We sent our top writers from the Battle Red Onion to follow and record how the Houston Texans spend their time off the gridiron. The content is raw, unedited, potentially leaves us open to lawsuits, put our writers in harm's way, and will probably land us all in prison. But we felt it was worth the risk. We wanted to get to know the players behind the mask.
Owen Daniels threw open the curtains of his luxurious hotel room. He looked out at the city skyline. It was a dreary morning, the skies were gray and what few trees could be seen were only just beginning to bud.
"Sigh...Spring in Prague," he said to himself.
"What was that?" asked a voice coming from the bathroom.
"Nothing," Daniels shouted.
He could hear the shower cut off and the bathroom door swing open. Walking through the door was a very attractive middle-aged woman drying her long, blonde hair with a towel and wearing a terrycloth robe.
She wrapped her arms around Daniels from behind.
"You were really something last night, Owen."
A thin smile curled on Daniels' face, "I know," he said smugly.
The woman pushed him away, "Don't sound too proud of yourself. Travis was still better."
Daniels whipped around and faced her, "Oooh, Rhonda, you really know how to hurt a guy," he said, feigning insult.
He pulled her close, looking deeply into her eyes, wondering what made Travis Johnson so damned special and how he could surpass him.
And that's when his phone rang.
Daniels lowered his head and shrugged.
"They promised," he muttered, "they promised they wouldn't call."
Daniels loped over to his suitcase and pulled his cell phone from one of the 347 pockets.
"Do not answer that phone! Come on, Owen, what good is a lockout if you can't spend it enjoying yourself?"
Daniels glumly hit the talk button. Rhonda groaned in exasperation.
"This is Daniels...I see...Uh-huh. I'll be down in a few minutes." He turned off the phone.
"No. No. You are not going anywhere," Rhonda insisted.
"You need to go, Rhonda. Now."
Rhonda looked confused at him.
"Get out!" he snapped.
Rhonda slapped him across the face before gathering up her clothes and storming back into the bathroom. It didn't take her 30 seconds before she was fully dressed and marching out of Daniels' room.
Daniels rubbed his lobster-red face, "Women..."
A few minutes later, Daniels was wearing a suit and waiting in the hotel lobby.
"Ready to go?" a strange voice said behind him.
Daniels turned, "You're Holliday?"
"I am. Let me take your bag," Holliday said, reaching for the suitcase.
Daniels jerked the suitcase away, "The bag stays with me."
Holliday nodded silently and led Daniels to the car.
"This is the car?" Daniels asked, confusedly.
"It is, Mr. Daniels," Holliday said neutrally.
"I was expecting something smaller, pinker, and more tricycle-like."
Daniels slid into the back seat and closed the door. The town car screamed down Prague's narrow side streets, avoiding collisions with other cars, people, and livestock by mere molecules.
Daniels calmly checked his watch. It was almost a quarter to nine.
"Holliday, is there any way we can pick things up? It is rather urgent."
Holliday ignored him, thinking, He's not being serious, is he? as the car made a hairpin turn around an old Baroque townhouse.
"Almost there, sir," Holliday said blandly.
The car raced straight toward a brick wall as Holliday pressed a small green button on the center console. The wall split open to reveal a narrow opening which the town car fit snugly through.
The wall closed quickly behind them and the car screeched to an abrupt stop in the pitch darkness.
Daniels opened the car door which prompted a nasal female voice to echo through the room, "Identify. You have 10 seconds to identify yourselves. Identify."
He looked toward the far wall, "Daniels comma Owen. H-4 clearance level: X plus. Ident number: OO4567-41-D."
The computer beeped randomly as it processed Daniels' information.
"Confirmed. Welcome, Agent OO-D."
The lights came up and a thick metal door creaked open. He walked through the door and into H-4's Prague substation. It was a cavernous room with countless people in suits staring intently at computer screens. As he passed, he could hear each computer monkey say "Good morning, OO-D," without looking up from their monitors.
OO-D had a reputation as something of a ladies' man. He had been called a Lothario, a lech, and Tiger Woods' apprentice; he had been with just about every female employee at H-4, with one notable exception. She was 4'8", 200 pounds, with long, spindly black hair that could only be tamed with a bullwhip and chair, dull brown eyes, and her skin was a shade of orange that does not exist in nature. And she was the lone obstacle that stood between Daniels and his handler.
"Good morning, Mr. Daniels," she said in her most sultry voice; which could best be described as sounding like a very sick cat caught in a waffle iron.
"Ms. Paloompa," Daniels said flatly, "is the Gentleman in?"
"Oh Mr. Daniels, you're such a tease," Paloompa cackled harshly, "you never did call me back."
"Go figure," he mumbled under his breath.
"And you don't have to call me Ms. Paloompa, you can call me Sanuki. You know," she stood up and strutted over toward him, which made her look like an ostrich trying to keep balance, "you should come down to my flat sometime."
Daniels resisted the urge to gag. "Is the Gentleman available, Ms. Paloompa?"
Paloompa slumped her shoulders, "Yeah, go right in."
Daniels closed the door behind him and surveyed the room. He could see no signs of life in the office.
