Erika Lehmann is an agent with the CIA.
She will be, after several adventures where her allegiance is, well, elsewhere. And after the nascent Agency gets its charter from Congress and stops being under the control of the State Department and/or the Pentagon. Once it exists and she starts working for it, she will rack up some very interesting successes all while being both highly respected and constantly suspected by those in authority. All with good reason for both attitudes.
Before she worked for the CIA, she worked for its predecessor, the OSS.
Before the OSS, she worked diligently and earnestly for the Abwehr. Lehmann was a highly thought-of operative for German Military Intelligence with two of her biggest successes being assignments spying in both the UK and the US.
Lehmann is the daughter of a German father and a British mother. Her mother was the daughter of a British diplomat stationed in Berlin before WWI. Her father, Karl, had been an enlisted man in the German army assigned as an embassy driver. They met when he was asked to give her a ride and a courtship and marriage would follow soon after. When the Archduke was assassinated in 1914 and the Great War started, they remained in Germany where Erika was born, likely in 1918.
The times after the War were difficult and Karl Lehmann found meager work as a printer's assistant. It was there that he would meet and become close friends with a rabble-rouser-to-be named Adolf Hitler. When a decade later Hitler came to power, he rewarded his friend for his long term loyalty with a plush job working at the American Embassy.
So it was that now teenaged Erika Lehmann would come to spend three years living and schooling in the States. Her command of English was already excellent thanks to her mother and frequent trips to visit her grandparents in England. While her German speaking was done as a native, her speech in English was decidedly British in sound though after three years in the D.C. area, she could switch to an American accent with no trouble at all.
The death of her mother in a car accident took the Lehmanns back to Germany where the father got a high ranking job in the Propaganda organization run by Goebbels and the daughter got a job at the Seehaus as a translator of BBC broadcasts. She was sent for a time to learn Russian which she did proficiently, albeit with a German accent, and some Danish and Slovak.
That is the time that other departments started recruiting her. Strongest of the two were the Gestapo and the Abwehr. Her immediate dislike for the rat-faced (her words) Himmler decided matters and she took a job with the latter.
It should be stated at this time that Erika Lehmann was proud German and avid Nazi. Whether she actually joined the Party is not known [by me] but her father definitely did and she gladly joined him in numerous events. Just as her father remained a close confidant and advisor to Hitler, so did she stay friendly with the Fuehrer and even became especially close to his 'friend', Eva Braun.
Lehmann's switch from being a patriotic German spy to working with the OSS came after she was captured. When it was learned that her father had been murdered at the command of Himmler, who had become immensely jealous of his closeness to Hitler, she was willing to help the OSS go behind enemy lines and strike specifically at Gestapo targets, all leading hopefully to her being able to eliminate Himmler herself. It would be on this mission that she would come to learn the horrific truths of the concentration camps and the despicable annihilation of so many millions. Her devotion to anything Nazi would leave her forever.
From that point on, her willingness to assist the OSS, and later the CIA, would be based mostly on three facts.
The first is that as a captured German spy, her life was forfeit, especially since several people died for one reason or another in the course of her missions (some she nothing to do with and many she decidedly did). If she did not agree to help, she would either languish in prison or be executed. The choice was simple.
The second is that she was very, very good at what she did. Her athleticism was superb and her intellect quite high. She was an excellent swimmer, could handle obstacle courses with usual ease, and was deadly in hand-to-hand combat, knife-fighting or the use of firearms, long or short. Thrown in her skills at switching from a person of German upbringing to an upstanding British citizen on to an American with a natural grasp of its idioms and thought patterns, she was a natural. And add in her ability to operate in the Soviet Union with her excellent ability with Russian, passing her not-so-perfect accent off as Polish or Slovakian.
The third is that she truly enjoys the excitement and the danger and the challenges of being constantly on the edge of discovery and knowing that instant reactions are constantly required. Toss in a little understood tendency to react quite strongly (to be polite) to annoying male aggression actions and you have someone who lives for this line of work.
Lehmann is a blonde (usually) woman of exceptional beauty and grace and breeding. She had a very strong sexual attraction to men but is not unwilling to become intimate with another woman should that prove necessary or advantageous. She does not use sex as a means to get ahead, e.g., for advancement, but she definitely will use it to survive or to get the job done if all else fails.
Part of her upbringing involved Lehmann becoming familiar with the Norse mythology of the Valkyries and their role in matters dealing with Valhalla. Part of that folklore involved the concept of the Shield-Maidens, female warriors who took up the shield and the sword and fought alongside their male counterparts, sometimes to avenge them.
Through the course of the many adventures that Lehmann has, she will 'accumulate' her own collection of fellow female operatives, so much so that her CIA boss and handler, Leroy Carr, will use the 'Shield Maidens' designation for her team.
This group will consist of a variety of interesting women, a few who will be with her for a long time and some whose career, and life, will be ended too soon.
Stephanie Fischer, a German operative working with the British supposedly as a double agent.
Kathryn Fischer, sister to Stephanie and an Abwehr agent undercover in the Gestapo who will become one of Erika's closest friends.
Zhanna Rogova, a Soviet agent determined to kill Lehmann at any cost who will then be forced by life and circumstances to work alongside her with the OSS and CIA, all without killing her though an occasional altercation or two was not ruled out.
Sheila Reid, a Major in the American Army who is frequently pulled from her regular duties to assist in a mission, sometimes with Lehmann and sometimes with her boss, Carr.
Kay Carr, wife of CIA handler Leroy Carr, and a bitter hater of Lehmann from the time that Lehmann had her kidnapped and held hostage to force her husband's hand. Being later pushed to work with as opposed to against Lehmann was not a pleasant thing to watch but it would be interesting.
These women, whether officially part of the Shield-Maidens or ancillary to them, are almost as fascinating to follow as Erika Lehmann herself.