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Lisa Morton

First published in 2009 by Gray Friar Press.
9 Abbey Terrace, Whitby,
North Yorkshire, YO21 3HQ, England.

Text Copyright © Lisa Morton 2009
Cover copyright © Gary Fry 2009

Typesetting by Gary Fry

The moral rights of the author and illustrator have been
asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without
the prior permission of Gray Friar Press.

All characters in this book are fictitious, and any
resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is

ISBN: 978-1-906331-09-2
Praise for

“The Castle of Los Angeles is, quite simply, a superlative
piece of storytelling, one that will echo in your mind long after
the lights have gone out, the seats have been put back in place,
the makeup stored away, and the last actor leaves the theatre,
making sure to close and lock the backstage door behind them.
Had this been a play, I would have been on my feet
cheering “Bravo!” at the top of my voice.
I guarantee you’ll feel the same way.”

- From the Introduction by Gary A. Braunbeck

“Lisa Morton deserves my special thanks for digesting our
particular world and giving it back to me in another form,
colored by an intelligence that is, whether she knows it or not,
as unique as a fingerprint.”

- Dennis Etchison

The Castle of Los Angeles is now available
for order from Gray Friar Press or

For more on Lisa Morton, please visit
Chapter 1

B eth huddled in the brick-lined entrance, listening to the
susurration of the light rain against the turrets and
gargoyles overhead, feeling the bulk of the Castle both holding
out the night and pressing down on her, and she felt not unease
but a strange comfort.
I could belong here, she thought.
A few blocks away the 5 freeway funneled traffic through
Los Angeles, creating a perpetual roar, but tonight it blended
pleasantly with the sound of the falling water. She knew the
L.A. River was just beyond the freeway, efficiently channeling
the rainwater through its manmade troughs until it reached
Glendale, where a few short sections of nature had been
negligently allowed to intrude, mud and wildlife replacing
concrete. Although she couldn’t see downtown from this – the
northern – side of the Castle, the skyscrapers’ lights reflected
off the drizzle and clouds, turning the night from black to deep
gray. The sound, the smell of wet pavement, the glint of red
stoplights on the streets, the feel of the cool moist May air on
her skin, all combined in Beth to elicit a tremble of pleasure.
Here she was at the Castle – that great brooding testament
to the fact that Los Angeles actually did have a history – and
Beth felt more at home here than she’d ever felt anywhere else
in her life. She realized now that she’d never thought of her
aunt’s sunny little two-bedroom house in Pasadena as home,
even though she’d spent most of her life there. She knew that
house as intimately as she knew her own eyes in the mirror, but
she’d always felt somehow that the place didn’t fit her, perhaps
because her eyes weren’t the blue or green or gray ones of her
neighbors. Her skin was a half-shade too dark, her hair a glossy
ebony, her last name Ortiz, and she sometimes felt just tolerated
among the Carters and Johnsons and Smiths.
But here…the Castle felt like an extension of her.
Her attention was pulled away from the desolate, rainy, late-
night industrial street in front of her as she heard two male

voices raised in laughter, inside the Castle. Beth smiled, and
turned away, letting the security door close behind her, sealing
the night out. She headed back down the short common
hallway, around the corner, and through the open doorway into
the small theater-nee-artist’s loft.
In the far back corner, Terry and Eric were bent over the
dimmer board in the makeshift tech booth, giggling like
schoolboys. When they saw her, they each raised a half-empty
beer bottle in salute.
“Are you kids done yet?” Beth asked. “It’s almost one, you
The two men laughed again, then Terry turned the dimmer
board off as Eric sauntered up to her. At six feet, with auburn
hair and straight, dark brows, he was handsome enough to be an
actor, but instead had felt directing was his true vocation. His
eyes flashed, whether from drink or mischief or both, as he
swaggered up to her, his charisma preceding him like a wave
before a storm.
They’d known each other since college, and she’d been his
friend and confidante as he’d slept his way through a profusion
of actresses, wannabee-actresses, waitresses, and non-thespians.
He’d had beauties, he’d had minor celebrities, and he’d had
some who weren’t as attractive as Beth…but he’d never so
much as flirted with her.
Beth was content with the situation. She saw how the
women Eric slept with quickly drifted out of his life, while
she’d been one of his best friends for nearly ten years. She’d
had her own affairs, of course, a few brief entanglements that
had simply faded rather than truly ending, because ending them
would have required more energy than she was willing to offer.
Beth left her small loves knowing little more about her
erstwhile partners than she had before she’d met them, all while
knowing Eric intimately. Beth liked being the woman he always
came back to; she enjoyed subtly desiring him, and understood
that the desire was probably far more pleasurable than the
actual having would have been.
Yet she couldn’t help but wonder…if he ever did
proposition her (or, as Beth’s friend Miki had suggested, if
either of them “ever came to their senses”), would she turn him

