"Daddy, why are we running?"

"Just keep running sweetie. We can rest once we get to the car."

George held tightly onto his 8 year old daughter's hand as the two of them ran as quickly as they could through alley. It was a short cut to where he'd parked the car. Walking around the block to see the movie hadn't seemed like such a bad idea at the time. But now the movie was over, and it was way after Madeline's bedtime. The city somehow seemed much more sinister and not safe at all for a man and his young daughter. George saw shadows lurking in every doorway, and behind every corner. They'd walked as quickly as they could, George's head hunched in close to his shoulders, and Madeline's hand clasped a bit too tight. The sight of a dark figure at the corner ahead had dropped an icicle of pure fear down his spine, and without pausing to think, George pulled his daughter to the side, and dashed down the alley that had been nearby.

It had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

It seemed like less of a good idea when, as they were almost at the other end of the alley, another figure stepped in their way before them. Or perhaps it was the same figure, it was too dark to tell. The pair screeched to a halt, and George immediately placed himself between his daughter and the shadowy stranger. There was still the possibility that this man had a perfectly innocent reason for standing in their way, but George doubted it. He doubted it very much.

His doubts were confirmed when the stranger produced a gun, and Madeline screamed when she saw it, registering the danger for the first time.

"You know the drill, old man." said the man in a rough voice. George registered the faint tremour as he spoke, and a faint glimmer of hope emerged in his frightened soul. "Give me your wallet, slowly."

With exaggerated care, George pulled open one side of his jacket, and reached into the inside pocket with the other hand. He held the wallet between his thumb and two fingers, and gingerly held it out to the thief. It was snatched from him.

"The watch too." said the thief.

"No." said George, quite before he'd realized it.

"Not an option, hand it over!"

The thief lunged, and instinctively George reacted by grabbing at the gun. Both men struggled, shoes scraping on the concrete, and grunting in the otherwise silent night.

There was a bang, and George thought that it was such a silly noise for a gun to make. Movies made it sound so much louder, but this was just a small pop. Then he stopped as he began to register that his legs had gone weak, and he fell to his knees. He frowned, confused, and realized that he was holding his hand tight to his belly. He pulled his hand away to see that it was covered with blood. He stared at it, aghast and stunned.

"You stupid old man." yelled the other man. "Why didn't you just give me your watch?!"

George was pushed to the ground, and the watch forced from his wrist. The sound of receding footsteps as the thief ran was accompanied only by the wails of little Madeline. George lay there, and reached out weakly to his daughter as strength quickly left him. He opened his mouth to speak, but only gurgled as his last breath left him, and he died.

A moment later, George rose to his feet, and felt a slight tug that was gone with just a step forward, and he felt inexplicably that he'd left something important behind. He looked behind him to see . . . him, laying on his back, eyes glassy and reaching out to his daughter, who was still crying. George stood apart from the tableau, and was watching himself lay dead in the alley. He reached out to his daughter, but his hand passed right through her.

"Sorry, but it doesn't work like that." said a softy voice from nearby. George looked up to see a man in a white suit walking towards him. As he approached, the world around them seemed to be moving out of focus, becoming more blurry. George looked at his daughter, still crying, and trying to wake up her father who was still laying on the ground.

"I'm dead?" he said in a husky voice.

"That's right. Your part in this world is over. It's time to move on."

Behind the man in white, George saw a shimmering doorway of white materialize.

"I can't just leave her here." he said.

"There's nothing more than can be done. It's her time now."

"Her time?"

"Yes. Her time to live. Come on."