Feature Article from the Orange County Ledger-Times An Inquiry into Mall Magic :
A Feature Story in Five Parts
January 13, 1999: The Return of Mall Magic
For a few days now, the Bet Your Life store has been shuttered and dark. Occasionally, students gather in front, hoping to see signs of new life. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen, placing their own wagers on the outcome.
The reader response to Mall Magic was tremendous. Interest in the story may have helped me earn the promotion that I mentioned in my recent (November 13, 1998) article in this series. But, since then, the community has been outraged by the death of two young men, Annabelle Thompson has disappeared, and the Pooles seem to have found another business.
I still had a few accessories to pick up to complete my new wardrobe, and my editor had been asking for another feature about the Bet Your Life store in the Huntington Mall, so I stopped by the other day. Although it was not yet open for customers, things were humming, throbbing, and generally getting underway.
Louise was there, supervising the workers; Joe was in the store, doing something with the computers. Louise was arranging a store-window-mannikin (in a long, blue, wizard's robe and cone hat) in front of a crystal ball on a stand. There were local artists--drawing pineapples, sunflowers, pinecones, moons, stars, golden squares, and little shells all over the deep, midnight-black walls. The folding chairs had been replaced with plump couches, done in a plush purple. Mirrored cubes will soon hold trays of cheese and crackers, no doubt.
Outside the store, men were hanging a big banner that said: "Bet Your Life Reopening--Free Wish Day."
As I looked around the store, I was reminded of something else that Annabelle once said: "The Golden Mean is not the Golden Rule."
I hung around long enough to engage Joe Poole in some conversation, hoping he would have some insight into the questions that still surround Annabelle's tenure as proprietor--the deaths and her abrupt disappearance. Joe said that Annabelle had found a better opportunity in another state. That was all. He did have a theory about Jason Lanning and Kurt Anaka.
"John Lanning thought he would expose Annabelle's establishment," he said with some heat, "but I guess he found out." John Lanning is Jason's father, an outspoken critic of what he called "mall voodoo."
I asked Joe to elaborate.
"John Lanning is sure that the accident happened because his boy was involved with Annabelle's insurance. But when he finds out that Jason was gambling on the football games with two different groups, and another can of worms is about to be opened, he'll shut up quick." I asked Joe if I could quote him on this, and he said yes, but then he wouldn't elaborate except to say that John Lanning was "playing with dynamite."
"You watch," he said as I stopped to have some cheese with Louise, "the police won't do anything. Powerful people like football in this town."
I asked Louise about the Free Wish Day. "Oh," she said, "A wonderful bargain. We only charge $50 per wish."
"And what if it doesn't come true," I asked. "Insurance?"
"It's just a get-acquainted promotion. Someone will win $5000. Like a lottery, you know."
I had hoped for more information, but new counters were being moved in, and I was in the way. Perhaps by the time the Bet Your Life store reopens on February 21, we, too, will be closer to the truth about this Mall phenomenon, voodoo or verifiable success story.
Life, as Annabelle noted, may spiral in, but the possibilities spiral out.