|“||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 a 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 lacked the beard.
Barnes is extremely loyal to Szilard to the point of exaltation, considering him to be an 'exalted personage' and his 'Master' even as Szilard is executing him.
With others, Barnes is largely mistrusting and misanthropic. His rudeness toward Dallas and his friends is understandable given that they assault him, but he even snaps at Firo Prochainezo despite Firo being the one to rescue him. Most chilling of all, Barnes has no qualms about 'disposing' the blenders under his command once he has no more use for them.
His demeanor may not have always been so abrasive: as a boy, he wanted to protect his mother from her abusive partner but was powerless to help. It is at the very least confirmed that it was his career as a realtor that led him to become arrogant and conceited; however, once he becomes Szilard's subordinate, he loses much of his ego for the sake of deifying Szilard. His exaltation of Szilard is likely why he views himself as a 'stunted creature' in 1930, believing that only through eternal life will he finally become an 'exceptional being.'
Barnes is first exposed to the concept of 'eternal life' through works of fiction read in his boyhood. For all his outward scorn toward such an absurd idea, in reality there is nothing he yearns for more; as an ordinary boy he is powerless, but if he were immortal he would be able to protect his mother from her physical abuser. His secret dream of becoming a hero is never realized, as his mother and her abuser eventually die in an automobile accident.
As an adult Barnes finds success as a realtor, acquiring business acumen and influential contacts and becoming arrogant and conceited along the way. 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 until Szilard severs his own finger in front of him. Barnes' childish desire for eternity is rekindled once more by the regeneration process, and he swears loyalty to Szilard's cause.
Once Barnes becomes an incomplete immortal, he is given the role of "employing and managing a blender who would create the finished product." He wonders why someone inexperienced like him would be given such an honor, and though he does not understand Szilard's reason (he cannot trust those who are knowledgeable about alchemy) accepts is regardless—because whatever Szilard says cannot possibly be wrong.
In the ensuing 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.'
Barnes and his latest blender finally complete the Cure-All Elixir by November. He gives the blender a hefty monetary reward rather than disposing of him, thinking that the blender might be handy to keep around for the upcoming mass production of the elixir. However, he later learns that the blender was mugged and murdered at the hands of a beggar—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. He 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 wakes to Firo Prochainezo slapping his cheek. The pain has subsided; his internal bleeding and broken bones have recovered. Suspicious of Firo's motives (and claim that he single-handedly defeated all four men), he opens the crate and is relieved to see the bottles intact. When Firo inquires as to the box's contents, Barnes slams the lid shut, refuses to answer, and offers Firo as much money as he wants if it will make him leave.
Firo grimaces, asking him if he has seen a woman in a 'lightweight black suit'. Barnes is reminded of Ennis but says that he has not, and Firo thanks him before hurrying off. Alone, Barnes briefly wonders why Firo would be looking for Szilard's chauffeur before he resumes his trek through the alleys. While less safe than the main streets, it is the fastest way to get to Szilard—and once Barnes is a complete immortal, he can simply arrange for Dallas and his friends to meet with 'fatal accidents'.
Given Barnes' failure to protect the elixir, he is all too aware that Szilard will devour him as punishment before such a day arrives. Though he knows he deserves to be punished for failing the mission "his exalted personage" entrusted to him, it is the desperate hope that he will be pardoned that keeps him moving—only for fate to deal 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.
His bones have yet to completely regenerate when Ennis finds him, and he does not regain consciousness until after she delivers him to Szilard's hideout. When he wakes upon a couch, he is chastened to see Szilard ('his lord') standing before him. Meanwhile, the other elderly members of Szilard's circle hover in the background, 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. He accuses her of balking at the thought of killing someone she only barely knows, and it is only when his hand reaches out that Barnes finally affirms that Szilard does indeed intend to kill him. Even now, he is firm in his belief that his death cannot be helped, and he convinces himself that he should be honored to be executed by "Master Szilard" personally.
Barnes' devourment is described from his point of view, and in minute detail. He 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. When he realizes that his memories are being siphoned, he has a moment of clarity: in a way, he will still be achieving eternal life since everything he is will become part of Master Szilard.
By this point he has disappeared up to his stomach, and he desperately tries to remember the reason he wanted eternal life in the first place even as his short-term memories leave him. Finally, it comes to him: he wanted to become a hero, to save his mother from the man who beat her daily. He cannot remember who the man was, but he knows that he died in an accident with 'mommy'. He no longer remembers what a 'mommy' is; he no longer remembers what remembering is; his thoughts die away, and his devourment is complete.
- It is rumored that Paula Wilmens (Barnes' subordinate) was actually his extremely young daughter born to a mistress, but this rumor has yet to be confirmed. If true, it would make Mark Wilmens his 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 Beggar 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.