It was a very bright and colorful Christmas scene that greeted the eyes of shoppers that night as they shopped at the mall. Twinkling lights encircled tall pine trees and carols rang n the frosty air, encouraging the people to slip into the holiday spirit as they greeted one another in passing. The mood was high until a bearded old man clad in a plush velvet Santa Claus suit fell from above, crashing heavily into several Christmas trees standing in a tight group in the middle of the scene. Screaming women ran away as the trees crashed down on the corpse and police and an ambulance were called to the scene, but it was too late: the man was dead. His body bore a very high alcohol content, far above the legal limit. Had he jumped from a balcony high in the apartment building above or had he been pushed?
At the death scene, Patrick Jane and agent Lisbon looked over the corpse, doing their work with precision and professionalism. Jane took one snort of the corpse and pronounced him just another drunk but kept other thoughts to himself. Lisbon told him there was more to this than met the eye, but Jane stalked off to talk to passersby who had seen the man fall.
The apartment building manager opened the dead man's apartment and told them what little he knew of Benjamin Ripple, the dead Santa Claus: that he was an AA participant, that he had loved Christmas so much that he lived that way year round and indeed his apartment was decorated in Christmas trees and other things of the holiday. Jane found a gold appearing medallion from AA hanging from one tree and took it, slipped it into his pocket for further investigation. He told Lisbon that he was going to go to a local AA meeting and see what he could find out of the dead man.
Back at headquarters, all the agents were called to attend a mandatory meeting in which J.J. Laroach, head of the professional standards CBI unit, would talk to them. Hightower introduced him and he said that a prisoner named Todd Johnson had burned to death recently in the CIB prison and he had a list of all the personnel who had been in the building that day, Jane being one of them. After the meeting, he talked to Jane, saying that he wanted to know what Jane had seen, him being the last one in the prisoner's cell that day. Jane said that he had seen a green lighter sitting on the bench in the cell and Johnson burning as Jane opened the cell door, but he had nothing to do with the man's death. Laroach said that he would be keeping his eye on Jane because he had his suspicions of him. Jane shrugged and told the man to do what he felt that he had to do and left.
Lisbon assigned agents Van Pelt and Rigsby to check out the society that Ripple had belonged to: a national society for furthering the belief in Santa Claus, quite a serious organization, to be sure, according to the heavy set bearded man they talked to at a local convention being held at a large hotel. There was some disagreement between the bearded man and a younger, clean shaven man in that Benjamin had used their society to build himself a thriving mail order business on the internet. It didn't matter now, because he was deceased, one of them said, but who was that pretty young woman who had accompanied him to a dinner last week? Did he have a girlfriend? No, that was someone he had met at an AA meeting last week. The agents chatted a bit more with the men, then left for headquarters.
Meanwhile, at a local AA meeting, Jane sat silent while Mae, the group leader, introduced herself and asked for new members to make their own introductions. Jane stood up and said his name and that he didn't have an addiction, but was there just to observe. Mae coaxed him to come clean, that it wasn't wrong to admit that he might have a problem. Jane said, well, he did have an addiction of sorts, but it wasn't alcohol. He sat down and asked Mae a few questions to which she fended off until another time. After the meeting, Jane asked Mae what she knew of Ripple. She said that she knew Ripple had been recruited by an attractive female who had been attending the AA meetings to go to an exclusive alcohol rehab treatment center catering to rich clients. She hadn't known that Ripple was dead. The female's name was Roxy Rhodes, working for a local escort service, but only escorted rich men to parties and out on dates.
The said Roxy admitted to having dated Ripple just once and well paid by the Wilder Treatment Center, Jack Wilder being the owner. He used aversion treatment to get patients to give up addiction habits and had never had one die because of it. Jane decided that he would pretend to be an alcoholic and get his team to stand by, hidden at the treatment center whilst he underwent aversion therapy. He had his suspicions as to who might have caused Ripple's death.
The plan was set in motion when Jane showed up at the clinic for treatment. He was an expert in biofeedback and could make his body respond the way he wanted it to, even if he really did not feel a certain way. Jack Wilder, with his nurse, Lila, in attendance, strapped Jane into a soft chair and signaled for the nurse to begin giving Jane shots of strong whiskey. Wilder began his aversion talk and giving Jane shocks of stronger and stronger electricity until Jane had reached the limit of intoxication. Wilder had the nurse hand Jane the last shot of whiskey and determined that, according to what Jane's body was showing, that he was going into alcohol overload. The nurse felt the same way and told Wilder to go call an ambulance, which he did. No sooner had he left the room when Lila brought out a large needle filled with one hundred percent whiskey. Jane showed he was relatively sober and told her his expertise in bio feedback to which she snorted. She was about to shove the needle under his skin when he blurted into his shirt pocket pen that the bag was up, trying to summon his team in in time to save him when Lisbon and other agents burst through the door, guns drawn. Lisbon apologized for letting it come so close to disaster and the nurse was cuffed and arrested.
Jane sobered up and at headquarters, he told Lisbon that nurse Lila had had alcoholic parents who had raised her in a childhood full of hell. Lila had decided to help Ripple into death that night when she and Wilder had returned him to his apartment and she had given Ripple that final and fatal needle full of alcohol and encouraged him to go to the balcony and wave at all the children waiting for his appearance. He had done so and she had pushed him off the balcony to his death, thinking that she had done him a huge favor. Lisbon was not surprised and told Jane that he was amazing, once more.