The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Six (Part 18)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Somehow Joe managed to not see Marta at all until early Wednesday afternoon, about an hour before the workers were to arrive. He was standing outside trying to picture the completed castle in its place when she came up behind him. He heard her approaching.

“It’s going to be really busy the next few days,” he said, without turning.

She stood next to him and looked in the direction he was facing. “Yes. Yes, it will be.” When Joe didn’t add anything else, she observed, “We won’t see each other much while the castle is being built.”

Joe looked at her but still didn’t turn. Instead of responding, he put his arm around her shoulders.

  • Part 19 Coming Soon!

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Six (Part 17)

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.”

“Sixty men—”

“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.”

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Five (Part 16)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe was not surprised to find Karl back at the trailer. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting, Karl.”

“Not at all, Mr. Stadtler. I have been here only a couple of minutes.” He smiled warmly, either missing or ignoring Joe’s sarcasm. Joe did not return the smile. “I’d like to discuss a few things about the construction, which should, by the way, begin no later than Thursday. Since today is Monday, that gives you three days.”

“Go ahead.”

“First, how is your progress with the drawings?”

“Fine. They’re on the table, if you want to look at them.”

Karl sat at the desk and leafed through the vellum. “I’m not an architect, Mr. Stadtler, but I do have some experience in the field. Your skills have been accurately praised; this is excellent work.” Joe offered no response. Karl turned back to Joe and continued. “In order to start in three days, we must have labourers here Wednesday—that’s the day after tomorrow. This means that your final draft of the plans must be complete by tomorrow morning. At that time, I will have additional details of your assignment to share with you.”

Karl rose from the stool and smiled. “That is all I had to discuss, Mr. Stadtler. Is there anything else you need right now?”

Joe thought for a few seconds. “No, not really. . . Wait, there is something. I assume I’ll need to make prints of the plans when I’m done with them. Do you have a printer or a copier for me to use? And some extra paper? I didn’t see any in here.”

“We can have it all here tomorrow morning,” said Karl.

“That’s it, then,” said Joe. Karl nodded and left.

After Karl went out of the trailer, Joe sat down at the table to work. He continued the rest of the morning, and didn’t stop when Marta brought lunch. He drew rapidly, and by four o’clock he was completely finished with all the plans. As he stacked them in order, he was surprised to find himself with nothing to do.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Five (Part 15)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

After working a while longer on the plans for the castle, Joe had gone to sleep on the cot. Karl Lund came to wake him in the morning. “Good morning, Mr. Stadtler. Breakfast is outside,” he said, and left without waiting.

Outside, Joe found the fare mostly the same as the previous morning. He watched for Marta as he stood eating, but didn’t see her anywhere. Finally, as he finished and was ready to go back to the trailer, he saw her coming toward him. She greeted him pleasantly.

“Hi, Joe. How are you this morning?”

“I feel great, thanks to you,” he said, rotating his shoulders. “Can I talk you into doing that again sometime?”

She laughed. “Of course. I’d love to.” Joe smiled, but said nothing further. After a couple of minutes of silence, Marta asked, “What’s on your mind, Joe?”

Joe looked at her thoughtfully, then asked slowly, “Did you lock me in last night?”

“Excuse me?”

“Last night, after you left, the door was locked. Did you lock the door to my trailer?”

“No. . .”

“Then who did?”

She answered without hesitation. “The doors to the trailers are set so that they lock automatically when they close, Joe. That’s why they gave us keys.”

“They didn’t give me a key.”

“I’m sure it was an oversight. You should ask Mr. Lund about it.”

Joe felt better. “I’ll do that.” Joe reminded himself that Marta knew as little as he did about the strange situation; it was a relief to think that she couldn’t be involved.

Marta smiled and moved to walk away. “I will see you later, Joe. I am supposed to meet with Mr. Lund.”

Joe watched her as she started off. “Hey, Marta?”

She stopped. “What is it?”

With as serious a tone as he could muster, Joe said, “Be careful.”

“What do you mean?” laughed Marta.

“I think there’s something more going on here than either one of us understands. Just be careful, okay?”

Marta’s smile became uncertain as she nodded. “Okay, Joe.” She then turned away, but looked back once as she walked off.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Four (Part 14)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

It was dark when Joe awoke. His head had been resting on his forearms. He was hunched forward on the drafting table, still sitting on the stool. Marta was gone, and so was her sandwich. Joe’s sandwich was on the floor where he had left it.

