|“||I wanted eternal life because I thought...I could become a hero, like the ones in myths and legends...and protect this land. No, that's wrong, it wasn't the land. Mommy. It was to save mommy. From that guy, the one who hit her every day.||”|
–Barnes' final thoughts, The Rolling Bootlegs
Barnes (バーンズ Bānzu) is the incomplete immortal responsible for overseeing and managing the blenders (chemists) who work on Szilard Quates' infamous Cure-All Elixir. Three dozen bottles of the completed elixir finally come to fruition in November 1930 - only for a freak conflagration to afflict the Barnes Company Granary building in which they were held.
Barnes manages to rescue two bottles from the fire, and he packs them in a crate and leaves to take them to Szilard. He is accosted twice by Dallas Genoard's gang, who end up stealing the crate during the second encounter. Ennis soon finds Barnes and brings him to Szilard, who ends up devouring Barnes as punishment for his failure.
Barnes has grey hair with bangs parted in the middle, a thick mustache, and rounded beard. In the anime he has a bald spot on the top of his head; in the 2015 manga he does not.
When he was twenty years younger, Barnes had the same style of mustache as he does in 1930, but not the beard.
Barnes is extremely loyal to Szilard, and refers to him as an 'exalted personage' and a 'great man.' He is loyal to Szilard even in his final moments - when the man himself devours him.
With other people, however, Barnes comes across as mistrusting and misanthropic. With Dallas and co. it is understandable (given that they assault him), but Barnes snaps at Firo Prochainezo after the capo rescues him. Barnes has no compunctions over 'disposing' of the blenders under his command once he has no more use for them.
It appears that he was different as a child: as a child, he wanted to become a hero and protect his mother from her abusive partner.
Barnes views his mortal self as a 'stunted creature', and that only by obtaining eternal life he will become an 'exceptional being.'
Growing up, Barnes had always scoffed at the idea of eternal life whenever he came across it in fiction as a "hackneyed pipe dream." Years later, he would come to regard his youthful attitude towards immortality as 'superficial' - essentially hiding his true yearning for such a reality.
It is later revealed that Barnes yearned for eternal life because he wanted to become a hero and save his mother from the man who hit her daily. He never saw this dream realized - his mother died in an accident with the man. When the accident happened is unknown.
As an adult, Barnes finds success as a realtor, well-regarded in the real-estate world and flush with influential friends. His prominent status leads him to become arrogant and conceited. Eventually, a congressman friend of his reveals that he is a member of Szilard Quates' inner circle, and he introduces Barnes to Szilard in 1910. Barnes is initially skeptical of Szilard's plan to recreate the Grand Panacea...until Szilard severes his own finger in front of him. Barnes' childish desire for eternity is rekindled once more by the sight, Barnes swears loyalty to Szilard's cause.
At some point, Barnes is given Szilard's 'failed' elixir and he becomes an incomplete immortal - physically indestructible, but not exempt from the aging process and dying of old age. Barnes is then given the role of "employing and managing a blender who would create the finished product." Barnes wonders why he - someone so unknowledgeable - would be given such an honor, and Szilard explains that he can't trust someone who knows "too much about alchemy." Barnes does not fully understand his reasoning but accepts it anyway, because in his mind whatever Szilard says cannot possibly be wrong.
In the twenty year interim, Barnes issues orders to the various blenders who come under his employ, and administers the blenders' concoctions to their test subjects - a special variety of white rat designed by Szilard to only live seven days. The concoctions are laced with strong poisons, so as to ensure the blenders do not drink them. If the white rat drinks a concoction that is not the 'finished product' it dies instantly, unless the concoction is the failed product (in which case it dies of old age).
Barnes constantly has to deal with the trouble caused by Prohibition, a law he believes was created by 'incompetents.' Since the elixir uses alcohol as a catalyst, Barnes and his blender(s) cannot make use of a large factory, nor produce large materials in bulk. Meanwhile, Barnes changes blenders at regular intervals; blenders for whom he has no more use are met with 'fatal accidents.'
November 1930 Edit
Barnes and his latest blender finally complete the cure-all elixir by November 1930. Rather than disposing of the blender, Barnes thinks that he might be able to make use of the man for the upcoming mass production of the elixir and gives the blender a hefty monetary reward instead. However, through the grapevine Barnes learns of the blender's murder and theft of his wallet at the hands of a brigand - apparently the money had gone to the blender's head. Barnes is completely unmoved by the blender's death, callously remarking that his money and his life were all he was worth.
The next day, Barnes pins a rat to his desk by driving nails into its feet. This rat has survived fifteen days already, and has demonstrated no growth since it was given the latest iteration of the elixir on its third day of life; undoubtedly living proof that the blender really did discover the finished product. Barnes brings his hammer down upon the creature, splattering blood and intestines across the wood. After several dozen seconds of impatient waiting on his part, the rat regenerates. In Barnes' view, it is a miracle.
Slightly jealous that the rat has obtained eternity before him, Barnes smashes it with a hammer again. Immediately afterwards, he hears a 'tapping noise' from the floor of the room above. He recognizes it (or at least, thinks he recognizes it) as a signal from one of the other members of Szilard's circle, and he flips a switch that illuminates a lightbulb on the first floor. After a short interval, he hears another commotion from upstairs. Excited at the prospect of it possibly being Szilard having come to claim the elixir, Barnes ascends the cellar stairs and opens the trapdoor in the ceiling.
