|“||Most people are fitted with Lead Boots when they are just little kids and have to wear them all their lives. These Lead Boots are called A CONSCIENCE. I have none, so I can soar high above the heads of the Normal Crowd.||„|
|~ Brady, in his letter to Ret. Detective Hodges|
Brady Hartsfield, also known as Mr. Mercedes and The Mercedes Killer, is the titular primary antagonist of the 2014 Stephen King novel Mr. Mercedes, the secondary antagonist of its 2015 sequel Finders Keepers, and the primary antagonist of the final novel End of Watch. Prior to the main events of the first novel, Brady stole a Mercedes-Benz and used it to murder eight individuals waiting for a job opportunity. And after the case has gone cold, he has sent a note antagonizing retired detective Kermit William "Bill" Hodges in his failure to catch him. He also represents himself with a twisted smiley face icon, eyes obscured by sunglasses and showing its teeth.
Brady grew up with his mother Deborah Ann and his brother Frankie after his father had been killed in a tragic electrocution. Despite having funds from the insurance to keep them afloat, Deborah ultimately squandered much of the money. Things were made worse as Frankie choked on an apple slice and fell into a coma, eventually waking up brain-damaged. Eventually, unable to further put up with the stress of raising a mentally afflicted child, Deborah kicked Frankie's toy firetruck into the basement and nodded at Brady. Taking this cue, Brady kicked his brother down the stairs, killing him in the process. They covered up the incident by claiming Frankie fell, and remained fairly (and disturbingly) close, although Brady considered killing her many times.
Over the years, Brady tinkered with various gadgets and technology, developing remotes that could alter traffic patterns and capture PKE signals to unlock/relock cars (dubbed "Thing One" and "Thing Two", respectively). He used these to cause havoc and steal from others, getting a thrill out of the misfortune he caused. Eventually, he put these to use when, using one of his day jobs as a computer technician for Discount Electronix, he collected the PKE signal of affluent Olivia Trelawney's Mercedes-Benz and stole it. With said Mercedes-Benz, he drove into the City Center and attacked multiple persons awaiting potential job opportunities, killing eight in the process, including a mother and her baby. He wore a clown mask to obscure his identity and cleared away all DNA evidence with bleach. Brady abandoned the Mercedes with a smiley akin to what he would later use in his letter to Hodges.
At a later point, he disguised himself as Frankie and spoke to Olivia Trelawney over a social network site called Debbie's Blue Umbrella, a private site for picture-less, allegedly stress-free chats. However, by doing so, he encouraged Trelawney to stop taking her medication and planted a looping sound file called "SPOOKS" (consisting of a recording of screaming and a woman angrily accusing Trelawney of killing her child) that ultimately drove her to suicide out of guilt. Brady considered it a triumph and moved on, until the events of the novel.
Seeking to antagonize the detective who failed to solve the murder, Brady drops a letter in for Hodges, detailing his confession to the Mercedes killings (albeit with exaggerated and/or falsified details to throw Hodges off), in the hopes that the letter would drive Hodges to commit suicide (as the retired detective had considered). Unfortunately for Brady, Hodges decides to once again investigate the case, prompting Brady to take action. In the letter, Brady provided Hodges with a Debbie's Blue Umbrella account. In the game of cat-and-mouse that ensues, Hodges riles up Brady by accusing him of and mocking him for attempting serial confession. In revenge, Brady attempts to prepare poisoned hamburger meat to feed to the pet dog of Hodges' friend and ally Jerome. However, Deborah unwittingly prepares and consumed of the meat, dying from the inevitable poisoning. This prompts Brady to retreat from his home and seek a way to "go out in a blaze of glory".
Prior to the events of the novel, Brady had planned to attach homemade plastic explosives inside a vest and commit a suicide bombing, aspiring to take out as many people with him as he could. Once Hodges and his allies get closer to discovering his identity, Brady, feeling more vengeful due to his mother's death, plants an explosive in Hodges' car. The bomb kills Trelawney's sister Janey, who had developed a sexual friendship with Hodges and was taking his car while he looked over her mentally challenged niece Holly. Determined to go out in a bang after all this, Brady purchases a ticket to the 'Round Here concert at the performing arts center and reattaches the explosives from his vest into various pieces of a disguise, including a catheter and a cushion. Taking on the appearance of a bald, bespectacled man in a wheelchair, Brady attends the 'Round Here concert with full intent to blow up the numerous young female members of the audience, as well as himself, in his final "blaze of glory".
Hodges, Jerome, and Holly manage to decipher Brady's plot after they find his house and manage to access his computers. Taking the same Mercedes used for the murders, now cleaned up and in the possession of Holly's mother, the trio rush to the performing arts center to stop Brady. Ultimately, due to being the only one of the three Brady would not recognize, Holly makes her way inside and incapacitates Brady before he can set off the bombs hidden on his person. The trauma he endures in the process puts Brady into a coma. By the end of the novel, he awakens in a mental treatment ward, asking for his mother and suffering partial amnesia and mental damage.