She couldn’t answer that.
So here he came, and she saw that he was very drunk from
the after-show party, and his smile was a little broader than
usual, his walk closer to a stagger…and he stopped just before
her as the grin fell away, revealing something more serious
Beth held her breath, suddenly nervous.
“We need to talk,” he said. “I’ve got a big question for
“Uh-oh,” Beth answered, trying to sound amused. “Should I
gird my loins?”
Eric looked away, and Beth suddenly saw that he was
unhappy. This wasn’t about her, then, and she felt both
disappointment and relief.
“It’s my dad. He’s had a stroke, and he’s going to need full-
time care.”
“Oh, God, that’s terrible. I’m sorry.”
Eric’s whole body suddenly sagged like a broken-stringed
marionette. “Beth, I’ve got to go.”
“For how long?”
“For good. I’m moving back to Michigan.”
Beth’s mouth worked silently for a moment, then managed
a single, “Oh.”
She looked around the little black-box theater, with its
forty-nine seats and tiny raised stage and muslin-covered flats
lining the back wall, and she felt the loss as a physical thing, a
blow. She’d been ecstatic when Eric had moved into the Castle
two years ago and used his artist’s loft to set up his own small
theater. She’d directed two of her best shows there, including
the production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted that had closed its
successful run three hours ago. She’d grown to love the
absurdly small space Eric had dubbed the Lofty Repertory
Company, and she’d already been planning future productions
And Eric would be gone.
“Are you sure?” she asked, hopefully, already knowing the
“There’s not really any choice. Bethy, my dad’s really sick,

mom’s not there to take care of him, my brother won’t help, and
I…well, I just don’t know how long he’ll last. It could be two
months, it could be ten years. He won’t let us put him in a
home, and I can’t say as I blame him –”
“No, no,” Beth cut him off, “you’re doing the right thing.
Only…what about the theater? It seems like it was really
starting to do well, the houses have been so good, the
Beth trailed off helplessly, her hands fluttering until she
forced them to stop.
Eric glanced back over one shoulder, and for the first time
Beth realized Terry was still waiting back there by the tech
booth, in semi-darkness.
Eric turned back to Beth and said, “Well, that’s why we
were hoping…you might like to move in.”
“With Terry?” she asked. In the far corner, she saw Terry’s
dim form execute a tentative wave.
“Yeah, with Terry. That way you could afford it. The lease
is actually in Terry’s name, so you don’t have to change that.
You know it’s usually a five-year wait to get in here…”
“I know,” Beth said, and looked back to see Terry
sauntering forward, looking expectant and anxious.
She hadn’t known Terry all that long, only since he and Eric
had opened the theater two years ago. Terry was what Beth
thought of as a “theater nerd”: A tech guy who was great with
lights and sound, and (thankfully) had absolutely no aspirations
to act, direct or write. Terry even looked the part: Rail thin,
frizzy brown hair, glasses, a hint of moustache, rumpled t-shirts
sporting logos for computer games or bad rock bands. She liked
him, although she’d never exchanged more than fifty words
with him that weren’t dedicated to spotlights or gels or creating
“You’d have your own bedroom, of course,” Terry said,
then pushed his glasses up his nose as he added, “we’d have to
share the bathroom, but I’m clean.”
I’d be in Eric’s bedroom, Beth thought, with more than a
little irony.
“Well,” she said, drawing out the suspense as dramatically
as possible, before adding, “I think that could work.”

