The Secret of Highway House

Highway House is a name that, if things had been different, every one of you would have heard of, every one of you would marvel at and every one of you would know the story of. Why there might even have been a Highway House day, or a Lizzie McMorely day! But you don't and there isn't, and this is why.

Lizzie McMorely, newly graduated from Oxford, is recruited to train as an assassin at Highway House. But when sent out on her first ever mission; the assassination of Adolf Hitler, several factors Lizzie hasn't been trained for come into play: luck, betrayal and love.

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9. All Year Round Valentine's Day

And that was how Lizzie McMorely ended up stood in front of the mirror in her hotel room, in the middle of the afternoon, holding up half a dozen dresses as she tried to decide what she should wear on her first ever date. Nothing seemed quite right, it was all too Lizzie McMorely and not enough Julia Wreath, in essence everything was too conservative and now she was being self-critical, boring. So instead of wasting any more time scrutinising her reflection, she did what every girl does in a crisis; shop. Berlin at this time of the day was bustling with women who had shared her idea. The famous KaDeWe department store in the centre of Berlin was full to bursting point but Lizzie didn’t mind, it made it far harder for anyone tailing her to spot her amongst these crowds. She squeezed her way through her fellow shoppers and after what seemed like a whole lot of effort later she stood before rails full of dresses fit for every occasion. She bundled more than two dozen dresses over the arm of a willing shop assistant and proceed to try every single one on in the changing rooms. More than an hour later she had narrowed it down to five dresses: a striking red cocktail dress littered with silver diamantes, a periwinkle blue dress that gave the appearance of floating over her figure, a red chiffon number with a waist hugging black belt, a canary yellow floor-length gown and finally a short black dress plastered in white polka dots with an under skirt of netting which made the dress stick out from her waist down. In what she had come to refer to as typical Julia style she bought them all hoping that if her date with Hans, for that was his name, went well tonight she would be needing more than one dress in the foreseeable future.
After a while longer deliberating back at her hotel room Lizzie decided on the polka dot dress which she dressed up with some red heels and some thickly applied mascara. As she gazed at her reflection it struck Lizzie how much she had already altered in the short time she had been in Berlin. She was barely recognisable as her old self and if she was honest she missed the plain but smart Lizzie McMorely, Julia Wreath was a more exciting person that she’d ever been but she wasn’t entirely sure that she liked her. But that didn’t matter, she told herself, Hans liked her and that was the important thing. She shrugged on her red trench coat over the top of her dress and set off into the night.
Hans was already waiting for her when she arrived at the Fien Küche restaurant. He was dressed in a simple black tuxedo that made her feel almost foolish in her fun but hardly formal, patterned frock. He didn’t seemed to think so though, as he blinked several times as if trying to convince himself that he was actually taking her out and she wasn’t just a figment of his imagination. Feeling slightly awkward as he stared at her she tried to make conversation. “This looks lovely.” She nodded to the enormous restaurant whose veranda extended out so far there was barely any pavement for passers-by to walk on. The glass panels along the front allowed her to gaze right in at the candle-lit tables piled high with delicious looking food.
“It’s one of my favourite places.” He said sheepishly. “I swear they do the best Bratwurst sausages in the whole of Berlin, although I don’t tell our cook that.”
Lizzie laughed a little. “In that case I will just have to try them.”
He took her arm and guided her up the stairs onto the veranda. “You look beautiful tonight, have I already told you that?”
“I don’t think you have,” smiled Lizzie. “Thank you.”
As they entered the restaurant Lizzie had to work hard to keep her smile from sliding off of her face altogether. At every table was seated a couple centred around a large vase of red roses surrounded by tea lights in the shape of hearts. It seemed that Valentine’s Day wasn’t just a once a year event in this restaurant. Hans was beaming as he escorted her in on his arm making her feel guilty at wishing she could be anywhere else but there right then. She had imagined a quiet dinner in a small local restaurant; they could talk a little as they had done earlier without the pressure of such a romantic setting. If this was what dates were like, Lizzie thought, then this might just be the last one she ever went on.
A smartly dressed waiter showed them to their table which, being right in the centre of the room only added to Lizzie’s discomfort. Hans however seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere and Lizzie was regretting ever letting Julia Wreath flirt with him. To Lizzie the evening seemed doomed, but when the waiters had finished bringing out a variety of different types of champagnes for them to try and they were finally left alone again, Lizzie was relieved to find that Hans was still his nervous self and the new scenery had not given him a new found confidence. The conversation resumed what had almost become a routine; Lizzie trying to coax Hans out of his shell a bit, and it seemed to be working.
“So,” he began, “I assume you know a lot about my family so why don’t you tell me a bit about yours?”
“It’s not as glamorous as yours I’m afraid.” Lizzie invented despite not actually having the faintest clue about what his family were like beyond what she had guessed earlier. “I don’t have any siblings so it’s all a bit dull really. Father’s a pilot, Mother throws dinner parties, that’s pretty much how it goes.”
“That’s not so dissimilar to my own parents though I have a younger brother who helps to liven the place up a bit. I’m not there so much anymore though, I was stationed in Poland before I went on leave and I expect I’ll be going back there afterwards.”
“But you enjoy it?”
“Yes I do. It’s exciting but it also means a lot to know I’m making the people back home proud.”
“Well you’re certainly doing that.” Lizzie declared. “Have you ever met the Führer?”
“A few times yes, at a couple of parties of some of my parent’s most affluent friends and once not long after I joined up, before the invasion of The Rhine Lands. He spoke to us all, told us we were making Germany proud and that we would be rewarded once we have won back what was ours.” He shook his head. “We’ve done far more than that now; we’ve made Germany great again.”
Lizzie tried to smile convincingly at the boy sat across the table from her for whom, at the moment, she felt incredibly sorry for, being so easily indoctrinated by the Nazi’s propaganda.
He seemed to sense her change in mood and turned the conversation to the lighter topic of a recent holiday he had been on with some of his friends to the countryside, just as their sausages were served.
The evening overall was a fairly pleasant one and Lizzie was relieved to find that the conversation was not as strained as she had feared it might be. Whilst the high esteem which he clearly held her in was unnerving to say the least, she played her part of the flirtatious society girl flawlessly causing him to stumble over his words in his haste to ask her to a cocktail party his parents were holding the following week. All too keen to try and meet some of the people through which Hans had met Hitler Lizzie agreed enthusiastically batting her thick, blackened eyelashes at him and laughing unnecessarily hard at his attempt at a joke. Guilt gnawed at her heart but she had done it, she had secured a second date.

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