It seemed simple enough, our assignment that is. Escort and protect two Serbian Nationals across Ireland so they could rendezvous with a Serbian American and an Irishman. They were getting married in a few days and it was of utmost importance that the Serbian Nationals be there for it. Basically, the wedding wouldn’t take place without their presence.
I hardly slept on our flight over from JFK, making it very hard to stay sharp once we landed. ‘Abbe’ and I were posing as a married couple from New York, border control fell for it hook line and sinker. Agent E had flown with us and was on his own to get past the guards. His cover was that of an ‘overly American’ tourist.
Our pick up point for the Serbians, let’s call them ‘Momo’ and ‘Nina’, was just inside the main terminal. We spotted them immediately and made contact.
The Agency had provided us with a nondescript rental car. We all hopped in and began our 3 hour trek across the country. We were headed to the north west of County Donegal to a town called Letterkenny. Our only concern was that we would be passing through Northern Ireland for an hour of the trip. If stopped in UK territory, it would be a tough situation that we might not be able to work our way out of.
We needed to recharge with some food, so we made the call to stop at Carrickmacross, a small town along the way where we wouldn’t draw too much attention. We ate at Markey’s, a quiet pub on the main road. I had one of the best chicken salads I have ever had there. Momo and I decided it best to try some of the local Smithwicks as well. It didn’t disappoint and he insisted we have a second round.
Two hours later and without incident, we arrived in Letterkenny and checked into our hotel. We had received word that the bride and groom (to be) were just down the road at a place called The Cottage. It was a very dark bar, like an old pub from long ago. I scanned the room and it looked safe, our contacts were in the back and quite happy to see that we made the trek safely. Momo and I had, yes you guessed it, a Smithwicks.
The Irishman, Brian, was from the area and had a lot of family around. We drove off together to his relatives restaurant for dinner and celebration. There were 20 or so people there. We had some cocktails and mingled. It was then that we made contact with another set of American Agents, their territory was Hoboken just across the Hudson River from us. We all got along instantly .
The next morning Abbe, Agent Eric and I made our way north to an old fort high upon the hillside. It was called Grianan of Alieach and it provided a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside. It was very impressive. It was clear from this vantage that we had not been followed and our location wasn’t compromised. We had the green light to move to the final location.
With Momo and Nina safe, we made our way to the next rendezvous point and location of the wedding, Lough Eske to the south. Lough (lake) Eske is situated in a remote area 10 miles from Donegal Town and is quite a beautiful setting.
After checking in we had lunch at the bar with Eissa and Nick who were running point on the job. They had been at the castle well before us and gave us the ‘all clear.’
“Abs, we should check out the grounds.” I wanted to make sure everything checked out and there wasn’t anything suspicious going on that could interfere with the wedding.
The grounds were gorgeous. It had a very ‘magical’ vibe to it with dense, very lush forests unlike any I had ever seen. We explored a few remote pathways that lead deep into the forest and everything seemed well.
That afternoon it was like an American Reunion in the bar. Dougie, Danika, Eric, Eissa, Nick, Stephan, Amanda, Lisa, Alex, Chris, Kristin, Christina, Chris, (lots of Chris-like names), Jodi, Becky, Anders, Elena, Maura, Brian H., Sweendawg and of course Bojana. We decided that our best bet for food would be to hit up Donegal Town. We choose Olde Castle Bar as our destination and had a blast! The van driver into town was completely insane as drivers go and for a second I thought they might have been an enemy agent sent to take us out.
That night we stayed up until 1AM listening to the band at the hotel bar. I had heard of this secret graveyard and wanted to take everyone there on a mission late at night, but the rain came in… bedtime.
Dougie and I were on our own to patrol the castle grounds before the wedding as the girls all had to do hair and make up. We made our way to the far end of the property and eventually were able to discover the secret graveyard! It was epic and had a 12 foot Celtic cross. Had we found this the night before I think people would have lost their minds, especially in the dark. A true test of trust were they to have followed me.
