January 21st 2013:
Gary Kubiac and Rick Dennison stand waiting. They are 30 feet underground in a dark damp room directly under the practice bubble. A single overhead lightbulb provides the only light in the room. Casting dark shadows and obscuring perception. There is no cell phone reception, passing the time with Candy Crush isn't even a option. If this isn't hell, it's close to it.
Dennison : " Where the hell is that old fart? You told him thirteen hundred hours right boss? "
Kubiac : " he'll be here. Joe isn't the most punctual person you will ever meet. " Gary is staring down Rick, challenging him with both his voice and posture as he finishes " you should know that by now "
Enter Joe Marciano. He is out of breath, sweating, and has a " deer in the headlights " look about him.
Kubiac : " about time Joe ". Dennison has a arrogant smirk on his face, laughing to himself at the sight of Marciano.
Marciano : " Sorry, so what's this all about boss? "
Joe's knows exactly what this is about. They need another " favor ". They need old Joe to get his hands dirty once again. Time for Joe to earn his keep, put his neck and possibly life on the line once again for the organization he holds dear. Old age is taking its toll. Hundreds of untold " battles " have worn this warrior down to a frail shadow of his former self . But he always comes out on top. No matter how thin the odds, dire the situation , he comes out on top. It's what he does, it's who he is. He's a battler......that's why he's here. That's why he's 30 foot underground ,about to undertake the most important mission in the last 38 months.
Kubiac : " me and Smith were talking.....we have a plan. Your the only guy for the job. " Kubiac pauses to find the right words, but they don't come . Kubiac can only voice the truth " this is big, Joe. This is really big and it stinks " . Kubiac now turns his gaze to Dennison . " Give Joe the packet and lets get the hell out of here ."
Dennison : " Don't F--- this up " he snarles at Joe, as he smacks him in the chest with a surprisingly dense manilla folder. Joe lets out a soft sigh. Kubiac and Dennison both walk towards the door , exiting the room.
Kubiac : " This is really big, Joe. We're counting on you " . Joe doesn't turn to look, but just shakes his head yes, right before he hears the door close. A few seconds later he hears Dennison's unmistakable laughter echoing through the halls.
Joe sits silently for a few minutes. He's getting too old for this. He solemnly leaves the room, and makes his way up the stairs . Both knees aching, shooting pain in his back, and a stiff ankle. Above all else, a deflated ego. Things haven't been the same since Dennison joined the crew, after that this job started feeling like a chore. He drives home with no radio. Just his thoughts and the sound of his car tires accompany him .
Once home Joe plops the manilla folder on the coffe table. He takes a seat and stares at the deep yellow obligation. He doesn't know what it is, but its bad. It's so bad Smith dreamed it up but didn't want anything to do with it. Illegal, immoral, probably jail time if caught. Joe knows the score. He's been in this game long enough. " what the hell " he thinks to himself. " can't be worst than Operation : Davenport " . Joe dumps out the contents of his new mission.
Car keys, hotel room card key, hotel staff name bage ,hotel staff shirt and three pages of instructions . As Joe reads the instructions, his heart sinks and stomach turns. " not again...not again. One man can only take so much. ". Joe thought it couldn't get any worst than Davenport, he was wrong . He sits alone. Both hands covering his face as his elbows support his weight. Joe is ashamed of himself. He wants to hide his face from the world. Joe knows his hardness isn't something to be envied. He pours himself glass after glass of whiskey and ask one question with every drink. "At what point does a man lose his humanity? " . He will drink until he finds the answer......or until the question stops.
February 25th 2013
Joe is focused. He hasn't slept in three days, but that doesn't matter when your popping Adderall every six hours. Nothing matters when your on a Adderall bing. Morals, life, death, heaven and hell, these are things not of the moment. This moment is about one thing. Hopkins. Gary needs Hopkins, Dennison needs Hopkins, Smith needs Hopkins, McNair needs Hopkins ,and Joe...... Joe needs them. It's time to remind this organization exactly what " old man Joe " can do.
Marciano : " housekeeping! " he knocks on the hotel room door. Joe checks back over his shoulder. Nobody is there, not even a security camera mounted to the wall. One last time he checks the room number. 322, this is the one. He takes in a deep breath and swipes the room key card. One little green light never looked so luminous.
Joe calls out one more time " housekeeping! " as he enters the room and shuts the door behind him, making sure to turn the deadbolt. The bathroom door is open, and the light is out. Both beds have been slept in, but above all else, no bags. It's official, the kids have checked out.
If his intel is correct, he has a 25 minute window before the real housekeeping shows up. Joe quickly strips nude . This job is messy, and exiting the hotel in filthy clothes is not exactly inconspicuous.
