Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.
“Forget it. I’m not interested.” Over the years, Joe Stadtler had received—and was well‑known for being able to meet—some unusual requests, but this was perhaps one of the more peculiar. “Who is this?”
“You will be paid very well,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “That is,” continued the caller, with a slight accent that Joe couldn’t place, “if you agree to our terms.”
“Is this some sort of joke?” he asked, barely hiding his annoyance. “Who is this?”
“Oh, believe me, Mr. Stadtler, this is no joke. It is a very important matter indeed. We sought you out personally.”
“Then tell me who this is,” pressed Joe.
“That is not your concern yet, Mr. Stadtler,” the voice was pleasant and very firm, “but you may, if you like, call me Karl.”
Joe gave in. “All right, Karl,” he said, drawing the name out to emphasize his irritation at being given a fake name.
“Now, our terms. Number one, you must tell no one what you do.” He’s got to be kidding, thought Joe. He just asked me to build a stone castle—does he think no one will notice?
“Okay, I won’t tell a soul.” He drummed his fingers on the drafting table. “What else?”
“Number two, you will be paid ten million dollars for your services. Materials and workers will be provided, and all other costs will be covered.”
Joe was silent, but not impressed. Usually he told the client what the cost would be, not the other way around. “Ten million dollars,” he finally repeated.
“That is correct. The amount is not negotiable.”
This guy is not only a nut, he’s a filthy rich nut. I suppose that makes him “eccentric.” Though he had no intention of pursuing this deal past the end of the conversation, for now Joe played along: “I think that could be a reasonable amount,” he answered aloud.
“Good. We will send someone tomorrow to pick you up and transport you to the airport. A private jet will then fly you to Norway.”
With that, the game was over. “What? Norway? Look, I’m a serious architect—I don’t just drop everything to go flying across the ocean to build fantasy castles.”
“You have until noon tomorrow.” There was a click before the silence, and Joe found himself cursing a dead receiver.