In one telling audio snippet released to the media in late February, Ruane appears to be unaware of any plans beyond Vermont. In the recording, Martin says, "Did he go over the Bieber thing with you?" Ruane answers in a laconic, countrified voice, "Nuh-uh, no. Like, the way I work, dude, is I like to know as little as possible." But Ruane goes on to talk about the alleged castration weapons. "We went and we bought some of the, you know, hedge clippers? . . . You're gonna give me five large for each one I get." Martin then instructs Ruane on exactly how he wants the Vermont targets strangled with the paisley tie: "Tie it really, really tight. Tie it in the front once, really tight, put it in a knot that cuts off the oxygen, then you tie it in the back again, really tight, and that just seals the deal."

When I ask Ruane if Martin set him up, he says simply, "I couldn't tell you if he did. You're telling me." Staake is more emphatic. He maintains that he and his nephew traveled to Vermont to pick up the Ferrari and some drugs from Martin's Chinese-gangster connection. "I knew he was an evil person," Staake says of his prison associate. "But it was just one of those things. It was an opportunity for me to come up on some money and get on my feet when I got out of prison. I didn't go up there for any other reason." He thinks Martin fabricated the hit plot "because he started to worry about me getting ready to rip him off."

At 2:30 P.M., a team of New York state troopers swarmed the truck stop and arrested Ruane. Inside the BMW, police found Fiskars gardening clippers, photos and addresses of both Vermont targets, the Hip Sing gang letter, and a hand-drawn map of Lottery Hill Farm.

Martin claims he still has assassins—his Chinese-gangster pals—looking to kill Bieber. "It's still on," he says. It seems less likely—but not impossible—that hit men could reach Bieber now. While the singer typically had one visible bodyguard before the plot, he is now generally seen escorted by two or three. "There may be any number of people who appear to be fans but are actually planted among the fans," says Meloy, the stalker expert. "They'll be looking for nonverbal stuff that telegraphs a problem—someone with a sullen look or a very flat expression, just staring at the celebrity."

Even now, Martin says he's willing to rescind his fatwa against Bieber if the singer or even Braun, Bieber's manager, would agree to meet him. "I've written to the district attorney saying that I'll plead guilty, I'll even testify against my two partners—I just want to have a sit-down with Justin Bieber," he says. "And they just won't do it. To them that's just bizarre."

Prosecutors have refused to comment on the case. But on January 3, a grand jury in Las Cruces indicted all three men on two counts each of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder—for the planned Vermont hits, but not for Bieber. The district attorney's office says it considers the investigation still open.

Despite telling me that he has hit men looking to kill Bieber, or maybe because of it, Martin wonders aloud if Bieber will immortalize him in song. "That's not likely, is it?" he says. "Because this isn't going away. Do you really think that I would stop? Honestly? I tell people I'm not going to stop. And I'm not gonna stop. So if you're Justin Bieber, wouldn't you want to, like, do something to make this go away? . . . Until something bad actually happens to him, they are going to treat it as 'Oh, Martin's just crazy, he doesn't have nobody.' I was kinda hoping that, with what I did, it would show them."

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