December 24, 1933
Snow was falling gently onto the cobbled streets of Willoughby, Ohio, when the girl in blue stepped out of the bus station, limping on a pair of unsteady legs down the stairs and past the stray mutts that roamed the streets before sunrise; her soiled boots left muddy footprints on the fresh snowy surface as she walked glass-eyed into the deserted town, a rare sign of pre-dawn life in a town battered by an icy wind from nearby Lake Erie.
The sun was barely peeking over the rooftops in the east as the girl trudged into town, dragging her ragged suitcase through the street behind her, hardly seeing the miniature Christmas trees erected downtown every few dozen feet and meandering blindly beneath the strings of electric lights zig-zagged colorfully above the main streets.
A man who had exited the bus with her watched cautiously from behind as she swayed to and fro. Sensing she was not quite right, he had followed her at a distance; when he saw her trip on an uneven cobble, he raced up to her and caught her before she fell. When she asked, blinking, where she could stay for the night, he offered to help her find her way.
Holding her tiny waist with one firm hand and her tiny wrist with the other, the exhausted Dr. Tom Fleet, of Willoughby, Ohio, returning home from a house call, led the girl slowly down the snow-covered Vine Street just north of town. He shivered as he walked, wishing he had put his gloves on before helping the lost girl. But he gaped at her attire more than he rued his own, for she was dressed only in a damp blue gingham dress that barely reached her knees and a thin navy cardigan to cover her pale arms. Her leather ankle-boots were soaked through with snow and slush, and her strawberry blond hair was tied back messily with a fraying red ribbon. But she did not appear to be affected by the wind and snow whatsoever; her face remained blank, its two bright green eyes staring but not seeing.