"Mr. Gentleman?" Daniels asked nervously.
"Ah, Daniels," a gruff elderly-sounding voice said, "just the man I wanted to see."
Daniels looked around the room, trying to find the location of the old man's voice. Still no trace of his supervisor could be found. He looked under the desk. No luck there.
"No, no. Over here."
He looked up to see an aged man clinging to the ceiling. He wore a suit that blended in with the ceiling's color. Even his long beard was dyed the same color as the ceiling.
"Very clever, sir."
Mr. Gentleman dropped to the ground, "Learned that one from Antonio Smith, I did. But enough about that. I suppose you know why I called you in here right, OO-D?"
"Actually, I don't. Care to fill me in?"
"A couple of weeks ago, Tony Gonzalez went missing. Nobody has claimed responsibility and no ransom has been requested. About a week after that, Antonio Gates vanished. Four days ago, Jason Witten disappears and last night Jeremy Shockey was abducted. Someone is kidnapping the NFL's best tight ends right off the streets."
"We assume his kidnapping was an error on their part. Anyway, we couldn't figure out why until we saw this."
Mr. Gentleman played a video of some men loading a moving van. He paused when the last man was about to get into the van.
"We think this is the man responsible. Does he look familiar to you?"
"He does. I've played against him. That's Gijon Robinson, he's a tight end for the Colts!"
"He's working for someone calling himself 'Clonefinger.' 'Pollux Clonefinger.' We think this Clonefinger is planning to use these tight ends and flood the free agent market with counterfeit tight end clones and lower the position's value."
"Aren't tight ends Mr. K's area of expertise?"
"His current orders take priority over this. We think Clonefinger is holed up here," the screen showed a large building decorated with flashing multicolored lights, "at a club in Indianapolis called 'The Corn Palace.' He is hosting a shindig for the Colts players and media. We want you to infiltrate the party, find Clonefinger, and destroy his operation."
"That's it? Not asking much, are we?" Daniels asked.
"If anybody can pull it off, it's you, OO-D."
The following day, Daniels caught a flight to Indianapolis and arrived at the H-4 substation there. He met with a portly man with receding gray hair in a white lab coat.
"Welcome to Indianapolis, OO-D."
"What do you have for me, Mr. P?"
"I have a couple of tools for your mission tonight, son. The first is this. What does this look like to you?"
Daniels examined the object, "A pen."
Mr. P chuckled, "Shucks yeah, but if you press this button," the pen extended into a full length metal rod, "this happens. If for some reason, you find yourself without a weapon, you can use this rod. It's bulletproof and harder than diamond."
"And what's this?" Daniels asked, looking at a small glass bottle.
"Don't touch that!" Mr. P shouted, "Shoot, son, you tryin' to melt your face off? That's your other tool. It's hydrochloric acid, Clorox concentrate and pure, distilled cynicism. One drop of this stuff can eat through just about anything except the glass it's contained in. I call them 'Blogger's Tears.'"
Daniels stashed the pen and the bottle in his inside suit pocket, "Thanks Mr. P. I guess I should head to The Corn Palace. Hey, what's this?" he asked as he placed a hand on a squat metal box with a camera protruding through the front.
The camera projected on the wall an image of Rhonda in her terrycloth robe. Mr. P looked astonished at Daniels.
"It shows what's on the mind of the person touching it. Personally, son, I wouldn't breathe a word of this to Mr. K, if I were you."
"R-Right. Thanks Mr. P." Daniels dashed out of the laboratory.
"Golly, I hope he doesn't get himself killed."
That evening, Daniels pulled up in a limo to The Corn Palace, Indianapolis' biggest, and likely only, night club. The club was, as Mr. Gentleman warned, packed to the brim with Colts players, fans, and media. Daniels walked up to the bouncer and flashed a forged media pass in his face to gain access to the club. The club might have been darker than the night sky was outside. Daniels could hardly see a couple of feet in front of him. There was no sign of Robinson, and he had no idea what Clonefinger looked like so he plopped down at the bar.
"Whatcha drinkin', buddy?"
"Clorotov cocktail. Bleach, vodka, and triple sec and then set it on fire."
"Shaken, not stirred?"
"What is this, a cheesy spy movie? Stir that mother!"
The bartender poured him his drink as Daniels examined the club. He saw a stunning brunette in a slinky black dress sitting at a table by herself.
Pretty lady sitting by herself, that just looks wrong, Daniels thought to himself as he got up and meandered over to the brunette's table.
"What's a fine looking lady like yourself doing in a place like this?"
"I'm here to support the players. You play for the team?"
"I'm a tight end. What's your name?"
The brunette's eyes widened, "Lisa Anne. Lisa Anne Malma. You're a tight end? I have a soft spot for tight ends."
Daniels couldn't believe his luck. He knew he was good, but this seemed entirely too easy. After a few minutes of small talk, Lisa Anne said, "You want to get out of here?"
Robinson wasn't about to show up, it seemed, so the answer was pretty easy for Daniels, "Sure."
They got up and left The Corn Palace in Daniels' limousine. He leaned over to kiss Lisa Anne when he felt a sharp, piercing sensation in his neck. His eyesight grew blurry until everything faded to black, and his body grew limp.
