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The Ken Supremacy

A gripping tale from the annals of Cold War espionage (Part 2)

As you’ll recall from my last post, my old friend Alan had asked me to meet him in his local brasserie to discuss some long-forgotten episode from the annals of Cold War espionage. An episode in which the mysterious figure known only as ‘Ken’ had played a pivotal part...


Alan came back from the bar and sat down.

‘It soon became clear to Ivan Astykoff and his bully boys that they weren’t going to get any sense out of Ken,’ he began. ‘And that, I’m afraid, put them in a right old pickle.’

‘Couldn’t they just pack him off to the salt mines?’ 

Alan smiled. ‘Normally, yes. But you see the reputation of The Funfair rested on their ability to get results, and Ken was seen as a bit of a test case. The longer things went on the more desperate they became. So desperate in fact, that in 

the end they felt it necessary to call on the services of one of the most feared and hated figures in the history of thought control, none other than the dreaded “Vacuum Cleaner”!’

‘The “Vacuum Cleaner”!?’ I cried.

‘Yes. A mad East German neuro-scientist called Dr Ingrid Meubers. Heaven knows how she acquired that chilling code-name, but even in the grim days of the Cold War her reputation for brutality was unsurpassed. Even the Russkies were afraid of her!’


Ken was clearly agitated and he emptied his glass in one gulp. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone sink an advocaat so fast.

‘Anyway, as soon as she arrived the “Vacuum Cleaner” got out her instruments of torture and set to work on her latest victim,’ he continued. ‘Of course we can only imagine how horrific it must have been. Witnesses said the sound of the screaming gave them nightmares for years after.’

I shudddered. ‘How awful!’

‘Absolutely. Apparently you could hear Dr Meubers’ howls of frustration halfway across Moscow! You see, nothing she tried made even the slightest dent in Ken’s super-thick skull. The poor woman was at her wits’ end! But then, out of the blue, the most unexpected thing happened: the brutal psychopath fell madly in love with The Man with No Brain!’

I nearly fell off my stool.

‘D-d-did he return her affections?’ I stammered.

‘Of course not,’ he snapped. ‘Even a chump like Ken was hardly likely to welcome the advances of a woman who’d just given him the mother of all hidings. Besides, she wasn’t exactly an oil painting by all accounts.’


‘But I don’t suppose you become an award-winning mad scientist without having a trick or two up your sleeve. And so, using an ancient form of Tibetan hypnotism she’d adapted for her own evil purposes, the good Doctor set about making Ken believe she was a bit easier on the eye than was actually the case.’

‘Really? Did it work?’

‘Put it this way, the moment she’d finished the two of them began an affair that was so tempestuous it sent shock waves right through the Kremlin! The stuffed shirts down at the Politburo were appalled and ordered Dr Meubers to take Ken back to East Germany and finish her ‘experiments’ there.’


The place began to fill up, in anticipation of one of its popular Acoustic Loveliness evenings. But just as my mind was starting to wander towards happier climes, Alan resumed his narrative, bringing me back to the seedy world of Cold War intrigue.


‘At first everything went fine,’ he continued. ‘Ingrid resumed her work at the top secret bio-weapons research facility just outside the town of Öldfahrt, and who knows, the pair of them might have made a go of it.’ Alan sighed. ‘But it just wasn’t to be I’m afraid.’

‘Why? What happened?’

‘Well, one day the Doctor was working on one of her favourite nerve agents, when, for reasons that have never been explained, her lab blew up.’

I recoiled in horror. ‘She wasn’t killed was she?

‘Nope, but in the ensuing fire half her beard got burnt off, and that was enough to snap Ken out of his hypnotic trance. He saw Ingrid in her true light and broke off the engagement there and then. Not long after he returned to the West.’

‘A broken man?’

‘Expect so. She’d given him another good hiding just before he left.’


Alan fell silent. So did I. I simply didn’t know what to make of it all. Then suddenly I was struck by a truly terrifying thought:

‘You don’t think Ken was a “mole,” do you Al?’

He frowned. ‘If by that you mean an irritating pest you wouldn’t want on your property, then yes. But a deep penetration agent? Seems pretty far-fetched. Let’s face it, Ken’s hardly the sharpest tool in the box, is he?’


He went off to chat to a group of Kerouac clones, leaving me to my own thoughts. I could see why the KGB’s attempts to turn Ken into Scunthorpe’s answer to Jason Bourne were doomed to failure. But wasn’t that the point? Couldn’t he have been deliberately foisted on the Russians as an agent of chaos, a human time-bomb designed to wreak havoc at the very heart of the Soviet system? Make no mistake, a man who could write a 60,000 word thesis on the history of the shoelace was capable of anything.

Ken didn't really enjoy his time at The Funfair

What Ken saw whenever he looked at Ingrid...

Ingrid Meubers, the infamous 'Vacuum Cleaner'

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