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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13. An Unexpected Ally

Lizzie McMorely was not a girl to be beaten, but neither was she stupid. Her plan involving Hans had been pretty much blown out of the water ever since the evening of his parents’ dinner party. She needed a new idea, she just didn’t know what it should be yet. In dire need of inspiration she decided to take a walk to the Reichstag yet again, not because she thought that there was even a chance of her breaking past its tight security but because she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.
Half an hour later she was perched on a bench on the green before which the Reichstag stood. It wasn’t a cold day so she sat and enjoyed the luxury of being away from her hotel room for a few hours. This time she was not disrupted by the unwanted company of the media which had been forced upon her not so long ago and for that she was thankful. She watched a group of children playing cricket some way off until they packed up to go and she suddenly realised that the sun was dipping dangerously low in the sky and before long it would be getting dark. She was just about to leave when a woman huddled in a shawl shuffled along the path towards her, just as she passed the bench on which Lizzie was sat the bag which she was carrying slipped from her grasp and landed with a thud right before Lizzie’s feet. Eager to help the woman who looked ever so wearied Lizzie picked it up and held it out to her. The woman glanced up at her and Lizzie’s eyes met a pair of large, fearful, black eyes, eyes that Lizzie had seen before, eyes that she had thought distinctive even then, eyes that were unmistakeably those belonging to Nadia Kozlov.
“You are Nadia Kozlov.” Lizzie stated in a hushed tone as she stared into the eyes of the woman in front of her.
“And you are Lizzie McMorely.” she stated just as plainly back. “Come.” she said and started walking onto the street. Lizzie followed though she knew it was against all of her training and her teachers would be appalled, she followed because she couldn’t truly trust anyone here in Berlin, not Hans not Karl, and here was a woman who fought for the same cause that she did though it had cost her dearly. If there was anyone that Lizzie could trust it was this woman she was sure. And so she didn’t think twice as she followed her through every back alley in Berlin, into an area devastated by bombing where the residents were living in the rubble that was littered over the streets and where two small children, a girl and a boy, were playing bare-foot amongst the glass from blown out windows. And she didn’t question as she was led into a tiny shelter built from a propped up bricks and a mesh of sodden bed sheets balanced as a make-shift roof between them. Nadia settled herself on the mud coated quilt that was spread out on the ground and patted the spot opposite her. Lizzie sat, despite her scepticism that they would both fit.
“How do you know me?” Lizzie asked.
“I’ve been waiting for you for long enough. But Lucya didn’t think you were ready. In the end I had to go ahead with the whole thing myself and now look what a fiasco I’m in. Still she got you to me in the end.” She smiled at Lizzie who was completely perplexed by everything she had just heard.
“Sorry who sent me to you?” she asked.
“Lucya, I don’t know what name she goes by now, she liked to change her name a lot, most of the time she wouldn’t even tell people her name.”
“Of course, it was Beaky.” It made sense completely; Beaky had been the one to show her the picture of Nadia, to ensure that she would recognise her when they met. “How do you two know each other?”
“We were trained together in Russia, in the very early days of the CHEKA – the secret police – we worked together too for the first few years until we got in a bit of trouble over the assassination of one of the leading members of the Politburo. To cut a long story short we shot him but messily. Lucya was deafened by the gun shot, and the blood and other evidence was going to be too hard to cover up. So we made it look like it was Lucya who had died and then of course she had to leave the country, but we stayed in touch.”
Lizzie nodded solemnly though on the inside she was grinning for two reasons; one, both the story about the deafness and the story about how Beaky had faked her own death were true and two, because the name Cynthia at which Clara had delighted in discovering was just yet another fake identity. “So you’re both Russian agents, what do you want with me?” Lizzie narrowed her eyes.
“Your help.” Nadia answered simply. "As I have already demonstrated I cannot do this on my own, especially now.”
Lizzie surveyed the tired looking woman before her intently for a moment. “Ok what’s the plan?” She asked.
You may think this was mad for a girl as smart as Lizzie McMorely but Lizzie was a pragmatist, she knew the odds of her completing this mission were slim. She also knew that she had virtually no inside knowledge of Germany and here before her sat someone who did and that had got to mean an improvement in those odds, and any risk attached to that was a price she’d have to pay.
“Two weeks from now the Führer will be travelling to Poland to rally the troops in preparation for the Battle of Moscow. He will be travelling on the twelve o’clock train and half of the first class compartment has been reserved for him however the rest of the train is open to passengers. We will be on that train and I will shoot him. No bombs this time, not after the last one failed to go off. No I want to see him die with my own eyes.” She looked up at Lizzie. “And if I fail then it leaves you in the clear to try again.”
“So why do you need me?” Lizzie asked.
“I need you to get me on that train, I need you to somehow create a diversion to attract the attention of his security. I need you to know what I have done so that if I die doing it then my family will know I died trying to make the world a safer place for them.”
Lizzie nodded. This woman was so calm even about the possibility of her own death, it was something every assassin accepted as a possibility but at Highway House it was hardly ever discussed, like one of those drawbacks of an otherwise brilliant job that no one liked to talk about. Lizzie admired her for it. “Do you need somewhere to stay for the next two weeks?” she asked gesturing to their surroundings.
“No I’ll be much safer here, no one comes down here unsurprisingly.”
Lizzie agreed. “You can’t go out before then, if anyone recognises you then it’s game over. I’ll get everything we need and a cover story just in case. I’ll be back in a few days.”
Nadia smiled. “That was the other reason why I dragged you into this; it’s nice to have some company again.”
Lizzie smiled. “It’s nice to have someone I can trust again.”
“Oh no don’t make that mistake! Never trust anyone Lizzie; even the most reliable people in the world have no control over what they might say under the influence of torture.” She smiled a little sadly. “I’d try my best to hold out but I can never promise anything.”
Lizzie was at a loss of what to say. “I’ll be back in a few days.” She repeated and slipped out of the tiny shelter.
 
