Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.
Joe spent most of Tuesday walking around the construction site with Karl, going over details and taking further instructions. “It’s necessary now for you to know more of what is happening here, because you will be in charge of the workers who arrive tomorrow.”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘in charge’?”
“Well, Mr. Stadtler, these will be Norwegian construction workers, so it is important that they not know that I am involved in this project. Instead, they will take their directions from you.”
“From me? But I don’t speak Norwegian, remember?”
“That is not a problem. Most, if not all, of the men we will hire will speak English. Norwegians are quite well educated, Mr. Stadtler.”
“And what am I supposed to tell them? They’re bound to wonder why we’re building something here, especially a castle.”
“You’ll find, Mr. Stadtler, that Norwegians are a lot less nosy than Americans. However, it is true that some of them may become curious, which brings us to an additional way I planned for you to be useful. If anyone asks questions, tell them that you work for an American firm that is building this castle for a wealthy American client. That will satisfy them. They understand Americans’ eccentricity.” Joe scoffed, but Karl continued, “Now, we have sixty men already recruited and waiting to be transported. Will that be enough?”
“That depends. . . will we have heavy equipment? Like a crane? Bulldozers? Backhoes?’
“You will not need bulldozers or backhoes. The foundation will be laid directly on the rough grade. If needed, certain areas can be prepared with shovels, but in general even that will be unnecessary.”
“What about the stone? I can’t put it in place without a crane, and I don’t know a thing about cutting it.”
“That is also not a problem. The stone has already been quarried, and you can hire a team of stonemasons to size it as it arrives here. We will bring a crane for placing the larger sections.”
“So, sixty men—not including stone cutters—ready to arrive tomorrow. I still don’t see how we can possibly be finished in two weeks without heavy equipment, even if we work eight-hour days with no breaks.”
“There is no need to limit yourself, Mr. Stadtler. You will get the most skilled and the strongest labourers we can find. They will have no problem working ten or twelve hours each day. In fact,” he added, after thinking a moment, “There is no reason you can’t divide the men to work around-the-clock, since we would like the project completed as soon as possible.”
“We can’t work in the dark.”
“Of course not,” Karl said, with emphasized patience. “You would not be expected to. We will bring in very high intensity lights to set around the site when it gets dark.”
“So, I’ll use two shifts of thirty men each working twelve hours at a time.”
“Plus the stone cutters.”
“Sixty men, plus the stonemasons, will be here Wednesday afternoon or early evening. That’s tomorrow. Now, Mr Stadtler, you will also be in charge of paying the men’s wages. They will be paid cash; U.S. currency. This is to further the pretense that you are at the head of this project. At the end of each day, we will give you exactly enough money to cover that day’s wages. From there, you will be responsible for getting all of it to your ‘employees.’”
“How much am I—are you, rather—paying them?”
“We are offering two thousand American dollars per day to each worker.”
“Where am I going to keep all that cash? I can’t just walk around with a couple hundred thousand dollars to pass out every day.”
“I suppose you are right. I will have a safe placed in your trailer tonight, and we will secure the money in it. It may be easiest to have the workers collect their wages from you there, rather than allow you to distribute the cash.”
Karl was thoughtful for several minutes and said nothing. Finally, he looked at Joe and said, “In order for that idea to work smoothly, you will need this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out several keys. Selecting one, he held it out to Joe. “This is the key to your trailer.”
Joe reached out hesitantly for the key, but didn’t take it. “Are you serious?” he asked.
Karl nodded. “All of the workers will be housed in trailers, which will arrive tomorrow before noon, and they will have free access to come and go. It would be too difficult to explain why their alleged boss were restricted and confined to his own quarters. Besides, Mr. Stadtler, I think you already understand that it would be very foolish if you should decide to leave.” Joe took the key from Karl and put it into his pocket.
Joe wasn’t sure what to make of this gesture. He wouldn’t go so far as to consider it friendly, but he had to admit that it seemed out of character for Karl to show so much trust—first with the money, then with the key. “Thanks, Karl,” he said uncertainly.
“Do not forget that I am directing this project,” was Karl’s stern reply. “You’ll meet tomorrow a man named Peter Bruvik. He will be our liaison, communicating instructions from me and information from you while I stay out of sight. Though you will appear to lead everything, I will be constantly informed of your progress.”
“I just don’t get all the secrecy, Karl.”
“Mr. Stadtler, there is no way for you to understand the importance of the work we are doing here. Even if I thought you could understand, there is precious little that we can safely tell you about the larger nature of this project. To have too much information would not only jeopardize our work, it would jeopardize your life.”
He said it so casually that Joe couldn’t help joking, “What is this? Some sort of international espionage?”
With an ironic laugh, Karl replied, “No, Mr Stadtler, international espionage would be far less complicated.”