 'I don't give a fuck. You're a rat. You turned in our bros.'"

Mashayekhi says the two proceeded to torture him for the next hour and a half, all the while letting him know that at any moment, they were going to kill him, wrap him in a blanket and bury him in the desert. They shocked him in the face with a Taser, he says. They threatened him with a hammer, and they painted his hands orange in what he can only assume was a gang ritual to mark snitches, he says. They took his money, his cell phone and his identification.

But just then, something happened.

"All of the sudden, a phone call came in to the kid," Mashayekhi says. "The kid was supposed to take me to the desert and kill me."

"[The kid] says [into the phone], 'You want me to leave now; I'm supposed to take this guy to the desert.'

"I'm sitting in my chair listening. I'm petrified, and he's just watching me.

"Then the kid says to ["Hector"], 'I can't take him to the desert; can you?'

"He says, 'No, I have my family here at the house; I can't leave.'

"Then the kid left. He put on his jacket and left."

Unable to pull off the killing, the remaining man let Mashayekhi leave, but "Hector" warned him: "If you go to the cops, I know where you live. I'll kill you," says Mashayekhi.

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