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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23. The Press Conference

Lizzie woke up the following morning her head spinning; partly because it was the press conference today but if she was totally honest with herself it was mostly because of Karl. She thought about last night, how completely and utterly perfect it had been, and about how if she was successful today she would be expected to go back to England, and how she didn't want to. She had fallen too hard for the man that lay asleep in the next room, he was her life now. She reached the conclusion that she would write to Clara once it was all over and explain that she wasn't coming back. She had too much to lose here in Germany now. It would be difficult she knew to keep lying to Karl but maybe in a few months she could claim her parents had died so that she'd never have to introduce him. Or maybe, she could scarcely hope, once this war was over she could admit to what she hoped she would be able to do today and he would perhaps even be proud of her. It was a silly daydream but a happy one. All the same she returned to reality with a jolt as she realised she was dreaming her precious time away.
It was very early but she still had an important job to do before she was ready to leave. Quietly she slipped back into her bedroom, pulled her largest handbag out of her suitcase and with a needle carefully unpicked the stitches of the lining. Inside the new secret pocket she had created, she slipped the bomb and gun. She then sewed it back up with a few clumsy stitches that would be easy to slice through with her hairpins later on. She added the hairpins and her cigarettes, which did not need concealing, to her handbag. They were the only two of the original three offensive weapons her roommates had given her that she still had left, thanks to her still anonymous intruder. After that she ready.
Half an hour later they were pulling up outside an enormous stadium. "The press will be here but they're also expecting crowds of ordinary people who just want to watch The Führer speak." Karl explained. They passed through several security checks, during which Lizzie almost held her breath as her bag was checked. But thankfully, due to the extensive queue, the checks were not particularly thorough and so it passed straight through and they found themselves in a large temporary structure with rooms and rooms of bars and lounges. Karl showed her around and introduced her to some of his colleagues as his girlfriend which made Lizzie grin from ear to ear. He slipped his arm around her waist and guided her through the mesh of cameras and photographers to get a drink.
"So what do you think?" he asked her, "This is my work."
"It's absolutely manic," Lizzie said gesturing to the crowds of people diving on the odd political figure that walked through, "but it's exciting. I can see why you love it."
A whole range of notable politicians suddenly seemed to be flooding through the entrance and almost immediately Karl recognised the foreign minister and struck up a conversation. Lizzie, seeing her opportunity, slipped away unseen.
She passed through a number of doors until she saw one saying LIGHTING AND SOUND CREW ONLY, which could only mean that this was the way to the stage. The only problem was that there was a security guard stood in front of the door.
"Good afternoon. I'll be introducing the Führer on stage today. Could I please come past?" She flashed him her "Julia's film star smile".
"The Führer doesn't usually have anyone introduce him miss." He eyed her suspiciously.
Knowing that this tactic was going to fail miserably Lizzie abandoned it. "Alright you got me." She laughed a little. "I'm a test of the security and you just passed." She winked at him. "But of course nothing would get passed a big strong man like you now would it?" She batted her eyelashes.
"Um well no." He stuttered turning beetroot red.
"You don't have a light do you?" She asked pulling out her packet of cigarettes. It was time once again to social smoke.
He pulled out a lighter and she handed him a cigarette. "Think of it as a reward for your hard work." He took a drag of the cigarette and as with before the effect was instantaneous and he keeled over. Stepping over him Lizzie passed through the door and grinned to herself.
It couldn’t be long before Hitler made his speech now, soon the place would be swarming with people. Lizzie quickened her pace down the corridor only to walk head first into a man who Lizzie was sure must be nearing seven foot tall.
“What on earth are you doing crashing into me?” Lizzie started shouting before the man could say a word to her. “Do you not know who my parents are? I was invited here today by special invitation of The Führer himself and I expect to be treated better than this! Now where is the make-up room? Look at my cheeks they’re a disaster and I need them re-powdered this minute!”
The man stared down at the young lady who was throwing an absolute tantrum right in front of him and gulped. “It’s over there Miss. Although please hurry up, you’re not supposed to be down here.”
She huffed loudly and said haughtily, “That depends on how quickly a make-up artist can powder my cheeks to my satisfaction.” Then she stormed off in the direction he had pointed. The man clearly wanted to be as far away from her as possible and hurried in the opposite direction, leaving Lizzie free to continue her pursuit of the stage.
She sped down a number of dimly lit corridors until she stepped out into a space so large that with the poor attempt at any lighting she couldn't see more than a few feet in front of her. The ceiling above her was quite low and she had to duck her head every now and again when she came across a particularly low beam. The footsteps echoing from above told her she was directly under the stage. She stumbled through the darkness until she had walked far enough that she felt sure she must be somewhere below the middle of the stage. Slicing through the clumsy stitches in her handbag she pulled out the bomb and hid it amongst a tangle of wires, presumable linked to some sort of lighting equipment. She crouched down and reached out to turn the dial that set the timer.
"I don't think that's a good idea now, do you?" said a deep male voice from behind her and she felt the ice cold butt of a gun pressed to the side of her head. "Well well well, Lizzie McMorely." She slowly twisted her head around and found herself facing a tall blonde man with thick eyebrows staring down at her.
Lizzie, desperately tried to think of a way out of the mess she was in, she thought about feigning ignorance as to whom Lizzie McMorely was but it was clear that this man knew all about her. "You know my name," she stated as her brain whirred and her eyes scanned the darkness for an exit but she could hardly see a few feet away from her, "how?"
"Hello ...Lizzie." said another voice from the shadows, a voice that she recognised, a voice that sent her heart thumping, but a voice that sounded very off. Karl Fuerst stepped out from the wall of darkness surrounding them and stared coldly down at her. "Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie... or should I call you Julia as you have pretended you were these past couple of months?"
"I didn't want to lie to you, I -" she began, words tumbling from her mouth as she tried to save her situation. And this time she wasn't thinking of the gun pressed to her head; it suddenly seemed far more important that she save herself from Karl thinking she didn't love him, from Karl walking away from her.
"Oh didn't you? Why was that Lizzie? Did you fall in love with me?" He laughed harshly. "Did you think I was Karl Fuerst a lowly journalist sadly in love with you?"
Lizzie stared uncomprehendingly, it didn't make sense; he was Karl, her Karl, why would he say anything else?
"It seems Highway House isn't full of the smart girls it claims to be. You really didn't suspect a thing? Not when your hotel room was searched right after you told me where it was? Or when the Gestapo men turned up in the field that night? Not even when I drugged your drink? Dear oh dear Lizzie, I must say I expected better. Your stunt on the train was quite good I admit but I suspected you knew who was on the train with us and might try something like that, so I alerted the guards and told them that on no account were they to leave the Führer completely without security. And as a result your poor friend Nadia Kozlov perished." He sneered in a way that really didn't suit him. "I am Joseph Bellstern a Gestapo agent. And you were my mission. You see Lizzie; you and I, we both played the same game, I just played it better."
"So you never loved me." Lizzie whispered.
"No."
"And last night..."
"As I said before Lizzie, Julia or even Mary; you were and are nothing to me." He turned on his heel and left.

 

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