Boss: Have broken Claus case! Established identity of Claus figure, ability to leave North Pole secret base undetected by our ozu rays, appear simultaneously at shopping centers multiple locations.

Operative 4+TF attended training session for 17, repeat 17, apprentice Santa Clauses at Wonder Co. office on Connecticut Avenue. Company claims to produce live Santas -- who arrive by Sleigh, Air, Trolley, Firetruck -- also Scrooges and Tiny Tims, also Easter Bunnies, Frosty the Snowmen, Tooth Fairies, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeers, Cartoon Comic Heroes, Supermen, White Doves and Dickens Carolers. Suggest investigate all of above.

Master Santa Joe Jeff Goldblatt (Earth Type 4%R, personable, quick, remembers first names) turned multiple regulation Earthlings into Santas. Already has 11 operating in Washington area, plans to train as many as 70.

Boss: Have obtained secret training manual for Santas, including Santa Oath.

Boss: You think I am kidding? Goldblatt laid out specifications: pleasingly plump ("when he laughs his belly should shake like a bowlful of jelly"); between 4-11 and 5-8; merry eyes, deep, musical voice, round cheeks that puff out.

Santa clones make $8 to $15 an hour, work four 45-minute hours with wardrobe supplied by Wonder Co. They must be given private bathroom and changing room, have Elf assistant to bring refreshments ("You can't have Santa leaning over a drinking fountain," Goldblatt said. "Santa is Royalty!"). Drinks include water, cocoa, coffee, milk, nothing else.

Boss: If Santa is Royalty, this conflicts with our Bearded God theory, weekly God thin and wearing white robe, annual God fat and wearing red suit.

"There are six subjects you have to avoid," Goldblatt told apprentices, "allowance, divorce, double entendres, girlfriends and boyfriends, politics and religion." He described actions to take against Beard Pullers, Tickler-Gougers, Smart Alecks.

"Don't try to match wits with 'em," he said. "Someone says you're not the real Santa, smile, shrug and change the subject. Just like that."

Santa Seminar sponsored by Open University. Company likes nonprofit tie-in, donates part of fees to UNICEF. On wall: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer suit (vacant), also signs. "Meet Superman (the Costumed Character) Live! In Person!" "Watch Santa Arrive by Horse-Drawn Sleigh!" Bing Crosby singing "Jingle Bells" on tape. Two more sessions planned. Inquiries reported as early as June, Goldblatt said. Wonder Co. supplies Santas to malls, club, organizations. Highly professional.

Female apprentice ("I'm a feminist") asked about women Santas. Reply: Fine with Wonder Co., but literal-minded merchants sometimes veto.

Subjects practiced Ho-ho-hoing. Should be preceded by wheezy intake of breath, not emphysemic but healthy, raspy. Then: "Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!" Apprentices practiced again, making sure bellies shook to specifications.

"Santa should be healthy and very clean," Goldblatt said. "It's hot work. You need strong thighs to sit them on your lap. Minimum underclothes, maximum deodorant. Good hygiene. But don't overdo it. Santa does not wear Aramis."

Dialogue key factor in success. Included in training manual. Apprentices assigned to work with each other on this.

Sample: "Come over here, little person, I want to talk to you about your life!"

To mother with child: "Are you the child's older sister?"

To child whose list of wants runs too long: "That's a mighty big request, little person, but I hope you realize you already have the greatest gift of all, a mother who loves you! You are a very lucky person. . . ."

Boss: You won't believe this, but I witnessed tranformation of ordinary earthling into Santa Claus! Saw it with my own ozus!

Goldblatt put on pillow stuffer, pillows front and back, then struggled into professional-quality furry red pants and jacket. "Take your time," he advised. "Try to feel fat. Get into the spirit of it." Black boots went on over black shoes. Beard and hat last.

"I use just a light touch of rouge on the tip of the nose and cheeks, some clown white for highlights to make my eyes sparkle."

He watched self in mirror. Then he said (get this, Boss, get this):

"I can feel it now. The tranformation. It's happening. . . ."

Suddenly he turned, leaned back from big belly, laughed. "HO HO HO HO HO HO HO!" Voice actually deeper, richer. Hands patted belly.

It was Santa all right. I was there. Figure 70 Santas in Washington area, by December there could be thousands in this one country. What does it mean, Boss, what does it mean?