(Just an idea I had, which may or may not lead to anything…)
When Michael had to leave his tiny Alabama town to join the Army in Europe, he dreaded many things. Looking up into the eyes of a coldly enraged Captain America was not one of them.
“Where is she, soldier?”
“She’s dead, Captain!” Michael exclaimed with absolute certainty. “Captain Cheetham saw it himself. Somebody tied her to a bed and shot her.”
Captain America turned away from the young soldier before him and around the ruins of what had been Medical Camp 9, the subject of so many morbid legends whispered among the Allied leaders and the rank-and-file alike. Once Winston Churchill told him with solemn authority that the Führer refused to receive any reports about its experiments, and even a grade-A Doctor Frankenstein like Arnim Zola would not set one foot near the place. The stories about the camp’s mistress, Ilsa, were the stuff of whispers that would make even a Nazi squirm…
When he learned that he had been chosen to receive the super-soldier serum and before anyone had even thought of the alias ‘Captain America,’ Steve had told himself that he would not let the casual cruelty of war erode his principles. He would not laugh over the corpses of his enemies, as he had seen even good men do, or punish the defenseless for the sins of their leaders, no matter how staggering they might be. Since his time on the battlefields of Europe, he had encountered a handful of people – still far too many – who had tested his resolve. At the top of that list was that woman only known, even in Germany’s highest and most secret military communications, as ‘Ilsa.’
Once upon a time, he thought she could have been redeemed. It might as well have been ten thousand years ago, and since then he wondered if his compassion came from his heart or from his genitals. He still remembered how they first met at Strasbourg, the cold metal pressed against the back of her skull, her flat voice declaring that she would find the secrets of the super-soldier serum even if she had to cut him open. Yes, she looked like a Valkyrie incarnate, with breasts Mae West would envy, but buried not far under that cold and imperious look that never completely retreated from her face was a need to yield to a good man – or so it seemed. Then he saw her “experiments,” which had nothing to do with science or Nazi ideology but with craving the worst kind of power, and most disgusting of all by far was what she had done to Bucky, just to mock him…
“I have to see,” Captain America said, more to himself than to Michael. “Where is Cheetham?”
“This way,” Michael said. The young soldier escorted him through a maze of scorched buildings and twisted corpses. The ones that did not belong to German soldiers were nearly all the remains of very attractive young women and men, a sure sign of Ilsa’s “tastes.” Despite all his morals, for a nanosecond Captain America damned himself for not killing Ilsa when he had a chance.
Captain Peter Cheetham was in one of the doctors’ offices, examining the few remaining scraps of official documents that the Nazis had neglected to destroy. As soon as Captain America stepped through the threshold, Cheetham, without hesitation, turned and saluted him. “Captain America, again let me thank you for accompanying…”
With a polite but quick gesture, Captain America ended the formalities. “No need, Captain. Tell me what you’ve found so far.”
“All the doctors and staff here are fled or dead, killed by the prisoners or by the Nazis themselves,” Cheetham replied.
“How many prisoners…?”
“Only two. One of them claims Ilsa was incapacitated before we got here.”
In spite of himself, Captain America clenched his fists. He felt cheated, even angry, that he was denied one more confrontation with the so-called ‘She-Wolf of the SS.’
“Where’s her body?” Captain America asked, his voice almost a whisper.
Cheetham nodded with sincere understanding.
Escorted by a soldier, he led him into Ilsa’s private quarters, which as expected was nearly as well-furnished as any Berlin luxury apartment. On one table were pictures of more than a dozen young male prisoners, their handsomeness hardly spoiled by the horrors of camp life, each one placed in a silver frame like the images of cherished loved ones. Knowing Ilsa, the Captain did not want to spend a second contemplating what this collection of faces meant. All he knew was that they were lucky if they were dead.
“Tyree!” Cheetham yelled, shattering the Captain’s thoughts. In one corner, hidden in shadow, was a soldier, his uniform stained with blood at the chest. Cheetham felt his pulse. Captain America could see his eyes flutter and ordered the soldier accompanying them to get help.
“Thank God, he’s alive,” Cheetham said to no one in particular. “Who did this? Are there still Krauts around?”
“She wasn’t dead,” Tyree mumbled, sounding incredulous. “I was prepping the body for transport. They shot her…she wasn’t breathing…she wasn’t dead…”
Cheetham looked Captain America, as if Tyree was speaking Greek and he needed an interpreter.
“Tyree, don’t, save your strength,” Cheetham pleaded, but Captain America could not restrain himself. “It was Ilsa, wasn’t it?”
Tyree looked right at Captain America for the first time. “Captain America. She…she only said she was going west. She wanted you to know.”