The Isle of the Lost (Page 11)
He saluted and tossed the banana peel on the floor, and they both watched gleefully as a fellow student slipped and fell. Things like that never got old.
Mal smiled, her green eyes glittering a little more like her mother’s than usual. “Let’s go. I have a party to throw.” And someone to throw it at.
Carlos never shied from a mission, and if Mal wanted a howler, there was no alternative but to provide one. There was nothing he could do about it, AP Evil Penchant or not. He knew his place on the totem pole.
First things first: a party couldn’t be a party without guests. Which meant people. Lots of people. Bodies. Dancing. Talking. Drinking. Eating. Playing games. He had to get the word out.
Thankfully it didn’t take too long for everyone he crossed paths with at school, and the minions of everyone they crossed paths with, to spread the word. Because Carlos didn’t so much issue an invitation as deliver a threat.
He didn’t mince words, and the threats only grew more exaggerated as the school day wore on. The rumors spread like the gusty, salty wind that blew up from the alligator-infested waters surrounding the island.
“Be there, or Mal will find you,” he said to his squat little lab partner, Le Fou Deux, as they both dissected a frog that would never turn into a prince in Unnatural Biology class.
“Be there, or Mal will find you and ban you from the city streets,” he whispered to the Gastons as they took turns stuffing each other in doomball nets in PE.
“Be there, or Mal will find you and ban you and make everyone forget you, and from this day onward you will be known only by the name of Slop!” he said almost hysterically to a group of frightened first-years gathered for a meeting of the Anti-Social Club, which was planning the school’s annual Foul Ball. They turned pale at his words and desperately promised their attendance, even as they trembled at the thought.
By the end of the day, Carlos had secured dozens of RSVPs. Now, that wasn’t too hard, he thought, putting away his books in his locker and releasing the first-year who’d been trapped inside.
“Hey, man.” Carlos nodded.
“Thanks, I really have to pee,” squeaked the unfortunate student.
“Sure,” Carlos said, scrunching his nose. “Oh, and there’s a party. My house. Midnight.”
“I heard, I’ll be there! Wouldn’t miss it!” the first-year said, raising his fist to the air in excitement.
Carlos nodded, feeling mollified and more than a little impressed that even someone who’d been trapped inside a locker all day had heard the news about the party. He was a natural! Maybe party planning was in his blood. His mother certainly knew how to enjoy herself, didn’t she? Cruella was always telling him how boring he was because all he liked to do was fiddle with electronics all day. His mother declared he was wasting his time, that he was useless at everything except chores, and so maybe if he threw a good party, he could prove her wrong. Not that she would be around to witness it, though. She’d probably be enraged to discover her Hell Hall crawling with teenagers. Still, he wished that one day Cruella could see him as more than just a live-in servant who happened to be related to her.
He made his way home, his mind awhirl. With the guests secured, all he had to do was get the house ready for the blessed event—and that couldn’t be too hard, could it?
A few hours later, Carlos took it all back. “Why did I ever agree to have this party?” he agonized aloud. “I never wanted to have a party.” He raked his fingers through his curly, speckled hair, which made it stick up in a frazzle, a lot like Cruella’s own do.
“You mean tonight?” A voice echoed from the other end of the crumbling ballroom, from behind the giant, tarnished statue of a great knight.
“I mean ever,” sighed Carlos. It was true. He was a man of science, not society. Not even evil society.
But here he was, decorating Hell Hall, which had seen better days long before he’d been born. Still, the decrepit Victorian mansion was one of the grandest on the island, covered in vines more twisted than Cruella’s own mind, and gated with iron more wrought than Cruella’s own daily hysterias.
The main ballroom was now draped in the sagging black-and-white crepe paper and partly deflated black-and-white balloons that Carlos had pilfered from a sad stack of dusty boxes stashed in his building’s basement. Those few boxes, stamped De Vil Industries, were all that remained of the former De Vil fashion empire—the merest scraps of a better life that had long since faded away.
His mother, of course, would be furious when she saw that Carlos had gotten into her boxes again—“My stolen treasures,” she’d scream, “my lost babies!”—but Carlos was a pragmatist, and a scavenger.
Why his mother had ever been obsessed with black-and-white Dalmatian puppies, he had no idea. He was terrified of those things; but she had been prepared to own one hundred and one of them, so there was a lot of stuff to scavenge.
Over the years, he’d repurposed more than a few empty crates—scientists requiring bookshelves as they did—abandoned leashes—nylon withstanding the elements as it did—and unsqueaked squeaky toys—rubber repelling electricity as it did—that had fallen by the wayside when his mother’s plans were foiled.
An AP Evil scientist and inventor like Carlos couldn’t afford to be choosy. He needed materials for his research.
“Why did you agree to this party? Easy. Because Mal asked you to,” Carlos’s second-best friend Harry said, shaking his head as he wiggled his fingers, tape dangling from each one. “Maybe you should try, for your next invention, to build something that would free us all from her mind control.”
His third-best friend, Jace, tried to take a piece of tape but only succeeded in taping himself to Harry. “Yeah, right. No one can stand up to Mal,” said Jace. “As if.”
Harry (Harold) and Jace (Jason) were the sons of Horace and Jasper, Cruella’s loyal minions, the two blundering thieves who had attempted to kidnap the one hundred and one Dalmatian puppies for her and failed miserably. Just like their fathers, Harry and Jace tried to look like they were more capable and less nervous than they actually were.
But Carlos knew otherwise.
Harry, as short and fat as his father, could barely reach to fasten his side of the ebony streamer. Jace, taller even than his own tall, scrawny father, didn’t have that same problem but, as previously mentioned, couldn’t manage to figure out the tape dispenser. Between them, they didn’t exactly constitute a brain trust. More like a brain mis-trust.