Holliday lowered the privacy screen to see what the noise was in the back of the car, only to see Lisa Anne pointing a gun in his face and Daniels collapsed on the floor, "Drive us to the stadium. Now."
A very groggy Owen Daniels woke up on a cold steel table with his wrists and ankles in restraints.
"Ugh, what happened last night? My head feels like Brian Cushing is roaming around in it. Where am I? Where did L--"
"Looking for me?" Lisa asked menacingly.
"This is a little kinkier than I'm used to Lisa, but hey, I'm game."
"Trouble is, she's nawt, OO-D."
Daniels' ears perked up. That drawl. He would recognize it anywhere. He turned again to confirm it was man with the infamously large forehead; the thorn in his Texans' collective side. "Peyton! You're Clonefinger?!"
"One and the same. Ya know, ah always suspected you were the great OO-D, but couldn't prove it. And now here you are, in the flesh...at least for now."
Daniels turned toward Lisa Anne, "So that must make you..."
"Ashley. Ashley Manning."
"So I guess a second date is out?"
Lisa Anne, make that Ashley, turned toward her husband and smiled.
Daniels sighed, "And I even bought you a drink."
Ashley wrapped an arm around her husband's waist, "She played her role beautifully, donchu think?"
"What's your angle, Clonefinger? Why copy tight ends? Don't you have like 30 of them?"
"Yeah, but only one of 'em is worth a damn. So ah kidnapped all those tight ends to create super tight ends to throw to."
"He had tah go."
"You mean he's dead?"
"As dead as that liquored-up idiot kicker's career. And once I finish scanning you, OO-D, my super tight ends will absorb your strengths to complete them. And ah will win another six Super Bowls. As for you...when the scan ends, a laser will cut through you like uh buzzsaw."
The scanner concluded and a focused point of light bored through the bottom of the table as Ashley and Clonefinger turned to leave OO-D to his fate.
"You expect me to let you just walk away like that?" Daniels shouted.
"No, Mr. Daniels, I expect you to die. Farewell, OO-D," he chuckled.
Clonefinger and his wife closed the door, leaving Daniels to fend for himself against an unforgiving laser cutter. He flung his body up against the table, hoping to jar himself loose, without success. He did, however, see the light reflected off of a small glass bottle in his pocket. Daniels kept heaving himself against the table, trying desperately to get the bottle into his hands. It slid and rocked and nearly came open on the table. The table shook harder and harder until the Blogger's Tears fell into his hand. He poured some on his restraints; they melted down like a Frank Bush defensive scheme. Daniels ran out of the lab and into the bowels of the stadiumer to hunt down Clonefing. He stumbled around Lucas Oil Stadium until he reached the field where Clonefinger stood triumphantly in the owner's box, looking down at Daniels.
"I'm impressed you made it this far, OO-D. But this...is the end of the line!"
The stadium was filled with a harsh whirring sound as four enormous figures rose to the field's level. They were wearing football pads and blue Colts jerseys. But something was off when it came to their faces. They were very long with dark snouts.
"Snouts? Are...are those horses?!"
Daniels looked up at Clonefinger, "You used actual colts for your clones?!"
"I couldn't convince my tight ends to go through with it!"
He looked at his super tight ends, proudly. "Clones! Attack!"
Daniels searched his jacket for his revolver, only to discover it missing. Clonefinger held up the gun in his hand, "Looking for this, OO-D? You didn't reallah think I'd let you hang on to this, did you? Do I look stupid to you?"
"Well, since you asked--"
The horse-clones raced down field, Daniels couldn't believe just how quickly they hustled down field. These were not Jacob Tamme copies he was facing. He pulled the pen out of his pocket and pressed the button to make the metal staff. And he studied the clones. He remembered his briefing: "Copied from Gonzales, Gates, himself, and Witten. Oh, and Jeremy Shockey." If they have all of those tight ends' strengths, he thought to himself, then it stands to reason they have their weaknesses too, including mine. Meaning...
The Colt-clone was a mere yard away and stampeded him, knocking Daniels to the ground. He stood back up, waiting for the next clone to strike. He raised the staff and swung for the clone's knees. The clone went flying over Daniels and collapsed in a heap in midfield, unable to get back up. He dispatched two other clones in similar fashion. Then he charged at the final clone, bashing him in the knees as well. It dropped like David Carr facing a blitz from Patrick Willis. Unlike the other clones, this one tried getting back up.
Daniels hit it over the head again. And again. He kept smashing the horse-clone until he could no longer stand. Then he kept hammering the effectively-dead horse with his stick until he was sure it wouldn't get up again. He turned to look back at the owner's box; Clonefinger was gone.
"This isn't over, OO-D!" Clonefinger said, his voice trailing off, "We'll meet again soon, Mr. Daniels!"
Daniels threw down his stick, frustrated that Clonefinger had gotten away. He stood there, wondering what he should do next. The tight ends were somewhere near Clonefinger's lab, and backup from H-4 was already on its way to release them. He took out his cell phone and dialed a number.
"Hello, Rhonda? No, don't hang up!"