He is aghast to see that the ground floor is completely aflame; debris falls from the ceiling and hot wind blowing through the room. Horrified (and confused - there was nothing flammable upstairs), Barnes rushes downstairs to save the liquor. However, the crate filled with the finished product is too heavy for him to carry, and he curses himself for being weak. Helplessly, he wishes for someone to come and help him. Nobody comes.
Desperately, Barnes takes two of the bottles and packs them into a heavy crate that is small enough to carry. He escapes the burning granary with the crate, and makes his way into the alleys. There, he is confronted by Dallas Genoard and three other men, who 'offer to carry' the box for him since it looks so heavy. Barnes tells them to get lost ("lowlife scum") and in response Dallas trips him. The men physically assault him, and a final kick to Barnes' skull causes him to pass out.
A few minutes later, Barnes comes to thanks to Firo Prochainezo slapping his cheek. The pain has subsided; his internal bleeding and broken bones have recovered. Barnes is relieved to find that he is still holding the crate and he shoots Firo a suspicious look, finding it hard to believe that the 'boy' could have dealt with the gang all by himself. He opens the crate and is relieved to find the bottles intact. When Firo asks what's inside the box, Barnes slams the lid shut and hugs the crate to his chest, spitting that it's nothing to do with a scoundrel like Firo. He'll give Firo as much money as he wants if it will make him go away.
Firo grimaces, but brushes off Barnes' words and asks him if he has seen a woman in a 'lightweight black suit.' Barnes is reminded of Ennis - Szilard's chauffeur, the only woman he knows who fits the description (and the only other person who can kill him). He says that he has not, and Firo thanks him before hurrying off. Barnes sits there, wondering why the young man is looking for Szilard's chauffeur. He is so distracted by this thought that he does not stop to ponder the more relevant question - why Firo had not been more upset by the way Barnes had spoken to him.
Barnes stands and resumes making his way through the alleys. While less safe than the main streets, it is the fastest way to get to Szilard - and once Barnes a complete immortal, he can arrange for the ruffians from earlier to meet with 'fatal accidents.' Then again...Barnes asks himself whether he will end up obtaining eternity at all, since he was only able to protect two bottles of the finished product (even if the fire was an accident). He admits that it's entirely likely that Szilard will kill him as punishment, an action he understands completely. After all, Barnes had failed the mission "his exalted personage" entrusted to him.
The desperate hope that perhaps - just perhaps - Szilard will pardon him and grant him immortality is enough to keep Barnes' feet moving towards his goal. However, fate deals him another hand: Dallas and company seize him and break his arms and legs. Barnes passes out from the pain, and they toss him onto a garbage dump and steal the crate.
When Ennis finds Barnes, his bones still have yet to completely regenerate.
Ennis takes Barnes' unconscious form to the secret basement room in which Szilard and his elderly sponsors have congregated. Barnes wakes upon a couch, and is chastened to see Szilard ('his lord') standing before him. Meanwhile, the other elderly members of Szilard's circle stand behind him, each grieving for the loss of the completed elixir in their own fashion.
Szilard demands to know why Ennis did not kill Barnes, and Ennis explains that she thought it would be useful to find out what happened first. Szilard accuses her of balking at the thought of killing someone she only barely knows, and reaches his right hand out towards Barnes' forehead. Barnes realizes that Szilard does indeed intend to kill him. He still believes firmly that there is no helping it, since he failed in his mission. He should be honored just to be executed by "Master Szilard's" himself.
Barnes' devourment is described from his point of view, and in minute detail. As soon as Szilard's hand touches his head, Barnes can feel 'it' (i.e. everything) snatched away from him - he can feel the blood gathering in his head, his muscles shriveling and drying up (starting at his toes), his skin desiccating and crumbling, his legs dissolving away. He can even feel his memories beings siphoned away - and in a moment of clarity he realizes that in a way he will gain eternal life, since everything he is will become part of Master Szilard. But why did he want eternal life?
By now he has disappeared up to his stomach, and he desperately tries to remember the reason (all the while losing his short-term memories--why is his stomach gone? Why is Master Szilard punishing him? Oh that's right, he failed to carry out the mission. But what was the mission?)
Suddenly, he remembers why he wanted eternal life in the first place. To become a hero and save his mother from the man who beat her daily. He can't remember who the man was, but he knows that he died in an accident with 'mommy.' But now he can't remember what a 'mommy' is, nor can he remember what remembering is.
His thoughts die away. His devourment is complete.
- It is rumored around town that Paula Wilmans (Barnes' subordinate) was actually his extremely young daughter born to a mistress, but there is currently no way to know if the rumor is true. (See 1932 ~ Summer: Man in the Killer)
- If it is, then it would mean that Mark Wilmans is Barnes' grandson.
- It is probable that 'Barnes' is his surname, since the name of the granary is "BARNES CO. GRANARY." Thus far, his full name has not been given.
- In the novels, it is emphasized that had Barnes paused in the alleyway to consider why Firo had not been more upset by the way Barnes had spoken to him (instead of why Firo was looking for Ennis), events might have played out differently - including Barnes' own fate.
- "If Barnes had only caught on, the destinies of Firo and the others might have changed dramatically (his own not withstanding). Unfortunately, Barnes never did catch on. Quietly, the tracks of destiny began to spiral." (The Rolling Bootlegs, p. 68)
- The brigand who murdered the blender in 1930 was coincidentally the same brigand who attempted to rob Firo and was arrested by Edward Noah. He was also the same brigand that Dallas' group had assaulted and robbed earlier that month.