First thing Joe does is empty the contents of two trashcans on each bed. Half eaten burgers, and days old milk bottles are now gently napping on two queen sized beds. Joe can feel the adrenaline course through his veins. Time to let himself go, time to show Dennison why they keep this old man around. Joe thinks about that high pitched cackle Dennison calls a laugh and sticks his fist through the drywall . Rage is building, his heart is pounding....Joe is losing it. With anger he picks up a nightstand and heaves it across the room, next he overturns the small table and throws a chair into the bathroom. All the while he hears that ridiculous laugh mocking him.
Marciano : " YOU STILL LAUGHING --- HOLE !?!?! " Joe screams to the empty room. He is now pounding his fist on one of the beds, absolutely flattening what's left of a cheeseburger imagining Dennison's face. Then he hears it. The squeaking wheels of a cleaning cart. Red faced, and heart pounding Joe scurry's to the door and looks out the peephole. All rage has subsided, he is now concerned. He watches as the cart is pushed out of his limited view. " they must be starting at 300....22 rooms to go " Joe thinks to himself.
Now for the grand finale. Joe walks into the bathroom and flips on the light. For a few seconds it glitches, then lights up the tiled room in a fluorescent , bright glow. As he walks in, he almost trips over the broken chair he heaved in minutes earlier. " This is what they pay you for " he thinks to himself. Joe squats and pushes. It drops with a wet splat. One more big push, another sickening splat. Joe looks down at the mess he has made. Excrement is his paint, and the bathroom floor must serve as his palette.
Joe is steady, not panicked. Like a brain surgeon who has just removed a skull, the stakes are too high to not be composed. With his right hand he scoops up a pile of stinky brown salvation. He holds it like a soft stick of butter and etches H onto the bathroom mirror. Next a beautiful looping O . Towards the top it streaks thin, like a sharpie running low on ink. He bends down and grabs another handful . A beautiful thick P. With the last of his waste, he manages a faint K. " Think Joe, think!! " he's running low on paint and the masterpiece isn't done. For a brief moment he understands the pressure Michelangelo must have felt while working on the Sistine chapel. Both masters of their medium, both commissioned practically against their will, but obliged by duty. Kindred spirits that are sporadically sown into the fabric of time and humanity.
" I've got it ! " Joe squeezes the entire tube of toothpaste into his left hand. It's cold and minty, pale and refreshing . Perfect contrast. In a matter of minutes his work is complete. A bold , smelly and dank H-O-P-K, continued with a refreshing and sanitary I-N-S now graces the bathroom mirror. It's not " the creation of Adam " , but its pretty damn close. Marciano takes it all in. Smiling wide, like a Cheshire Cat . He's proud of himself. He wishes Gary was there to see it. This might be his best work yet. Some men are creators. Some men are destroyers. Some are a mixture of both.
After washing his hands and getting dressed, Joe snaps a picture of the bathroom mirror with his phones camera. Everything it represents is captured. Everything he represents is captured. Devotion, bravery, intelligence.....it's all there. He writes out a simple text to accompany it " LOL, TURD BURGLAR STRIKES AGAIN, LMFAO " and hits send to Kubiac. Then he hears it. Knocking in the hall way, not on the door of 322, but vary close. Joe looks through the peephole , waits for the maids to enter their next room and then makes his move. Completely unnoticed he slips out of the room, and down the hall. It's over, it's done.
April 25th 2013
DeAndre Hopkins falls to the Houston Texans picking 27th. Joe Marciano feels a hand on his shoulder as the pick is announced . He looks behind him to see Rick Smith . Rick Smith mouths the words " thank you " . It is the only time he has acknowledged any possible involvment or knowledge of Operation : Ghost Writer.
August 9th 2013
Texans special teams almost give up a TD on their first play of the pre-season. With 6:24 left in the second quarter Deandre Hopkins scores a TD by spectacularly grabbing a ball simply thrown up for grabs. Hopkins marches off the field like it was nothing as team leaders run to the sideline to congratulate him. Rick Dennison walkes up to Joe Marciano and says two words " thanks boss " . Joe is a bit stunned but replies with a slight smile and head nod. Dennison gives him a wink and pat on the back. As Dennison is walking off Joe calls out "Rick......." . Dennison turns around a bit startled "... Now lets go win a ----ING Super Bowl " Joe yells over the roaring sideline . Both men smile, put their head sets back on and get back to buisness.
Later that night.
It is 2:00 A.M. Rick Smith has just gotten home and checking on his sleeping children before going to bed. As he approaches his daughters room, he notices a dim light emitting from her cracked door. She has her laptop open and looks visibly upset, like she had spent the night crying.
Smith : " what's wrong sweety? Why aren't you sleeping ? " he gently ask as he kneels down next to her bed. Then he sees it, she was reading Battle Red Blog again, a game thread no less.
Daughter : " but why do they hate him daddy? Why do they hate grampa Joe?" Her lips are trembling as she finishes her last sentence. Tears swelling up in her already swollen eyes. Rick looks at her innocense and knows he must tell his young daughter the truth .
Smith : "Because he's the hero Houston deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hate him, because he can take it. Because he's not the hero. He's a silent guardian, watchful protector. The Turd Burglar ."