City of Villains

EXCLUSIVE: Read the First Chapter of the Fairy Tale-Inspired Crime Series, City of Villains

By the D23 Team

Monarch City Police Department intern Mary Elizabeth Heart has always wanted to be a detective—but when she finally gets her chance to investigate a missing person case, she is soon led down a path that will bring her face-to-face with some of Disney’s most iconic villains. Written by Estelle Laure, this dark and edgy YA series explores the reimagined origins of Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and other infamous Disney villains like you’ve never seen before. Read this first chapter of City of Villains below, and then preorder the book here before it hits shelves on January 26.

o n e

t w o  y e a r s  a f t e r  t h e  fa l l


shotgun on the way to school.

“No, I mean really, Cap,” he’s whining to James, smoothing out his leather jacket. “We should be taking turns. We live in the same house, we drive the Sea Devil together to the same place, and then I have to get out of the front seat and get in the back just so Mary can jump in front. It’s—”

“Demeaning?” I suggest.

“Emasculating?” Ursula says, doing something on her phone. “Respectful,” James says. “Right.”

Smee gives me a look like he’s barely tolerating me and swaggers away from me so James is between us. “Just because she’s your girl- friend shouldn’t mean she gets to sit in the front all the time. We should take turns.”

James just fixed up a classic 1968 Mustang, painted it a vintage blue, and named it the Sea Devil, and it’s so gorgeous it’s causing all sorts of problems. Every time he does this—finds an old clunker with good bones, tinkers with it until it drives smooth, and polishes it to a high shine—Smee’s inner gangster comes out. It’s always kind of out anyway. He wants to be powerful, or sidekick to someone powerful at

the very least. We live in a city, so I don’t even know why we would be driving a car to school in traffic in the first place. We should be taking the subway, but now that’s not going to happen until James abandons the Sea Devil for a new project.

Now, Ursula wedges herself next to Smee as we push our way past the crenellated white columns and through the enormous wooden doors that lead into Monarch High.

“Doofus, she is the girlfriend. You’re not the girlfriend, you’re just one of six annoying roommates.”

“Do not speak ill of Neverland or its residents,” Smee says, “or I’ll make you walk the plank.”

The plank is the diving board in the old pool in the old house where James and six of his friends all live. Ursula edges past a couple of Narrows dressed in their usual white button-downs, Dockers, loafers, and jackets. We stop in front of our lockers and she gives Smee a rap on the head with her knuckle.

“Hey!” Smee says.

“Come on, you guys. It’s Monday morning. We have all week to annoy each other,” I say.

Monday morning at Monarch High is different from other high schools, at least from what I’ve heard. The Scar used to be almost all Legacy—people born with a black heart on the wrist, directly descended from magic. When I was a little kid, that was all I knew. There were maybe a few bureaucrats from Midcity, businessmen from the Narrows, but it’s not like that anymore. After the Death of Magic, Legacies like my family became sitting ducks, and the Narrows—uptowners with no magic and chips on their shoulders—are like vultures, plucking up our real estate, forcing Legacy onto the streets, and worst of all making us interact with their horrid offspring until they finish building them a suitable private school on land they bought cheaply from us. So now we have an espresso stand, a caterer who comes in to deliver lunches no

Legacy can afford, and they just finished adding on a pool and world- class gym.

Legacies avoid all of it. We don’t like to be bought. So now we try to stand apart. We aren’t separated by jocks and geeks and metalheads and emo like I’ve seen on TV shows. We have separated Legacy from Narrows. Legacies wear black leather bands on our  arms. We  dye our hair. We dress like it’s a party all the time. We wear clothes with #LegacyLoyalty emblazoned across the front.

But it’s true, even though the school is first divided in two, it continues to divide. James and his Neverland crew—Ursula, Smee, and I—act as one unit, and then there’s everyone else.

James and I pause to kiss while Ursula stops to answer a call on her cell and Smee stands there waiting, hands in his pockets, watching the hall in his black-and-white-striped shirt like he’s our bouncer.

Ursula slips her phone back in her pocket and says, “What glorious class have we this morning? Magical History, you say? My favorite.”

“Dreena, six o’clock,” Smee mutters. “Get ready for some school spirit.” As though she’s heard someone speak her name, Dreena swoops over, flanked by Lola and Casey, draped in sequined scarves, hair in two blue

braids. She’s holding an armful of pamphlets.

“What do you want?” Ursula says as Dreena approaches. “Whatever you’re selling, we don’t need any. Although,” she says, reconsidering, “if there’s anything interesting you need, maybe I could get it for you? My prices are very reasonable.”