Brady reappears in Finders Keepers, the sequel to Mr. Mercedes, as a hospital patient. Hodges periodically visits him, working under the suspicion that Brady is faking his brain-dead state. Brady seemingly demonstrates that he is still impaired, but a picture of Brady and his mother falling over arouses Hodges' suspicions. A nurse tending to Brady commits suicide, much in the same manner as Trelawney. Unfortunately, at the end, it is revealed that Brady is indeed faking. To make matters worse, he has developed telekinesis.
End of Watch
In the third and final novel, End of Watch, Brady is revealed to have developed mind control abilities, in addition to his telekinesis. Experimented upon by a corrupt doctor, Babineau, with experimental medications figured to have contributed to his newfound powers, Brady gradually improves upon his abilities by driving a nurse to suicide through mental pushes. Taken to the sense of "control" gained from this act, Brady gradually takes control of an elderly volunteer, Library Al, and the corrupt doctor, using their bodies as puppets for his own mind. With Babineau under his control, he uses the doctor's funds to purchase Zappits, a series of outdated, faulty, Game Boy-like devices. Tweaking the already-present hypnotic effects of the demo screen of the Fishin' Hole game, Brady implants messages and reaches out towards those who play the devices. He also spreads them out, primarily towards those who had attended the concert he failed to kill.
Under the guise of "Dr. Z" (Babineau) and "Z-Boy" (Al), Brady makes many efforts to drive people to suicide, in order to pull off a Jonestown-esque act of control and sadism. He succeeds with one of his surviving victims from the Mercedes drive-by, as well as her mother, and with the nurse that confronted him. Brady also tries to drive Jerome's younger sister, Barbara, into stepping in front of a truck, but she is pushed out of the way and only suffers a broken leg. Manipulating his former, fellow Discount Electronix employee, Freddi Linklater, Brady sets up a repeater and a website to spread the suicidal impulses and encourage others to join in. His manipulations through the Zappits succeed in killing a few, but Holly and Jerome, aided by Hodges and Freddi, cut off the repeater and the website. He also escapes his own body and completely takes control of Babineau's, after using Al to kill Babineau's wife and fake an attack on Babineau's life.
In the climax, Brady heads to Babineau's hunting retreat, Heads and Skins, in order to set off a larger chain of suicides through his primary Zappit. Hodges and Holly uncover his location, but Brady wounds and captures them. On the threat of killing Holly, Brady tries to force Hodges to subject himself to Zappit manipulation, only to have his concentration broken by Hodges' loud cell phone ringtone-which gives Hodges the opportunity to destroy the Zappit and cut into Brady's suicide scheme. Holly manages to recover and shoot Brady, forcing him out into the snow. Determined to kill them, Brady fails to notice Jerome arriving in a Tucker Sno-Cat, until he is bifurcated by the tread. Rendered helpless, Brady then is forced to commit suicide to end his suffering.
Brady is a sociopath, encouraged by his mother's entitlement and considering himself free to do as he pleases due to what he's gotten away with. He also demonstrates nihilistic tendencies, believing there is no God in a world that "allowed" him to do what he's done and that everyone will just die and enter the same "darkness". This has led to emphasized sadistic and suicidal tendencies as well, given his final act of attempting to increase his kill count and add himself into the mix. In his other job as an ice cream man, Brady considers poisoning his supply and killing numerous children, but refrains due to concerns of being found out. Also adding to his character is a level of racism, especially directed at blacks such as Jerome, who he despises for "having a white person's name" and wants to see suffer.
Despite this, Brady seems to have some form of affection for his family. He considers Frankie useless and that killing him was a good idea, yet feels an "authentic" sadness when he recalls Frankie. He also seems to value his relationship with his mother Deborah and is disturbed by his indirect murder of her. However, this "affection" is suspect in itself, due to how often it seems Brady only cared for his family as much as they could and would benefit him in some way. Such as noted in how he used Frankie's memory and identity to push Olivia Trelawney to suicide and to claim he was attending the 'Round Here concert in memory of his "son". Or how he only seems to really care about his mother inasmuch she can "help" him through incestuous relations. Nevertheless, Brady is plagued with headaches that arise from his situation, and they return in full force once he awakens from the coma.
Come End of Watch, however, Brady's sociopathic tendencies are greatly emphasized. Described in-text as an "architect of suicide" and "The Suicide Prince", Brady becomes obsessed with the "control" he feels from driving people to killing themselves. He also shows absolutely no remorse in taking control of Babineau or Al, seeing them only as meat puppets and conduits for his "revenge".