Laura Spaeth decides to leave her workaholic husband Ted just before Christmas. She takes their 6-year-old daughter Julie and leaves to spend the night at the Brentwood Motor Lodge before going on to spend Christmas at her sister's home. Julie is discovered missing from their cabin on Christmas Eve morning. Laura calls the Highway Patrol and Dan Mathews and Sergeant Corey initially grapple with a series of false leads. Ultimately, Dan deduces that Julie left the lodge on her own to mail her letter to Santa Claus. He decides to focus the search on any costume-wearing "Santas" in the area. Dan's hunch proves correct when Julie wanders to a nearby rescue mission and asks the bell-ringing "Santa" for help. Written by
Christmas time. The holiday season. A time of merry confusion and festive excitement, long shopping lines, and short tempers. Stores are crowded. Offices close early. Highways become congested with drivers on shopping sprees and families traveling to be with friends and relations. This Christmas, like any Christmas, the Highway Patrol went to extra lengths to curb traffic accidents and prevent holiday tragedies. But, unfortunately, all tragedies cannot be prevented with traffic ...
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This starts out with a very busy architect coming home with Christmas gifts to find his wife and young daughter had left him on December 23rd. The wife was tired of being neglected. The husband was supposed to take their daughter to see Santa Claus so she could ask him for a puppy.
For some reason, the wife and daughter stop off at a hotel in the late afternoon and go to bed while it's still light out (a travel clock shows about 5:30) on their way to stay with the wife's sister. The daughter is worried about Santa finding her. The husband drives all night searching for them and does manage to find them, but only sits in the car.
When the wife wakes up, the daughter is missing - this is where Dan Matthews and the Highway patrol come in. The husband is brought in for questioning as a suspect. The highway patrol finds a young girl's handkerchief with what appears to be blood on it.
The girl shows up at a Salvation Army shelter because of the Santa Claus bell ringer. She's holding a small dog with a wounded paw. Somehow, she found a blanket to wrap the dog with. Santa brings her inside the shelter and feeds both her and the dog some soup and that's where Dan Matthews finds her and reunites the family.
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