You may have seen Bettyisms pop up on social media every once in awhile or in my monthly newsletter. As you know, if you’ve read Dollar Signs, Betty is the mothering office manager of the Law Office of Merit Bridges. I was recently asked in an interview with BookPeople about Betty:
Q: Betty is one of my favorite characters in the book—the combination of “tough as nails” yet “motherly/grandmotherly” is intriguing. What was your inspiration for her?
A: Betty was named after my office manager of many years who passed away a few years ago. The character is an amalgamation of the real Betty, two of my Aunts, and the quintessential Texas prairie woman who had to be stronger than steel to survive.
Here are a couple of Betty’s favorite sayings followed by one of my favorite scenes involving her from Dollar Signs.
Boots King approached Merit’s office, peeking out from under his Stetson to scan the floor for cameras and security guards. He didn’t see anything, so he went to the double glass doors marked “Law Office of Merit Bridges.” He looked inside and ducked just as the security camera swept by the front door in its rotation. He turned his body flat against the wall next to the glass and looked into the office from the side. After the camera had swept the door again, he turned his body against the opposite wall and looked into the office from the other side of the door.
“That camera wasn’t here before.”
He was sure he hadn’t been seen, but he could find no way to enter the office without exposing himself to the camera while picking the lock. He looked down the hall seeking another entrance. There were many doors opening onto the hallway from various offices. He took a guess at a door based on the apparent size of the law office and began to work the lock. It was not yielding. Felt like a dead bolt was holding on the inside. As he tried again, he heard the elevator ding and the rustling of fabric with movement. He froze, and then backed up very slowly into the shadows at the end of the hallway.
Betty walked toward the door humming an old Jerry Jeff Walker standard that Boots recognized, but couldn’t name.
Damn, she’s an early bird, Boots thought.
If he could catch her before she got to the glass door, and the camera, he could get behind her and force her to unlock the door. The camera could catch his face, unless he placed the hat just so and he couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t knock it off if she resisted. Maybe he could get the recording once he got into the office and destroy it, but what if the recorder was off site or in the security office downstairs? If he was careful, she couldn’t identify him, but then his face might be linked to the break in and mugging.
Betty stopped at the door, keys in hand. She froze for a second. She barely let out her breath, dropped the keys, and reached into her purse, but did not remove anything. Instead, she pointed the end of her handbag at the shadow with her hand inside.
“I know you’re down there,” she said. “I’m packin’, and I’ll be glad enough to shoot your ass.”
Tough old bird, Boots thought. She’ll probably shoot me right through that purse.
“Show yourself,” Betty said.
She could see the outline of a hat and the pointed toe of a boot at the edge of the light.
Boots stayed in the shadows and assessed his next move. He didn’t think she could see him well enough to hit him as long as he stayed in the dark.
Betty backed slowly down the hall with the handbag out before her until she got to the elevator and pushed the button inside. Still in his hiding place, Boots debated whether to take a quick peek using the keys she’d dropped or take off down the stairs. Flight won out and he left the building the way he’d entered, with his hat pulled low.
“Damn, double damn,” Boots said.
I’ll be sharing more Bettyisms and stories from Dollar Signs at BookPeople here in Austin on Tuesday, July 12, at 8 p.m. Hope to see you there. Until then…