Eric and Terry shared a grin, then Terry thrust a hand
forward, and Beth took it. “Welcome aboard, partner.”
She released Terry’s hand, then turned to Eric, who swayed
slightly as he looked down at her. “Shit, Beth, I can’t tell you
how scared I was you’d say ‘no’.”
“But you knew I wouldn’t, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I did.” He suddenly danced backwards, swinging
both arms and hips. “Hey, let’s go out and celebrate. Get
“You’re already drunk,” Beth told him.
“Drunker, then.” He clapped his hands and did a clumsy
little jig that set Beth to laughing.
“Okay, great god Pan, let’s go celebrate. But let’s get food
instead - The Pantry’s still open, and I’m driving.”
Eric suddenly pointed at her dramatically, ala Elvis. “You
wait there – I’ll be right back. Just need a jacket.”
She laughed again as he ran off. Terry wasn’t around, and
she assumed he’d already gone back to his own room.
She turned away, eyeing the Lofty Repertory Company
theater with new eyes.
It’s mine now.
She nodded, pleased, took a step forward – and then
stopped as she saw something:
One of the stage lights was on. She thought she’d seen
Terry turn off the entire dimmer board, but one was definitely
lit. It was a low light, positioned unseen just behind the flats to
cast dramatic silhouettes onto the side wall.
Like the one there now.
A man’s shadow jittered slightly in the bright light. I didn’t
see Terry go back there, Beth thought.
“Terry?” she called.
There was no answer. The figure moved only slightly, and
Beth felt the damp night air suddenly roll down the hallway and
into the theater.
“Hello?” she asked, taking a tentative step forward.
The light went out, and the shape disappeared.
The front part of the theater was plunged into darkness, and
Beth realized the house lights weren’t on. Hadn’t they been lit
for the after-show party tonight? When had they been turned

off? The only light came from the rear of the space, a 25-watt
desk lamp in the tech booth and spillover from the hallway.
“Terry?” she called, louder, hoping he’d appear and turn on
the lights.
He didn’t.
I just have to find the house lights, Beth thought. She knew
the switch for the overhead fluorescents was just behind her,
next to the main door, but she was too intent on listening to
move. Was someone in the theater with her, someone who had
perhaps hidden behind the flats and waited until the space was
empty…except for her?
She made her way to the hallway door, painfully banging a
shin against a theater seat on the way. The switch, the damned
light switch was here by the door, wasn’t it?
She felt along the wall on either side of the doorway, but
her groping fingers found nothing. She almost stepped into the
hallway, then instead followed the desk light to the tech booth.
From there she could turn on the dimmer board, fill the stage
with light –
– then she heard the distinct sound of clothes rustling, and
realized she absolutely was not alone.
She froze in place, every sense straining against the
darkness around her. The cold night air had found her, in the
theater, and she shivered, fighting it down to concentrate on
listening, looking. She thought she could make out a shape near
the front of the stage now, moving forward, slowly, so slowly.
She lurched towards the tech booth and then her fingers
scrabbled over the dimmer board, frantically trying to find the
main power switch –
The house lights came on.
Beth jumped, her heart slamming, and whirled to see Terry
standing by the main door, his fingers still on the light switch
there, the one she’d somehow missed.
“Why were you here in the dark?” he said, half-laughing.
“Terry, there’s somebody in here.”
Terry went pale, his hand falling limply away from the
switch. He looked around, saw no one, and turned back to her,
Beth walked out of the tech booth and told her feet to do the

work of taking her up the central aisle of the theater to the
stage, the empty stage, then around the edge of the flats, to…
There was no one there.
She looked around the theater a last time, then turned to the
bewildered Terry. “There was somebody in here. The light
behind the flats came on –”
“Number six?” Terry asked, then shook his head. “But I
turned off the whole board.”
Beth leaned over the light and waved her fingers around it.
It was a work light that had been ingeniously framed to create a
circular spot – and it was still steaming.
Beth pulled her fingers back and leaned around the edge of
the flats. “The light’s still hot.”
“I don’t know how it could be. Huh.”
Beth considered pursuing it, but realized Terry was now her
roommate and her business partner, and she didn’t need to
begin their new relationship by trying to solve something that
was probably a one-time freak occurrence.
“Oh, well,” she said, and then smiled broadly at Eric as he
re-entered the space, hoping his company and a late-night meal
of pork chops and eggs would make Terry forget what had
Even if she wouldn’t.


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