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.


5. An Assassin's Parting Gifts

Sure enough on Friday afternoon Beaky, or Cynthia as Clara now liked to refer to her, came into their bomb assembling class and pulled Lizzie out.
"I want you to meet me at the front reception desk at five o'clock this evening. Pack up all of your clothes and impersonal items; you will be leaving us for a time to complete a particularly important task. You will be given a new identity so it is essential that you bring nothing that could associate you with your past, particularly with here." Lizzie nodded. "I shall see you later then." She turned and marched back down the corridor leaving Lizzie to rejoin her class without another word.
As she re-entered the classroom she felt five pairs of eyes follow her. Casually she dropped her pencil on the floor; the signal that they had all agreed on so that Lizzie could let them know at any moment if anyone mentioned her mission to her. Before she had even had the chance to pick the pencil back up Clara had called out "Ms Gladstone, I'm afraid I really don't feel well, not well at all. May I be excused?"
Ms Gladstone who knew that Clara would rather die than miss the chance to build a bomb looked rather alarmed and easily excused her. Lizzie wanted to turn and look at her, try and get a hint of what she was up to, but her instincts told her that when sat in front of a woman who had knocked out twelve of the Chinese ambassador's body guards single-handedly, it was best not to draw any attention to Clara's exit.
Clara didn't return for the rest of the day and Becky slipped off between lessons, apparently to join her. Sophie, Jen and Sal all seemed to know where they were by the way they kept glancing across at each other, but every time Lizzie brought it up they changed the subject. Finally Madame Alleuret finished her lecture on precisely how many seconds you must hold a person underwater to drown them, taking in factors such as their body weight and what proportion of this is fat, and Lizzie was free to find Becky and Clara.
However it turned out that she didn't have to hunt at all as when she returned to the dormitory to drop off her notes she found them huddled together at the small desk in the corner.
"He-hem." Lizzie cleared her throat loudly and smiled as she watched them jump and quickly scramble to cover up what they were doing. At that moment Sophie, Jen and Sal hurled themselves through the door.
"Lizzie's coming quick -" Jen broke off mid-sentence on seeing Lizzie stood before her looking mildly amused.
"Soooo..." said Lizzie "are you going to show me what you're doing or am I going to have to wrestle it off you?"
"Five against one Lizzie." Clara grinned at the challenge.
"Not once I kick the wardrobe door behind me open, of which the handle is at precisely the right height to break Sal's nose causing her to fall into Sophie and Jen giving me about two seconds leeway to kick that chair out from under you Clara leaving you on the ground and only Sophie to deal with, so I think the odds are pretty good." She said.
Clara grinned and high-fived her, "Not bad." she winked. "Ok so we were going to wait until before you left to give you these but seeing as you're rude enough to fight us if we don't show you now, here they are."
"We know you're going to be given all the usual weapons," said Becky excitedly, "but we think these are some things that they won’t think of."
She handed over small packet of cigarettes. "The best way to get someone talking is to ask for a light," she explained, "precisely seventy percent of these are perfectly fine to smoke but if it’s got a bit of tobacco leaking from the end then it'll knock you out."
"So basically be careful which you chose." added Clara.
"And these," she passed her a pack of hairpins, "are the most inconspicuous weapons I could think of. You see the little round balls on the ends, if you pull hard enough they'll come off leaving a razor sharp point that'll poke anyone's eye out."
"I made another replica of Madame Alleuret's eye to try it out on." Clara grinned.
"And finally," Sophie added from behind her, "we were a little late getting here because of these." She held out a tin of mints. "I've just injected these with the poison they've been working on down in Basement Three. The ones that are perfectly round are safe, the ones with a small dent like that,” she pointed to one, “are poisoned and judging by what happened when I dropped a shoelace in a pot of it," she pulled out a small clear bag containing an absolutely shredded shoelace that had melted into a tiny ball of molten fabric and was sizzling worryingly, "they're definitely fatal."
"Thank you." grinned Lizzie hugging them all.
"It is an adventure Lizzie," Clara rolled her eyes, "you didn't expect us to not have any input did you?"
“And don’t be nervous, I know we said before how hard it was going to be and everything, but if Mr Stantham thinks you’re ready then you’re ready. No question about it. He’s been to Germany a thousand times, has all sorts of contacts there, he knows the Secret Service there-”
“The Gestapo.” Becky interrupted Jen who glared at her.
“Yes that. He knows it like the back of his hand. He knows what you’ll be up against and he thinks you can do it.”
“Thanks.” Lizzie smiled a little wistfully. “I just wish you were all coming with me.”
“Trust me so do I!” Clara said longingly making them all laugh. “If I thought I could get through luggage control I’d have bolted myself into your suitcase hours ago.”
“You’ll be fine Lizzie, you don’t need us.” said Sal.
"It's almost five o'clock Lizzie." Jen gasped looking at the clock, "come on we'll help you pack." Just five minutes later they had assembled a suitcase full of clothes and all the non-personal things that a girl would own, and Lizzie found herself hugging them all goodbye as she picked it up and headed down the three flights of stairs to reception.
Beaky was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, "Miss McMorely, it is my job to now tell you exactly what you are leaving us to do. It is rather delicate so you'd best come inside here." She indicated to what appeared to be a small interrogation room behind the reception desk. Lizzie followed her in whilst surveying the small brown package that she was carrying.
“Before I begin I would like to remind you of The Official Secrets Act you signed when you first came here,” she began after closing and locking the door, “and the fact that if you divulge any of the information you are about to receive to anyone outside of Highway House, none of us can protect you from the consequences. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Lizzie nodded fervently.
"In this package is everything you need to get across the border into Germany. You will be assuming the entirely fantasised identity of Mary Eliza Jenkins a fascist sympathiser who is visiting Germany. She is a journalist in a small newspaper firm in London called The Banner. This paper has been used as a disguise before so the necessary paperwork has already been produced to verify your story. However it does mean that if you get caught you will be taking others with you. So make sure you’re careful."
Lizzie nodded again. "And now for the actual task, your job is to carry out the assassination of Adolf Hitler."
Lizzie tried to force her face to show some kind of surprise or alarm, anything that would not lead Beaky to believe that she already knew of the plan. "I-How?" She asked.
"Well don't ask me that girl! It's your job, you're the assassin. However you can find a way. Just create a situation where you can get close to him." Lizzie nodded. “And don’t be complacent; this has been attempted by assassins far greater than you before. Here.” She thrust a newspaper in front of Lizzie’s nose.
There was a picture of a dark-haired woman with distinctive large black eyes to accompany the headline.
“She’s been lucky so far, most are killed before the thought of escaping even crops into their head’s.” Lizzie nodded again, not knowing what to say.
"Well you're on your own now." Beaky surveyed her intently. "I can't say I think you're ready but there it is; I am overruled." She held the door open for her, "Your taxi is waiting."
"Thank you." Lizzie smiled nervously and headed slowly towards the black motorcar and just as she reached it she heard Beaky call out, "And Miss McMorely, good luck!"

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