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. He wasn’t sure how long he had been asleep, but he didn’t really care because his shoulders felt wonderful. I’ll have to ask her to do that again, he told himself.

Joe stood and looked out the window. Seeing that there weren’t any people outside, he decided that now would be a good time to look around and do what exploring he could. Even if there were nothing to find, at least he’d know a little more about the site.

He checked one more time to make sure no one was watching, then reached to open the door. The handle wouldn’t budge. Joe swore softly as he realized that he was locked in again.

Joe stared at the doorknob. The inevitable questions came to his mind: Had Marta locked him in? If she had, was she just following directions, or was she in on all of this, too? How much did she really know? Joe refused to accept the possibility that Marta might have intentionally deceived him. Even with all the strange things that had happened, there had to be a logical explanation.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Four (Part 13)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe was over halfway finished with the plans by evening—well ahead of the deadline Karl had set. He was pleased at his progress. Joe’s enjoyment of architecture almost made him forget how far he was from home.

Joe was able to work undistracted until Marta opened the door around six-thirty. She carried two plates, each with a large sandwich. “Hello, I am Marta, and I will be your waitress today,” she joked.

Joe was glad to see her, and not just because she was bringing food. “Thanks,” he smiled, as she handed him one of the sandwiches.

“It is my pleasure. I also have my meal; do you mind if I join you?”

“Of course not,” said Joe, “if you don’t mind sitting on the floor with me. I don’t want to get food on these papers.”

“Yes, I see. How are they coming along? The papers, I mean to say. May I look at them?” She set the plates on the floor, then came over behind him and rested her hands on his shoulders as he showed her the drawings. Marta seemed interested, so Joe began to explain the different details in the plans. As he talked, she began massaging his shoulders.

Joe let out a groan. “Ohhh. . . that feels good.”

“You certainly are tense, Mr. Stadtler,” observed Marta as she worked his muscles. “Relax.” Marta’s hands were strong, and Joe couldn’t help but do exactly what she said.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Four (Part 12)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

The work went surprisingly quickly. A lot of the “designing” entailed simply copying views and notes from the sketches and arranging them into a usable format. Joe was amazed at how well thought-out the plans were. This was more than a building that imitated an old castle style; it was a very precise replica of an authentic castle tower.

Joe was soon caught up in his drafting, and worked all morning without a break. At noon, there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” called Joe without looking up. He heard keys fumbling at the lock and went toward the door. It opened as he got there, and he was surprised to find a pleasant-looking middle-aged woman entering with a large bowl of soup and some bread. The woman smiled and said something rapidly in Norwegian. Joe took the food and thanked her as she left. Through the window, Joe saw the woman walk away from the trailer and he realized that he had not heard her lock the door. He excitedly tried the door handle.

It turned easily.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Four (Part 11)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

When Joe got to the trailer, Karl was already waiting there with the door open. He wasted no time with pleasantries. “Do you understand all the sketches and what is to be done with them?”

“I think so. They were pretty clear. But I am a little confused about one thing.”

“And what is that, Mr. Stadtler?”

“You keep telling me that I’m building a castle. But from what I can see in the ‘sketches,’ your castle consists of a single tower.”

“Yes.”

“You mean that’s how it’s supposed to be?”

“Yes.”

Then why does it have such a huge foundation? And this big wall around it? They look the size of a castle, but you’ve only got the one tower. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Whether or not it makes sense is none of your concern.”

“Of course not,” Joe said sarcastically, “I’m only designing it. Who cares if I understand?”

“Mr. Stadtler, may I remind you of the amount we are paying you? I should think that would be enough to quell any unnecessary curiosity.”

It was almost true. The thought of ten million dollars for two week’s work helped some. But it was uncomfortable to be told so little, and it was making Joe edgy.

“Now, Mr. Stadtler, unless you need clarification of any of the design specifications, I suggest you get started. We plan to start building in four days.”

“Fine,” said Joe curtly. The door swung shut as Karl left the trailer, and Joe sat down at the desk.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Four (Part 10)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe woke the next morning feeling sore but well-rested. He sat up and stretched his back. The cot hadn’t been very comfortable, but it was better than he had expected, and he had apparently needed the sleep more than he had realized. He stood and went to the door, then stopped as he remembered that he was locked in. Shaking his head, he cursed the situation and went to the window. Karl was coming toward the trailer, and Joe waited while Karl let himself in.

