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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19. No Such Thing As Coincidence

"So you're seriously seeing this journalist?" asked Anneliese for the hundredth time.
"Yes." sighed Lizzie. "We've just been out a few times but we're going out again."
"Oh but Julia you could do so much better!" She and Katja exclaimed together. "Listen apparently that man with the bald head, oh what's his name - Daddy always talks about him? Oh well you know who I mean, he has a son who has just joined the army and apparently he's quite a looker." Katja paused for breath. "Obviously I'd love him for myself but you are my friend Julia and I think he'd be perfect for you."
"Not to mention the fact that you're engaged." teased Anneliese. "No one else would get a look in if you weren't."
"Am I not generous with my men?" Katja winked. "I'm still on my mission to set you up with Klaus' brother aren't I? Trust me darling I've never yet failed to bring a match together."
"Except when you set up Tess and Georg. That ended really well didn't it?" Anneliese turned to Lizzie. "Tess grew so sick of his jokes about his friend's racehorse that she threw her glass of water over him halfway through the dinner."
"Yes well those two just weren't meant for each other." Katja replied haughtily, and turned to ask the tall blonde man who had the unfortunate task of being stuck in the women's dress department if he had a smaller size in a long black dress.
"Oh would you mind fetching me this dress in blue in the same size?" Lizzie asked, and as she looked up to pass him the mauve dress she was holding, she found herself face-to-face with the same man that they had passed busking two streets away on their way here.
"Oh but mauve is so in this year darling." Katja said bringing Lizzie out of her momentary freeze and back with full-force into the role of Julia Wreath.
"Perhaps you're right." She smiled and pulled the dress back from the man’s outstretched arm. "I'll try it in mauve instead." She slipped into the dressing room where she pictured the man again in her head. He was the same man she was sure, he might have swapped his hat and jacket for a suit and peeled off his fake moustache but he was the same. In the world of Highway House there was no such thing as a coincidence and that could mean only one thing, he was a German agent and she, Lizzie McMorely, was busted.
Her brain ticked over at lightning speed formulating her next move. She needed to get out without him following her, but right now that seemed impossible; she could almost feel him watching the door of the dressing room. No, she told herself, nothing is impossible. She opened the door just a crack so that she could see out. The man was still being over-loaded with orders of different sizes to fetch, eventually he left through a side door to presumably the stockroom. With him gone she spotted a blonde haired young sales woman a few feet away.
"Would you mind helping me a moment?" She called out and the woman smiled and hurried over. "I just need someone to model this dress for me, it's for my sister Miss Dienz out there." She said referring to Anneliese and desperately hoping this woman didn't read the newspapers enough to know who she actually was, well who everyone believed her to be. The girl smiled, obliviously and said "of course miss."
Lizzie helped her into the gown and stood back pretending to be deciding on the dress whilst drawing out a cigarette. "Would you like one?" She asked holding one out.
"Thank you Miss." The girl said as Lizzie lit it for her. She watched as the girl inhaled, the effect was instantaneous. She dropped to the floor completely unconscious. Quickly Lizzie changed into the girl's previous outfit of a simple black skirt and white blouse. She fixed her hair to resemble the girl she was going to try and imitate. Glancing at herself briefly in the mirror she looked fairly similar if you didn't examine her too closely. Her hair was the same sort of colour and her face shape wasn't too dissimilar to stand out beyond her outfit. She grabbed her own handbag which was thankfully quite a small clutch and headed back into the store. She didn't dip her head knowing that trying not to be seen would only have the opposite effect, but walked indifferently towards the exit. She knew the man was still there but didn't dare look over at him to check he hadn't noticed. Instead she tried to act normal, checking the clothes like she had seen the girl doing, on her way out.