“I wanted to give you guys one of these.” Dreena hands each of us  a pamphlet. Smee immediately drops his to the floor and looks off into space, bored. “I know you aren’t political or whatever, but Lucas Attenborough’s dad wants to build a mall right in the  middle  of town. A mall. They would be tearing down a whole block. We have to  meet!  We  have  to  rally! This  is  unacceptable. We  can’t  allow  the Scar’s historical district to be destroyed.” Dreena would be a lot easier

to take if she weren’t so annoying all the time, so utterly sure of her position, sure enough to approach us even though we’ve worked hard to be unapproachable so we don’t have to deal with people like her.

“Dree Dree,” Ursula drawls, slapping her locker shut. “I like a mall as much as the next girl, but I’m on your side here. Loyalty all the way. The thing is, rallying isn’t going to do any good. What you need is someone who knows what’s going on in the back end. You need to find out who is paying whom and whether there might be a good reason for them to give up on their pet project.” Ursula weaves in a circle around Dreena, who is paling rapidly. “Who’s been sleeping with whom? Who did a naughty business deal and could be convinced to back off? That’s what makes this city tick.” She finishes with her mouth against Dreena’s ear. Dreena shrinks like a mouse.

“But,” Dreena says with less enthusiasm, watching Ursula carefully, “it’s not right! That should be enough. It’s not right for them to come in here and tear down those old buildings to put in some kind of fast fashion storefront.”

“Maybe not.” Urs pulls out her phone and starts scrolling through. “But Monarch is what it is, and you’re not going to change it noodling around with sad little handmade posters. I know a few people down there. Let me know if you want me to start poking around. I could pencil you in.” She smiles, her thick red lips parting hungrily. “I have next Thursday free.”

Dreena lifts her nose in the air, tries to rise to a height that doesn’t make  her  look  absolutely  tiny  next  to  Urs. It  doesn’t  work. “What would  that  cost?  Don’t  people  have  to  pay  you  in  secrets?” she  asks uncertainly.

Ursula shrugs. “Depends. I like money, too.” She grins. “And favors.” “I think I’m just going to stick to the old-fashioned way,” Dreena

says. “Sit-ins and what have you.”

“Suit yourself. Try it your way, see how far you get.”Now that Dreena’s

made her decision clear, Ursula seems to have lost interest and searches for something in her black leather backpack.

Dreena shuffles from one foot to the other, persisting. “Our meeting is going to be at the Tea Party tomorrow if you want to come.” She rustles the pile of pamphlets in her hand. “All are welcome.”

“Let me know if you change your mind,” Ursula says, looking up distractedly. “I’m all about making dreams and wishes come true.”

Dreena, who looks like she’s very much regretting her decision to come and talk to us, turns to head down the hallway. But before she can take a step, Stone Wallace goes flying across her path, into Smee, who shoves him away reflexively as we all search for the source of the fight. James steps in front of me and I get on tiptoes so I can see. Monarch High used to be a pretty mellow school. Not anymore. Not since the Narrows changed districts.

Stone is in a white T-shirt and black leather pants with hearts pressed into the material to match the birthmark on his wrist. It looks like scales on a dangerous snake. He’s usually one of the untouchable kids. He mostly hides behind the bass he plays at Wonderland, the local underage club, on weekends, and other than that keeps to himself. Apparently not today. Stone slams into Lucas Attenborough, who pushes him back easily, so Stone falls onto his back, loses his breath, and looks up at us in panic. Lucas gives him a kick that’s more symbolic than painful.

“Hey,” James says, getting between them, Smee at his side. “That’s enough.” His commanding tone stops Lucas, who trains his eyes on James, striking a perfect balance between tense and utterly confident. It doesn’t matter how rich or how entitled Lucas Attenborough is. He would have to be a complete moron to mess with Captain Crook, a name James half hates because the Bartholomews are a crime family he tries to distance himself from, but also uses when he has the need. And he has the need often.

Legacy kids have to take care of ourselves. Ninety-eight percent of

Legacy would rather party than fight, but with the advent of jerks like Lucas in our midst, we have to be on our game, ready for anything, all the time.

“Gawd,” Justin, an outspoken Amagicalist in a plaid suit, drawls from the corner. “If everyone would just accept that magic is dead, none of this would be happening. We could just move on.”

His friends all nod in agreement.

“Belief in magic is the root of all of society’s problems,” a dour girl in pin-straight pigtails says.