“Good morning, Mr. Stadtler,” he was greeted as the door opened. “Won’t you please come with me?”

Joe followed him without a word as they went outside, where he caught the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Others were coming outside; there were already almost twenty people gathered on the hill eating breakfast and chatting. Karl led him over to two tables where there were several coffeepots and an assortment of breads and cheeses. “Help yourself, Mr. Stadtler. Have all you want; there’s plenty,” said Karl, gesturing toward the tables. “But don’t take too long, because we’d like you to get started by eight o’clock. I’ll meet you in your trailer before you begin.” He left without giving Joe much of a chance to respond.

Joe shrugged and turned back to the tables. He picked up a foam cup and filled it with coffee. As he moved to look over the spread of food, he heard someone come up behind him.

“Good morning, Joe.” It was Marta.

“Oh, Hi, Marta. Can I, uh, get you some coffee?” She nodded, and Joe filled a cup and handed it to her. Sipping his own cup, he remarked, “This is really good stuff. I’ve never tasted Norwegian coffee before.”

“Actually, don’t tell Mr. Lund, but this blend is from Sweden. I prefer imported coffee.”

“I can understand that. This is good.”

“So, what is it that you’re doing here?” asked Marta after a moment’s pause.

“I have no idea,” Joe muttered.

“No, I mean, What are you building?”

“You don’t know either?” he asked incredulously.

“I haven’t been told much. I’m just here to help—but I don’t know what I’m helping with. I was only told that my knowledge of Norsk history and artifacts had been ‘highly recommended.'”

“Really? Same with me—they wanted me as an architect, but they wouldn’t tell me why. All I know for sure is that it’s supposed to be a castle.”

“A castle? Here? But why?”

“I’m not really sure. Like I said, I haven’t been told anything. I mostly just play prisoner and do what they tell me.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve been here for a week already, and I’ve done very little related to Norsk history. Like carrying food to people in their trailers. What does that have to do with anything I know? Of course,” she added with a smile, “I am glad that I brought your food.”

“Yeah…” They stood briefly in silence, then, to change the subject, he asked, “What time is it, anyway? I need to set my watch.”

She looked at her wrist. “It’s 7:53 exactly.”

“Okay… thanks,” he said as he turned the hands on his wristwatch. “I’d probably better be going. I’m supposed to meet Karl before eight. I guess I’ll see you later,” he suggested as he turned to leave.

“See you later, Joe,” called Marta after him.

The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Chapter Three (Part 9)

Just starting? Be sure to check out The Legend of Slottsfjellet: Foreword and Disclaimer first, so you know what’s going on.

Joe was awakened by the sound of keys at the trailer door. He sat up and looked out the window. He could see that it was just beginning to get dark, but he couldn’t see who was outside. He folded his arms in a show of impatience and watched the door as it opened.

The first thing through the doorway was a tray piled high with food. Joe couldn’t see a face—it was obscured by the food on the tray—but the legs coming into the room were distinctly female. Joe had trouble not staring.

The tray came down, revealing a face that was prettier than the legs it belonged to. The woman had long, blonde hair, perfect red lips, and bright blue eyes. Joe was awestruck and couldn’t seem to say anything. She spoke without hesitation.

Hallo,” she said, smiling sweetly, “jeg heter Marta.”

“Um, I uh… I don’t speak Norwegian,” Joe managed to get out.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she apologized in rather good English. “I said my name is Marta.”

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Marta.” He had composed himself, and flashed an impudent smile. “I’m sure you already know who I am. Everyone so far seems to know quite a lot about me.”

“Actually, they told me nothing about you—not even your name. I assumed you were just another employee of Mr. Lund. They sent me with food.”

“Please, then, call me Joe.”

“All right, Joe,” she repeated with a grin, and set down the tray. “Here is your food. It is only a snack, but it should be enough for now.”

“Thanks, Marta,” Joe said, and smiled at her. She returned it with a smile and a wink.

“Perhaps I will see you again,” she said as she moved to the doorway. “It would be nice to—” she paused, searching for just the right words, then finished, “learn more about you.”

“Yeah… bye,” he smiled after she was gone.

Joe turned to the “snack,” which consisted of approximately two full meals’ worth of bread, cheese, fish, and fruit—bread was by far the most abundant item on the tray. Whatever else they’re doing, at least they’re not trying to starve me, he thought as he began eating.