Finally she found herself on the open street and it was safe to speed up. She pushed her way through the crowds of shoppers, knowing she would be harder to spot amongst them. She hurried through them and when she thought she was far enough away she glanced back. He was stood on the top of the steps leading up to the shop glancing frantically around, and in that second that she looked back he made eye contact. He thrust himself into the crowd and started making his way towards her. She pushed through as hard as she could but she knew he was bigger than her and would be gaining on her. She frantically looked around for somewhere to run or hide and her gaze fell on a group of old women begging on the side of the street. She ducked as she fought her way to the side of the crowd hoping that unable to see her head he wouldn't have been able to track her move. She thrust one hundred Deutschmarks into one old woman's hand saying, "For your coat." The woman gazed awestruck at her the money for a second before shrugging off her coat and handing it to Lizzie who threw it on. She pulled her the clips out of her hair, shook it up over her face and pulled the hood of the coat up. She peered through the gap in her hair and saw the man running through the crowd nearer and nearer. She crouched a little to look shorter and hunched her shoulders as he ran towards her. And then he passed; the man's eyes scanned over her and he was gone, she breathed a sigh of relief. Once he was out of sight she began hurrying in the opposite direction, glancing over her shoulder she hurtled down a side alley... and straight into something solid. Shaking her hair away from her eyes to see she heard a voice say, "God Julia is that you?" Following the sound she looked up to find herself gazing into the eyes of Karl Fuerst.
Lizzie straightened herself up as she hurriedly tried to come up with an excuse.
"You're covered in dirt from this, this ... is this a coat?"
"So you see the thing is..." Lizzie started not knowing where on earth she was going with this story, "I've been thinking a lot about, about the war and the people made homeless by it. So I wanted to start a charity and try and help people made homeless through the bombing, but I didn't really know how I could best help them so I thought "why not live like a homeless person for a day to see the hardships they have to deal with?" ... and that is why I look like this." She finished with a hopeful smile.
"Look Julia, this is all very admiral I'm sure, if not slightly strange, but if you really want to help these people so much you can write a column for the newspaper I work for. There's no need for all of this!" He looked rather concerned and alarmed as he surveyed her dishevelled appearance.
"Oh, really?" Lizzie forced enthusiasm into her voice. "That would be just marvellous!"
"Look Julia I don't mean to be rude but you look awful! My flat's just round the corner let’s go and get you cleaned up."
She nodded obediently, too relieved that her story had seemed to satisfy his concern to do anything other than agree. Plus, she thought, at least she would be getting away from the street and the man had probably realised he wasn't still following her by now and was doubling back.
Karl's lived right at the top of a huge block of flats, with a view right over the city. Lizzie felt giddy just looking out of the window, it was so incredible to be able to see everyone and everything. She could see an old man waving his walking stick at a pigeon that seemed insistent on following him around. In the distance she could even see smoke rising from an area badly hit by an air raid last night.
"It's quite something up here isn't it?" he said.
"It's incredible!" breathed Lizzie.
He fetched her some towels and showed her to the small bathroom before returning to the view in the living room to wait.
Lizzie emerged feeling quite self-conscious in the blouse and skirt that had been the shop worker’s.
He looked up and grinned. "Not one of my favourite outfits on you I must say, but it'll do."
"Do for what?" Lizzie asked confused.
"I'm taking you out." He said simply.
Half an hour later they pulled up outside a newspaper firm.
"Very romantic." said Lizzie sarcastically.
"I thought we'd stop by here first, grab you some stuff to get started with that article." he said.
"Oh right thanks." Lizzie said with fake enthusiasm.
The outwardly dull building surprised Lizzie on the inside; its ceiling was storeys high and was decorated with stone carvings. Her heels echoed on the marble floor as Karl showed her up the enormous staircase to his office.
"So, I figured you'll need a typewriter if you’re going to do this. This is my old one, it’s not great but it'll do." He picked up a small wooden typewriter hidden away in the corner. But Lizzie was staring at the calendar on his wall.
"Hitler's doing a press conference next week and you're going?" Lizzie asked unable to conceal her surprise.
"The Führer." He corrected. "And I am fairly high up in the world of journalism you know." He winked knowing she hasn't meant anything by it. "Even us lowly journalists do get to meet people other than party hosts sometimes."
"Sorry, I didn't mean...I was just surprised." she said.
"It's fine, I'm going to try and get the Führer's opinion on people at the top being able to keep their sons from having to join the army. Although I doubt I'll get anywhere." he frowned.
"Could I come with you?" Lizzie blurted out. "To get ask him about the homeless situation."
He looked startled at her request but nodded. "I don't see why not." he said.

 

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