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.


22. Karl

Karl picked her up in his motor car at half past five and they began the journey to their hotel. "I'm glad you're coming, you know." He told her.
"So am I." She smiled.
Their hotel was small but stunning; the epitome of elegance: chandeliers hung from the ceiling, white silk curtains draped from the arches leading through to a reception desk that quite literally sparkled with glitter embedded in the marble work top. Karl rang the crystal encrusted bell and a man in a black tuxedo emerged.
"Two rooms for one night please?" Karl asked.
"I'm afraid we have only the penthouse suit available. It has two bedrooms each with a separate bathroom. Would this be ok?" said the man apologetically.
Karl looked across at Lizzie. "It's up to you. We can go somewhere else."
But Lizzie didn't want to leave the warm glow of the curtains and cream leather sofas that surrounded her. "That sounds fine to me."
"We'll take it then." Karl said and footed the entire bill despite Lizzie's protests. A porter appeared and showed them up to their suit. He opened the door into a living area bursting with cream fabric sofas overflowing with an array of differently patterned gold cushions. The same curtains hung from the enormous sash windows with the difference being that they had crystals embroidered on them and beads attached to a fringing at the bottom. The cream carpet followed through to two identical bedrooms with four poster beds made up with gold duvets.
"I'll take the bedroom next door then." said Karl as Lizzie threw her suitcase down onto the bed.
Five minutes of lying collapsed on the bed later there was a knock on her door. "Julia? There's champagne out here. Shall I pour you a glass?" Karl said from outside the door.
"Yes just coming." She emerged a minute later and wandered into the sitting room in which the lights had been dimmed down considerably and Karl sat sipping a glass of champagne, her handbag sitting open on his lap. He paled, not having noticed her before she sat down beside him and picked up her own glass.
 "So..." began Karl hesitantly, "don't get angry with me but you left your handbag in here...and...well why have you got a gun?"
Lizzie's head snapped up to look at him. "Oh it's stupid really but my mother is so worried about me being kidnapped by an enemy infiltrator she won't let me go anywhere without it, especially after I was drugged." She rolled her eyes.
"Of course, I just, sorry." He looked embarrassed.
"It's ok you didn't mean any harm." she said.
"Your friend Clara seems nice." He smiled.
"Oh yes she is." Lizzie stuttered not really knowing what to say to the fact that he’d read her letter. The whole conversation was a little off and she felt like there was something she was missing.
"So anyway, about tomorrow," he changed the subject, "we'll get there early and go back stage and see if we can find anyone to talk to. Then once the Führer comes we'll have to go back into the crowds but we should have a placed reserved at the front so we might get the chance to ask him questions."
"Sounds great." Lizzie smiled. She would slip off when they were back stage, plant the bomb and leave, then it shouldn't be traced to her.
Karl surveyed her face intently.
"Do I have something on my face?" She asked jokingly.
"No." He smiled. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you are."
"Well I suppose that's allowed." She winked as he leaned forward and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear making her breathing halt in her throat as he leaned closer to her. Time stopped altogether as he softly brushed her lips with his.
“Let me take you somewhere special.” He whispered to her.
“You can’t drive, you’ve been drinking champagne!” Lizzie reminded him.
“We’ll get a taxi.” He said simply standing up and holding out his hand to her. She took it, he pulled her to her feet and she followed him into the night.
They ran down the street outside the hotel shouting for a taxi. It was cold but she didn’t feel it as Karl grabbed her hand and tugged her along as he sprinted after yet another car. Eventually they caught one and Karl told the driver to take them right into the centre of Berlin. Lizzie glanced at him intrigued but his expression didn’t give anything away. After a good drive they came to a stop right outside the Reichstag, Lizzie frowned in confusion but Karl just smiled at her puzzled face.
He led her down the main street, over a bridge and down a steep slope to the river bank. There was a small hut stood amongst a sea of tiny fishing boats all decorated with fairy lights around the rim. Karl handed the man some cash as Lizzie stared in awe at the beautiful sight that was before her. She followed Karl to a pale blue one nearest them, its name; Träumen Weber, in English; Dream Weaver. Dream catchers, like those she had made as a child with multicoloured feathers hung around the glass shield that protected its passengers somewhat from the wind as they were propelled down the river. Karl helped her into the boat and started the motor as the man gave the boat a push into the water.
Karl steered them out into the middle of the river and they began to make their way through the city of lights, as Lizzie mentally called it. It was so beautiful, they passed under bridges decorated with carvings of angels and heavens and Karl kissed her as they passed under a carving of cupid holding his bow and arrow, and gasped clutching his chest as he pretended to have been shot through the heart. People stood the pavement pointed and smiled at them as they passed. Lizzie couldn’t stop smiling the whole scene was so perfect, far better than she could ever have dreamed up in her head. Karl started revving the boat harder and they quickly picked up speed, the engine roaring as they almost bounced down the river. He showed her how to use the engine, laughing when she almost steered them into the river bank. Finally she got the hang of it and turned to grin at Karl to see him stood on the seat behind her his arms thrown out, the wind blowing his hair everywhere.
“What are you doing?” Lizzie cried, half-laughing half-fearful that he would fall in.
“It’s fun, you try it.” He whooped loudly and then stumbled as they hit some ripples cast out from another boat.
Lizzie giggled as he struggled to regain his balance. “I think I’ll give that one a miss.” she said.
“Go on! Don’t be boring.” he teased. “You can hold on to me!”
He took over steering and nervously she clambered up onto the seat using his shoulders for support. It was a lot colder up here; it was surprising how much the glass screen was sheltering them. The wind whipped her hair completely destroying the style she had put it in before heading out. But Karl was right, it was fun. Slowly she inched her arms away from his shoulders and spread them wide. Laughing at her own daring she whooped loudly. He sped up, the boat zooming faster and faster until inevitably they hit more ripples and she grabbed Karl again to stop herself from falling in.
They docked back where they’d started out from a while later, both looking incredibly windswept but laughing all the same. The man eyed them a little strangely as he bid them farewell but Lizzie barely noticed she felt so elated. When they got back to the hotel Lizzie was exhausted and although she didn’t want to waste a minute with Karl, she knew that tomorrow was too important to miss out on sleep. So she said good night to Karl and collapsed on her bed falling asleep almost immediately.

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