The Yegua Kid, with the setting sun at his back, made a picture-perfect silhouette perched atop his chestnut stallion on the shady hill overlooking a ranch road. Gazing idly down the dirt trail, he pushed his hat back from his head, freeing a floppy mop of sandy hair, and enjoyed the feel of a cool breeze on his forehead. He let the hat dangle between his shoulder blades, held there by the strap beneath his chin, and closed his eyes. The Kid, spare of build and lean of frame, possessed a stamina to match that of his mount, but it had been a long ride on a scorching day, and even horses needed to rest sometime.
The Kid dismounted, took a sip of water from his canteen, and then cupped a handful for the Yegua Horse, all the while thinking this was as good a place as any to bed for the night. From his vantage point atop the hill he could see, vaguely in the distance, the outlines of the B-10 Ranch. Western hospitality would doubtless give him a meal and a place to bunk should he ask; only this was one of those times when the Kid did not feel in the mood for company or questions.
His desire for solitude, however, was not to be as he noticed a cloud of distant dust make its way toward him. As it drew near, he made out a one-horse buggy with a lone woman in the front seat. The horse was going full gallop and the Kid could see the driver was not in control.
Hopping back atop his horse, the Yegua Kid spurred his steed to ground level. Drawing alongside the runaway horse, he took hold of the reins and brought the speeding carriage to a halt. The woman, a lovely brunette about twenty years of age, flashed him a smile. Then, in the same instant, she seemed to remember a pressing need to be underway.
"Whoa, ma'am," the Kid cautioned her. "Why the rush?"
"I'm sorry," she apologized, hurriedly. "My name's Emma Barton. My father owns the B-10 Ranch. Poloma and I were on our way there when we were attacked by Lo Mein. He dragged Poloma from the buggy but I managed to get away."
The Kid looked perplexed. "You were attacked by a dish of noodles?"
"No, no," Emma Barton flustered. "Lo Mein is our Chinese cook. Last night he went mad and tried to kill one of the house servants. He got away and now all our hands are out looking for him."
"And who is Poloma?"
"She's my friend, a Choctaw girl. We think Lo Mein meant to attack her, but got the wrong girl by mistake. Now I really must get to the ranch for help."
The Yegua Kid stopped her. "If all your ranch hands are off hunting, who do you expect to help you?"
"Oh," Emma Barton hesitated. "I didn't think of that."
"Then let me help. Tell me where it happened."
"You'd never find it. It's in a wooded clearing off the path. I'd have to take you there."
Riding swiftly, Emma Barton still found time to fill the Yegua Kid in on what happened. Poloma had come to them a little over a year ago. She and Emma became instant friends, more like sisters than mistress and servant. One day, exploring the countryside, they found a clearing, which had once been a ceremonial Indian site, at the middle of which stood a tall totem pole. Poloma was immediately attracted to the place and from that time onward made frequent visits there with offerings to the Great Spirit. Such was Emma's affection for the Indian girl that she went along with it, often driving her there in her buggy. "After all," she explained, "it seemed an innocent thing, and it harmed no one." Then, three months ago, a Chinese-Malaysian showed up at the B-10, applying for a job as a cook. The first dish he served them was vegetables with Lo Mein noodles. Emma's father loved it, and thus the new cook was christened from then on. Poloma however seemed to fear the Chinaman and refused to be alone in his presence. Then came last night's attack, the other girl being saved by the fortunate appearance of one of the ranch hands courting her, and the chase was on.
"Poloma was frightened out of her wits and insisted on going to the ceremonial ground to pray for protection," Emma Barton wrapped up. "I refused to let her go alone so I drove her. We were on our way back when Lo Mein ambushed us."
Having meandered off the path from the B-10 Ranch, girl, buggy, horse, and rider eventually came to an opening in the woods. Through the trees, the Yegua Kid saw the ancient totem pole. He judged it about ten feet tall and it had many fierce faces carved onto its sides. Motioning Emma Barton to stay put, he got down from his horse and crept forward. From the shelter of a tree trunk, he saw a fantastic sight: a Chinaman in black clothing, his pigtail held down by a round pillbox hat, standing over a helpless Indian girl, with a solid steel meat cleaver clutched overhead, ready to strike. The Indian girl, clad in buckskin, was tied spread-eagle on the ground, her staked hands circling the totem pole. Her arms and legs showed many bruises and she held her eyes tightly shut, moving her lips in silent supplication.