Not satisfied with our initial sweep I recruited Eissa and Nick to go further out just in case. We thought running would help us cover more ground and we would be safely disguised as ‘jogging tourists’. The countryside was beautiful! With very few cars and narrow country roads one really felt at peace. With the eleventh hour fast approaching we ran back to the castle.
I took a quick shower, threw my suit on and headed down to have some lunch at the bar. I left my firearm in the room… I wouldn’t need to use it unless something unexpected happened.
Everything was going off perfectly. I had my sights on the groom and Momo and hopefully Abbe had Bojana and Nina covered. Eric was nowhere to be found and was hopefully doing something useful like a perimeter sweep.
Once my crew showed up we made our way outside to the pavilion where the ceremony was to take place. It was partly cloudy and 70 degrees out, unusual for Ireland. The crowds were filling in the seats and there was a vibrant buzz of excitement. We had a 5 minute rain scare, but then the weather cooperated.
Bojana’s brother Neb was the officiant and he did a wonderful job. He has a very stoic and noble way about him that reflected out into the crowds. I have to admit, my toughness broke up for a second during the ceremony and I got a little emotionally happy for Sweendawg and Bojo. Thank god I had my sunglasses on.
The time was 2:30PM. We had from now until 6PM for the Happy Hour. Eric grabbed me a beer and we all headed outside into the sun. It’s kind of hard to protect the bride, groom, Momo and Nina when they all disappear! I was told they were safe by Abbe, so I just continued to do what I do best, socialize.
For most of the Happy Hour(s) we all hung out on the outside patio where it was unusually sunny and absolutely gorgeous out. I think I even got sunburned… in Ireland!
At 6 sharp the doors to the main room opened and we took our seats. There were a series of speeches that went until 7 and then we could eat. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun. The wedding was to go all night, so what was the rush?
I checked in on Momo after dinner as he was outside having a smoke. Then, a number of us went to the secret Library I had accidentally found (when I got lost on the elevator) the day before. It was a nice respite from all the action.
Back down in the main room the band had set up and dancing had begun. We all got to it.
Around 11PM we took another break and a different group of us went up to the Library. I took it upon myself to entertain my friends with a reading from ‘And Berry Came too’ by the late Dornford Yates. A favorite of mine, especially during the holidays. Feeling refreshed we all decided it was time to really throw it down on the dance floor.
By now the band had stopped and a DJ was in its place. Perfect! The crowd was going fairly wild and having fun. The other half of the wedding was drinking on the patio or in the happy hour room.
I took a personal break at some point. Knowing that our mission was over, I wanted to say thanks to Momo. I bought he and I two whiskeys and we had a toast. This would be the last time I would see him for some time. October to be exact. A new assignment was in the works that would bring us back in touch.
Just as I was walking away something tremendous happened. The DJ started playing an all too familiar (but not at weddings) song. We all started looking around bewildered and then simultaneously bolted for the dance floor. ‘Footloose’ was playing. Never in my history of weddings have I seen a crowd go more bananas then this night, myself included. We were all Kevin Bacons on this night, at this moment, dancing uncontrollably. We danced so hard that the next day my legs felt as if I had run a Half Marathon.
Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ was next and that didn’t slow us down at all, my vocal chords paying the price on this one.
The finale… Frankie Boy’s ‘New York, New York,’ epic to say the least. It brought down the house and all of the New York crew really let the pipes burst.
At 1AM they stopped the music and informed us that the downstairs Oak Bar was open. “Sweet, a new area to explore.” A lot of us migrated down there to have some more fun. Abbe and I made it until 2AM before we headed off. Arm in arm as we went up the stairs we both smiled, looked at each other and said, ‘Mission Complete.’
I awoke abruptly to Abbe saying, “Honey we have to go now, pack your bags and get in the car! We have 3 hours to catch a flight out of Dublin to London. We have a new assignment… and time is not on our side.”
…to be continued in London Relocation, the epic Part II.