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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17. Back Before You Know It

Lizzie slipped the letter in a mailbox as they set out for their first day shopping in Warsaw the following morning. She had had to apply a considerable amount of concealer to hide the swelling under her eyes that betrayed the tears that had fallen the previous night. Anneliese and Katja apparently found the whole event incredibly exciting and wouldn’t stop talking about it despite Lizzie’s many attempts to change the subject.
“I can’t believe that it happened when we were on that train!” Exclaimed Katja for the hundredth time as they wandered around a department store in what appeared to be one of the few non-destroyed regions of the city.
“I know it’s crazy. And it’s the same woman who tried to kill him before! How did she get on the train without anyone recognising her?” said Anneliese.
At this point Lizzie felt the conversation had taken a worrying turn and attempted to steer them off the subject. “That shop doesn’t look too bad.” She pointed to a small boutique across the street. The windows were completely dark from the outside but the sign at least looked freshly painted.
“Well it’s not the worst we’ve seen,” Anneliese admitted, “but let’s face it that’s not saying much. This trip is a disaster! The only interesting thing that’s happened was the attempted assassination of The Führer.”
And they were back on the subject.
A few minutes later Klaus and Karl appeared; already bored of the non-existent bars that Warsaw had to offer.
“I think I’m going to have a little trouble writing about what an exciting time you had in Warsaw, Miss Adler.” Karl said. “I’m beginning to blame Miss Wreath for suggesting we come here in the first place.” He winked at Lizzie who struggled not to blush.
“Well I’ll be sure never to listen to the recommendations of my father’s friends again.” she said.
Katja smiled a little ruefully, “This is a pretty terrible trip. Maybe we should just call the whole thing off and go home.” They all nodded.
Lizzie was glad to be on the train back to Berlin. She had been struggling to keep her composure as Katja and Anneliese expressed their disgust that there were people in the world who would wish their beloved Führer dead. She had barely seen Karl during their short, what ended up as almost a day trip, excursion, let alone had a proper conversation with him and she would be glad, once they were back in Berlin, to yet again keep him separate from her work.
They had barely been away a day but when the train pulled up at Berlin’s central train station it had changed dramatically. Now riddled with security guards and soldiers every two paces, the consequences of their failed assassination attempt hit Lizzie. It would be a lot harder to kill Hitler this time round now that security had been tightened to this level. She felt at least half a dozen pairs of eyes on her as she crossed the platform and she didn’t like to think how many more that number would rise to if she was actually doing something suspicious.
Once outside the train station she parted from her friends but had barely walked a few paces when Karl came running up behind her. “I told them I had some work to do at the office after the events of our train journey yesterday. Can I take you out tonight? The cinema maybe?”
Lizzie was torn, whilst she really did want to go out with Karl she didn’t feel much like socialising tonight. On the other hand she did have appearances to keep up and she was sure Julia Wreath would be game for any date no matter how tired she felt. “Alright then,” she nodded, “shall I meet you at the cinema say eight o’clock?”
He grinned, “See you later then,” he told her and doubled back along the same street while she continued the walk back to her hotel.
Once she was inside she collapsed on the bed, too tired to cry or feel any emotion at all, she felt entirely drained. The soft quilt hugged her skin comfortingly as she thought about all that had happened in the last thirty six hours, she couldn’t help but feel that it was her fault that Nadia was dead, her distraction hadn’t been enough; she had failed.
She awoke with a start not meaning to fall asleep and immediately panicked as she glanced at the clock. It was already seven o’clock, if she wanted to make it to the cinema in time then she’d have to have a shower and be out the door in half an hour. By some miracle she made it, her hair and make-up not showing the little time and effort she had put into them and somehow still looking flawless. She was wearing the black and white polka dot dress she had worn on her date with Hans but she felt different this time, knowing that it was Karl and not Hans that she was going to meet.
He was waiting for her at the doors to the cinema and his whole face lit up when he saw her causing her to smile uncontrollably. “Miss Wreath anyone would think you were happy to see me.” He winked at her and led her inside.
There was a news bulletin shown before the film, it was a video of Hitler giving a speech about German superiority and the need for living space. The speech was from some time ago and Lizzie was sure she had heard it before but it still had the effect of chilling her very bones and she tried not to shiver as on the screen a crowd of his robots saluted as one and shouted “Heil Hitler!” And as if some telepathic message had been sent out through the bulletin controlling every mind in the cinema, everyone around her saluted and shouted “Heil Hitler!” Lizzie joined in a fraction of a second late but in her chest her heart was thumping; she was witnessing the mass brainwashing of ordinary people, crazy as it sounded that’s what it was.
After twenty or so minutes of the bulletin the film started but Lizzie was horrified to find that it was even worse than the bulletin. The film was called Ohm Krüger and was the tale of a man who had outsmarted the corrupt and cruel British when they tried to cheat him out of his land, and it ended with the man predicting that the British would someday be destroyed by a powerful world nation and the world would become a better place. Lizzie was outraged at the undisguised, flagrant anti-British propaganda that was blaring out of the screen, and she couldn’t understand how no one else in the cinema, not even Karl, noticed that anything was wrong. Even if you believed what the film was saying, she thought, you would at least recognise that it was a biased story. But apparently they didn’t and when the man’s prediction boomed out of the speakers some of the audience even started cheering. She was shocked and unnerved to say the least with the passion with which every person around her had sat enraptured in both the film and the bulletin, she felt as if she’d been thrown into a science-fiction film where everyone’s minds were being controlled making them unable to think for themselves. When the lights came back on she realised that Karl had slipped his arm around her shoulders during the film, she hadn’t even noticed she had been so concerned with everyone else’s behaviour around her, and by the way he winced as he pulled it back it had been there a long time.
It was a disturbing evening overall, Lizzie thought as she lay in bed that night, she wished she could’ve enjoyed it more after all she was there with Karl, but she had just felt frightened more than anything. Hitler’s grasp over the German people was something far more than she could ever have anticipated.

 

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