"Pray to Great Spirit; maybe he save you," the Chinaman taunted. "Ty Ming no think so."
"Stop!" The Yegua Kid leaped into view, drawing his gun with blurring speed. "Lo Mein! Drop that cleaver!"
The Chinaman turned his head in the Kid's direction. His hate-filled eyes blazed with fury and he did not lower his weapon. "No, no!" he cried angrily. "Name not Lo Mein! Name Ty Ming! Boss call me that. Think it funny. Ty Ming hate boss. Ty Ming hate everyone." He looked down at the cringing girl. "Poloma work same house in Austin; know who I am. Me follow so she no tell."
As Lo Mein spoke, Emma Barton raced to the Kid's side. "What do you mean, she knows who you are?"
The Indian girl, Poloma, lying at the foot of the totem pole, had continued to mouth her silent prayers up to this point. Dark clouds gathered above them as she opened her eyes and spoke. "Lo Mein is a killer. Newspapers call him 'Annihilator'."
"Not Lo Mein!" the Chinaman screamed. "Ty Ming! Ty Ming!"
A rumble of thunder sounded as Poloma went on. "He killed many girls, mostly servants. I suspected him, but there was no proof so I fled. That's why he followed me here."
Emma Barton touched the Yegua Kid's arm. "The Annihilator. I read about him. A serial killer responsible for the deaths of ten girls around Austin. The police had several suspects; one was a Chinese-Malaysian cook. He was never apprehended, though. Rumor was he fled to Galveston and from there, sailed to England."
"Looks like those rumors were wrong," the Kid clicked his tongue dryly. A flash of lightening blazed from a dark cloud. The Kid waited for the thunder to pass, then addressed the Chinaman once more. "C'mon now, Lo Mein. Or Ty Ming, whatever your name is. It ain't safe standing here in open ground with a storm coming on. Throw down that hatchet and give yourself up."
Lo Mein however was beyond reason. He looked at the Colt in the Kid's hand, then at the girl at the base of the totem. He chose the girl. With a wild, insane laugh, he raised the cleaver. The Kid acted fast. He did not dare shoot the man for fear he drop the knife-edged cleaver on the girl. He needed him to turn away from her. A single bullet left the chamber of his Colt 45. It struck the pigtail at the back of the Chinaman's head, snipping it off neatly as might a razor. It worked. The Kid once heard some Chinese so value their pigtails that to tamper with it was a major insult. So it was with Lo Mein. The crazed Chinaman rushed with manic speed and threw himself at the Yegua Kid. His attack, so unexpected, took the Kid off guard. The single cleaver became like a hundred blades, the flattened side striking like a hammer, knocking the gun from the Kid's hand, and then landing a stunning blow to the side of his head.
Lo Mein rose to his feet, spat at the Kid's prone body, then stared down the girl from the buggy. Emma Barton fell to her knees, cowering in fear, helpless to move. "Later," he leered. "Indian girl first."
Again, he gave his attention to Poloma. He raised the metal cleaver high overhead, holding it with both hands.
The girl, in terror, cried out, "Oh Great Spirit, save me!"
And from the sky a bolt of brilliant light struck the cleaver. Lo Mein froze in place, a black pattern outlined by a glowing aura of luminescence. The aura crackled and sizzled, eating through the bodily mass of the Chinaman until all the blackness disappeared and only a blinding blue-white arc remained. The arc spun itself in a circle, entered the ground at the foot of the totem pole, and all was still.
The Yegua Kid staggered to his feet, unsure of what he had witnessed. The girl from the buggy was still on her knees, her face covered. The Kid patted her shoulder to say all was well, and went to aid the Indian girl. He cut the cords from her wrists and ankles and helped her up. She slumped against him, weak from the ordeal. Meanwhile the dark clouds overhead dissipated, allowing Nature's clean twilight to peek through once more.
Emma Barton back on her feet, took Poloma in her arms and led her to the buggy. She looked back at the Kid and voiced a soft "Thank you" before driving off. The Kid, left alone, scratched his head, wondering what exactly had happened. It was one of those "if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes" situations; only the Kid could not be certain if he had seen it or not. All he knew for sure was the Indian girl had called to the Great Spirit to save her, and now, etched into the bottom of the totem pole, was a snarling image the very likeness of the murderous Malaysian.
He shook his head once more, and then went to fetch his horse.
Many things happen in the old west, some that can be explained and others that cannot. In any event, the Annihilator would not be the first person to, because of an error in Ty Ming, end up Lo Mein on the totem pole.