Lucas sniffs, looks around the hall to see that he’s totally outnumbered by Legacies, who are gathering rapidly. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are even there, each in matching pink, blue, and green gauzy dresses, and everyone knows they have weapons on them at all times because of their falling-out with Mally Saint.

“Stone deserved it,” Lucas says, staring around the hall with black eyes in challenge. “Not that any of you would ever listen to anything  I say.”

“No, we wouldn’t,” Smee agrees, giving Lucas a small shove. “Get your Narrow behind out of my hallway.”

Lucas straightens his shirt with a little adjustment of his neck. “How dare you put your grimy Legacy hands on me. Do you know who I am?” “Do I know who you are?” Smee starts doing a little boxer dance, raising his fists to eye level. “Do I know who you are? Punk. The

question is do you know who I am?”

Smee looks like he’s about to punch Lucas in the face, which will then lead to Lucas punching Smee in the face, which will probably mean James and the rest of his boys will jump in, so I step between them before the next terrible thing can happen. Everyone knows where this is going. If they fight, Smee will get blamed and suspended, and the rest of the Legacy kids will be impossible to control. If Lucas survives, he gets no punishment whatsoever, except maybe having to give an apology.

“Go to class, Lucas,” I say, so low it’s like there’s only the two of us in the hallway, and not a hundred Legacy kids and him. He glances around, showing his first sign of nerves. “You’re outnumbered, and if you stay and fight this fight, you’re going to lose.”

Lucas takes a slow look around, at all the bright colors and eyes, everyone’s stance taut and ready, and he snorts in obvious disdain, letting his eyes linger over my heart birthmark, eyes blazing with hatred. “There’ll be nothing left of the trash bucket you call home by the time you realize your mistake, and that’s going to be a better payoff than fighting Stone . . . and winning.” Lucas shrugs, like he’s shaking off unpleasant thoughts. “I guess you’re right, though. These are soft Italian leather.” He looks down at Stone, who is glaring up, still clutching at his side. “I don’t want to sully them.” He tips his shoe upward, puts his hands in his pockets, and as though there isn’t an entire mob of Legacy kids staring at his back, he saunters down the hallway.

When the crowd disperses, Mally Saint, the coldest girl in Monarch, is calmly depositing books from her locker into her very expensive- looking leather bag. Her raven, Hellion, sits on her shoulder watching the kids disappear into their classrooms. He gives a low caw.

“Shhh, pet,” she says, stroking him. Her black hair is cut into a sharp bob, and her inky clothes look like they were tailor-made from French silk draped to fit her body, which they probably were. Her black dress transitions smoothly to high-cut boots, and her signature epaulets and double-buttoned military-style jacket make her look like she’s ready for war. Her dad is rich. Super rich. Only he’s not from the Narrows uptown. He’s Legacy. And as though everything and everyone is in agreement about Mally being bigger and better than everyone around her, instead of appearing on her wrist, Mally’s black Legacy heart creeps from her chest up the side of her neck like a creature. She closes her locker, not a hint of stress, and looks over at us.

“Well, hi, gang,” she says.

“Mally,” James says.

She saunters by, Hellion watching all of us as she goes. “I would have let the boys fight,” she says to me. “That would have been real entertainment.” She lets a finger trail over my shoulder and I shudder in spite of myself. “That would have been . . . priceless.”

When she vanishes around the corner a few seconds later, Ursula says, “You know, the more I think about her, the more I like her.”

“You gotta be kidding,” Smee says. “She’s like some kind of soul sucker. Gives me the willies.”

“Soul suckers can be useful when they’re on your side.” Ursula gives Smee another thump on the head.

“You remember when she got in a fight with Flora and them,” Smee says. “I thought they were going to end up skinned.”

It’s true, that fight was epic. Fauna confided in me one night that Mally bossed them all around so much they decided not to invite her to their annual fairy feast to honor their fairy grandmothers. Mally took that as an act of war. She showed up at the party and stood there with her arms crossed while Hellion flew everywhere, digging his talons into the rose blossom cake, knocking over the vat of ginger beer, pecking into the chestnut-roasted suckling pig. I was at that party, and the scariest part about it was that look on Mally’s face. No one would get near her because of that half smirk, but mostly it was just her cold, dark knowing. She would not be crossed lightly. But even ruining that party wasn’t enough for her. Mally cut Flora’s brake lines, left roadkill on  Fauna’s  doorstep, bleached  Merryweather’s  grass. They  still  don’t speak. Ever. Now Mally is always alone, slipping through the hallways like some high-fashion untouchable ghost.

Anyway. Just another typical Monday morning at Monarch High.

Violence. Territorialism.

It’s just that lately it feels like things are getting worse.