MuChen Hsieh was praying for a Christmas miracle - to find the $170,000 antique violin she left in the overhead compartment of a Megabus at 30th Street Station.
The 19-year-old music student left her prized violin, on loan to her from a cultural foundation in her native Taiwan, on the bus after traveling from Boston.
Hsieh, a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, had attended high school at Delaware County Christian Academy and was coming to watch her friends perform in a Christmas musical.
She brought her violin to practice. She fell asleep on the bus, she said, and awoke just before her stop. She had other bags.
"Oh, my gosh!" she screamed in a family friend's car when she realized what happened.
The next morning, she frantically called the bus company.
Company workers checked the bus and their lost-and-found but couldn't find it.
She called again, again, and again.
No luck, the bus company said.
Thursday, she called police.
Learning of the instrument's price tag, investigators decided to go public about the missing instrument.
If someone returned it, there would be no "questions asked," police said.
Friday morning, police heard from the ABC Bus Co. in Camden, where Megabuses are stored and cleaned.
The violin had turned up, they said.
Sticking to their word, police asked no questions. They had the violin delivered to the Delaware River Port Authority, and then to the 18th District.
The violin case is closed, said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives, who handled the case.
Walker said that once police learned the price of the item, they reached out to the public. The thinking was that if it wound up at a pawnshop or in the hands of another musician, maybe someone would have a flash of conscience and turn it in. Or maybe finding out how expensive it was would prompt someone to return it.
"As far as who took it, it doesn't really matter. The important part is that this young lady who's come here from another country to study has the item back to her," Walker said.
"I think by us prompting people and saying we don't care who has it, just get it back to us, that it was somehow brought back to us."
Hsieh was thrilled when she threw open her dark red carrying case in the 18th District squad room Friday afternoon.
"Amazing," she said, cradling the instrument. "Unbelievable."
It had been a long few days. She could not explain how it happened, she said, still breathless with excitement.
"It was a long ride and I had finals the day before and I was practicing the night before, so I wasn't thinking straight. I was really tired after the bus ride. I was sleeping the whole time."
She said she didn't break down until Wednesday, when she talked to her parents in Taiwan. Her mother told her, "This is no time for crying," she said, that she had to go out and find the violin. Her father told her to fast and pray.
Her friends in Philadelphia, Boston, and Taiwan all prayed for her, she said. "Everyone was so supportive," she said.
She called her parents Friday morning in Taiwan. "Thank God," her father said. "Never do this again."
She is planning to take a bus back to Boston in the new year, she said. Her father offered some words of advice.
"My dad said I'm never going to let my violin out of my sight. It's either going to be right under my feet or right next to me."
She was asked to perform something for Christmas in the dusty squad room. She was embarrassed: She had not practiced in a few days, and there was a crowd. She played "Away in a Manger," the music drifting through the station house, where officers were coming and going and where prisoners were being booked and held in cells. The squad room quieted while she played.
"That's the nicest thing anyone's heard around here in a while," Walker said.
See a video report about the recovery of the violin, and hear MuChen Hsieh play it at www.philly.com/violin