The man lay across the trail on his back, one arm curled above his head, the other crooked over his chest. He looked so peaceful he might have been asleep. A long-legged bay mare waited patiently nearby, as if she were used to such unusual antics.
Allie reined in the mules. With a deep ditch on one side of the road, an incline on the other, she couldn't drive around him. He could be dead, shot maybe. Or it might be a trap, someone else waiting in the bushes to spring out at her. Wrapping the fistful of leather reins around the brake handle, she hopped down and studied the man.
He hadn't even twitched.
Beneath the duster, a Navy Colt hung heavy on her belt. She tucked the coat back to clear the butt of the revolver and glanced around cautiously. Ringo, her spirited palomino stallion, pawed up dust and tugged at the line that held him to the back of the wagon. Clearly he liked the looks of the man's fine mare.
"Hush up, you randy old stud," she said, and approached the man with caution.
His chest rose and fell in the rhythm of sleep. No blood, no visible bullet holes. No one else around. She eyed him once again, shrugged, If he wanted to sleep in such a strange place that was his business, but blocking the road was not.
Expecting bandits to spring out of nowhere, she took another quick look around. A light wind stirred the early spring leaves, the only other sound was the swishing of the animals' tails. She hunkered down, shoved her Stetson back with her thumb, skinned off one glove and touched his forehead. A sheen of sweat there, but he felt cool.
He didn't move.
In repose, he had a pleasant face. Fine dark brows, gently sculptured cheekbones and a high-bridged nose. A battered brown felt hat lay smashed under one shoulder, ebony hair powdered with dust spread around his head in waves. He was beautiful in a wicked sort of way, a little gaunt, as if he hadn't eaten much lately, or slept.
Despite the frustration of the moment, she grinned. He was certainly making up for that. For a while longer confusion kept her from acting.
The truth was, she didn't know quite what to do. She didn't need the troubles this might bring. Let someone else come along and help him out, if he needed help. Maybe he was just a bit strange and liked to sleep in odd places. She could go back a ways, get off the road and bypass him; but leave him lying in the middle of the trail like this? It didn't seem right.