 
 
It was Lizzie’s second cocktail party in the short time she had been in Berlin. Anneliese was turning twenty-one and her parents were holding a party to mark the occasion. The ballroom was packed with the richest young ladies and most eligible young men in the whole of Germany but Lizzie’s mind was far from all of that. She couldn’t be distracted, not by the laughing or the dancing or even the fact the Karl was stood just a few feet away from her. This was too important for distractions.
“I was thinking about maybe taking a trip?” Lizzie slipped into the conversation, as she stood around talking with Anneliese and Katja.
Anneliese gasped. “Where? I haven’t been on holiday for ages! We should definitely go!”
This was exactly the response Lizzie had been hoping for. “Well…” she pretended to think about it for a minute, “There aren’t really many places that are safe to go, maybe Poland? That’s said to be quite a nice region these days. Father has a friend who went there just a few months ago and he had a splendid time.”
Katja and Anneliese nodded and Katja summoned her fiancé Klaus, apparently from thin air, and ran the trip by him. He seemed used to Katja’s demands and nodded obediently saying it was fine by him.
“Excellent!” Lizzie grinned. “I’ll see if I can get us some train tickets for say, two weeks from now? That way I have time to write to Mother and Father and let them know I’m going. It’ll be ever so much fun!”
“Taking a trip, ladies?” Karl sidled up to their table.
“Oh, Mr Fuerst!” Katja exclaimed. “You have appeared at exactly the right moment. We are planning a trip to Poland in a couple of weeks; you must join us and write a piece about how wonderful our holiday was! And you can keep poor Klaus company while we girls do some serious shopping.”
“I’d be delighted, Miss Adler. I think someone ought to be there to keep an eye on you all.” He met Lizzie’s eyes briefly making her blush.
“What times are the trains to Warsaw then, usually?” Lizzie feigned ignorance.
“Twelve o’clock and four o’clock I believe.” said Karl.
“What about twelve then?” suggested Lizzie, “The earlier we leave the earlier we get there.”
The rest of the group nodded. “Well I’ll see you all on the train to Warsaw then.” Lizzie said as she accepted the offer to dance from young man who had just approached her.
A half hour had passed before Karl claimed her dancing skills. “You haven’t told them yet?” He said quietly in her ear as they waltzed.
“No, I wasn’t sure how to. All Katja’s been talking about is someone’s son that she’s arranging I meet. I didn’t like to spoil her fun.”
“As long as I don’t have any competition then I don’t mind.” He winked at her.
“Isn’t a bit of competition supposed to be healthy?” she teased.
“In that case I’ll have to up my game a bit. Can I take you out again next week? Before we go to Poland and I have to pretend not to be utterly spellbound by you.”
Lizzie giggled. “When you put it like that how could I refuse?”

 

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