Stacey and the Mystery at the Mall is the fourteenth book in the BSC Mystery series.
Shopping has become a dangerous business…
As part of a new Short Takes class called "Project Work", all the baby-sitters are taking part-time jobs at Washington Mall for a month. At their jobs, all of them are surprised to find out how big a problem shoplifting is. Stacey is especially upset when an electronic toy, the Gamester, is stolen while she's working at Toy Town.
Clues and evidence
- Shoplifting has been significantly more common lately.
- Three blonde kids, about six, eight and twelve years old, are seen around the mall constantly, but never have parents or anyone else with them. During story hour at the bookstore, Mallory thinks she saw one of them eat another child's cookies.
- In Kristy's job at the mall security office, she sees a group of teenagers looking suspicious; the security team thinks a gang of older kids might be doing most of the recent shoplifting.
- At Toy Town, Stacey sees a woman with a large coat and a man with a leather backpack browsing, and thinks they could be shoplifters.
- Jessi's manager at the movie theatre tells her that he thinks someone might be sleeping there at night.
- The mall police arrest a group of teenagers right after one of them steals another Gamester from Toy Town. Everyone expects the shoplifting problem to stop now that they've been caught.
- When the girls go to talk to the mall manager, Mr. Morton, about their idea for a daycare center (see "Other plot information" below), Kristy mentions that she'd seen him on the security tapes talking to some kids and assumed they were his, but he says he doesn't have kids. Mr. Morton okays the daycare center immediately.
- The shoplifting problem is still rampant, but it's mostly limited to either small items, such as toiletries, food and kids' clothes, or large, expensive items that are being taken during the night by someone who knows how to avoid the security cameras.
- One day at work, Stacey goes into the stockroom and finds a man in a red ski mask there. He runs out, pulling off his mask as he enters the mall, and security is unable to catch him.
- Logan says that someone was cooking during the night at Casa Grande, and Kristy found some toothpaste in a mall bathroom. They realize that it seems like someone is living at the mall, and conclude that it's probably the three blonde kids. Kristy realizes that they were the kids she saw talking to Mr. Morton on the security cameras.
- Stacey remembers an article she read recently that said the mall was in serious financial trouble. They go to the library to do research and find that Mr. Morton took over as manager recently, that the mall had hosted a lot of community events and benefits lately, and, later, that it had been losing money and was on the verge of bankruptcy.
- While the girls are working at the mall, someone pulls a fire alarm. Directly afterward, Kristy sees the blonde kids running by the security camera and looking scared. She later remembers that before the alarm was pulled, she saw Mr. Morton walk by the area, looking upset.
- In the two days after the alarm is pulled, nobody has seen the blonde kids at the mall.
- Gang of teenagers: Security is sure they're the culprits, and after they're arrested, a lot of the shoplifting at places like the toy store and bookstore does stop.
- Blonde kids: If they are living at the mall, it makes sense that they'd steal stuff like toiletries that they'd need.
- Mr. Morton: Just seems suspicious. Very jumpy when Kristy asked him about the kids, and all the mall's financial trouble started after he was put in charge.
Stacey realizes that Mr. Morton was so eager to do stuff for the community that he said yes to everyone, without considering the impact to the mall's finances. He covered up his mistakes by misappropriating mall funds, but when he couldn't do that anymore, he started stealing expensive items, which explains how the culprit could get into the stockrooms and avoid the security cameras. He also had people working for him. Mary Anne guesses that the kids might have discovered Mr. Morton's activities, making everyone worried about how they haven't seen the kids lately.
Most of the BSC rushes to the mall, where they eventually find the kids. The kids explain that their mom's been in the hospital and they ran out of money for the rent and bills, so they have been living at the mall and stealing what they needed. They confirm that they found out that Mr. Morton was stealing, and he had threatened them, which is why they pulled the fire alarm to escape and find new hiding places while everyone was evacuated. The BSC calls the police, who interview the kids about their story. Mr. Morton is arrested, a new manager is put in place, and the kids are able to return to living with their now-recovered mother.
Other plot information
- The BSC members' jobs:
- Kristy: Mall security.
- Claudia: The Artist's Exchange, an art supply store.
- Mary Anne: Critters, the pet supply store.
- Stacey: Toy Town, a toy store.
- Mallory: The BookCenter, a book store. While working there, she hosts a story hour.
- Jessi: CinemaWorld, the movie theatre. She's helping with a birthday party there for a six-year-old when the fire alarm goes off.
- Logan: The take-out counter for Casa Grande, in the food court.
- All of the sitters notice parents leaving their children alone in stores or at the food court while the parents do their shopping, and they decide a day-care center would be a great addition to the mall. Mr. Morton, the mall manager, approves the idea and gives them a deal on a storefront in the food court. Working with their bosses and other mall employees, the BSC helps to design, paint and put together the center.
- For the duration of Project Work, the BSC cuts its regular meetings to one a week (since they'll be working on Mondays and Wednesdays) and Shannon, who's replaced Dawn as the club's Alternate Member, steps in to answer phones and take on more sitting jobs.
Clients in this book
No sitting jobs are depicted in this book, but Shannon mentions sitting for:
- Mr. Schubert
- Pete Hayes
- Erica Blumberg
- Mr. Withum
- Austin Bentley
- Kara Mauricio
- Gordon Brown
- Alan Gray
- April Frenning
- Sandy Frenning
- Ms. Munro
- Ms. Garcia
- Ted Morton
- Kellie Garcia
- Mr. Williams
- Cindy Snyder
- Charlie Thomas
- Mrs. Powers
- Hannah Powers
- Emily Powers
- Mr. Magee
- Cam Geary
- Irene Shay
- Mrs. Peabody
Places in this book
- Stoneybrook Middle School
- Washington Mall
- Toy Town
- The Artist's Exchange
- The BookCenter
- Just Desserts
- Donut Express
- The Cheese Outlet
- The Dollar Store
- The Home Store
- Rita's Bridal Shoppe
- Stoneybrook Public Library
- Stuff 'n' Nonsense
- The Exercise Shoppe
- April Frenning, Stacey's boss at Toy Town: "An armful of silver bracelets; a white blouse and a swirling purple skirt that looked as if it were made out of silk."
- When the BSC goes to ask Mr. Morton about the day-care center:
- Kristy: white blouse and skirt.
- Claudia and Stacey: "conservative dresses with nice pumps and traditional accessories: no wild jewelry or wacky hairstyles."
- Mary Anne: "a navy-blue dress with a white collar."
- Jessi and Mallory: "skirts with new sweaters."
- Logan: "blue-and-red striped tie; a white shirt and corduroy jacket."
- Claudia (on the way to the mall to paint the day-care center): "a neon-pink bandana around her head; a humongous pair of overalls over an ancient striped T-shirt."
- When Stacey meets her new teacher, Mr. Withum, she says that from his name, she expected "a kind of shriveled, gray-haired man," but he turns out to be plump and cheerful. This is pretty similar to her misconceptions based on Wesley Ellenburg's name in #65, Stacey's Big Crush.
- Kristy and Logan take turns sitting next to Mary Anne on the bus to and from the mall.