Despite very few of them being on the long list of invited guests a number of agents from the Mountain Task Force wanted very badly to get into Bud and Susan’s wedding that afternoon, wanted to poke and prod and listen and take names and such, but most of them never did make it past security, and those who did ran up against Sheriff Watts, who, being an honored guest as a friend of Susan’s late husband Bill, took it upon himself to personally inquire of each and every fed he recognized up on the grounds--and he knew most of them by sight, even had files on a good many of them, by that point--whether he had been invited, and those who could not produce an invitation were rather unceremoniously escorted from the grounds and prevented re-entry by two of his deputies who had been stationed down at the bottom of the driveway for “traffic control” during the big event. And to prevent stray feds--of which there were a few, despite the heavy snow--from impolitely reconnoitering and even attempting to photograph guests’ vehicles where they were parked for the snowmobile shuttle service which conveyed guests up to the wedding. After two confrontations and one very serious threat of arrest for trespassing, most of the agents made their way back to Task Force headquarters and gave up openly attempting to take advantage of the event for information gathering purposes.
Aside from a few hitches with stuck vehicles and late guests due to the ongoing storm the wedding went smoothly--as well it should have, being perhaps the most well-armed wedding of the decade--with the ceremony itself being a simple and beautiful affair officiated by the pastor of Susan’s church, the joining of two lives before God and a warm, poinsettia-filled greenhouse full of witnesses as the snow curled softly down outside, tapering off towards the end, storm almost over and promising sunny days to come. Following the ceremony the preparations for feasting began, greenhouse quickly converted to dining hall and the bounty of food which had been prepared over the past weeks by Susan and her friends brought out and arranged by several of the ladies from the church while the groom got hijacked by Roger Kiesl and several of his other buddies from his Rhodie days--and the days that had come before…and after--pulled outside into the diminishing storm to see the surprise they’d arranged for him.
Having sneaked out during the last of the ceremony, the trio had set up a series of exploding targets in the snow against the cliffs just above Susan’s house, and the racket which followed brought all of the guests streaming outside to watch, weather still gloomy enough that the .30 caliber tracers--both red and green, mighty festive, as Roger would say--showed up well against the snow as they rocketed their way to the targets, unleashing a fresh round of thunderous echoing which shook the mountainside and surely released any additional snow that might have accumulated to threaten avalanches along the driveway, too. Kiesl, before the storm settled in and prevented him, had fully intended to do a flyover just after the end of the ceremony, dropping…things…from the plane and generally making a great racket, but by the time they were done, he would find himself having to agree that they’d done a fine job of celebrating, even absent the plane.
Not wanting to leave his new bride out of the fun, Bud had hurried Susan out there with him over her brief protest that she must stay in and help prepare the meal--that’s what you got friends for, come on, my lady, let’s go make some noise!--and before the festivities were over she’d had the opportunity to do some shooting of her own, her smile no less wide that Bud’s as the rowdy crew broke into a round of boisterous song, Sling your Slayer, which seemed to be about picking enemy scouts out of trees and breaking ambushes and such, and then one about how it’s a Long Way to someplace called Mukumbura, and though Susan had never heard the like, Bud seemed to know all the words, and she found herself--and a number of the other guests, as well--whole-heartedly joining in by the third go-around. Susan could not help but have the thought, fleeting as it was amidst the ongoing festivities--this was her day, and Bud’s, and she meant to keep it that way, but he would always be there, too, his memory, his presence in the place that they had labored so hard to build together and in which they had shared so many good years--that her Bill would have wholeheartedly approved of the entire course of events.
By the time they got back inside everyone was hungry, a bit cold and quite ready to enjoy the feast, which went on well into the evening, after which, guests bid farewell, cleanup accomplished by Susan’s friends and--in their own quick and efficient manner, sweeping the house, greenhouse, grounds and vehicles for any nasty little surprises that might have been left behind by any uninvited feds who had managed to sneak in amongst the guests--Bud’s former and future comrades in arms, the happy couple headed into the house for their first night together. There on the bench on the covered portion of the porch--no tracks visible either coming or going in the snow--sat a faded camouflage boonie hat with a white feather stuck in at the side, appropriate for the day of the wedding and, Susan had no doubt, for other reasons, too, Bud eyeing the gift curiously until Susan told him the story--what she knew of it--after which he settled the hat on his head and followed her inside.
Up in the Quonset hut which had served as Bill’s workshop and now would be the place where Bud tinkered with his many projects, Roger Kiesl and the two others stretched out in sleeping bags on cots, Roger’s watch set for 02:00 hours and his mind full of the tasks he must accomplish that coming morning before flying the bride and groom off to their rather high and snowy honeymoon destination. Not the first happy couple he’d ever transported, nor the first early morning deep cover air insertion in which he’d been involved, but certainly the first time he’d ever attempted to combine the two!