But Wesley’s still not getting a paycheck, and pressure is still building for him to make money. “I’m on a leave of absence, but I have bills. I need an income. There’s fourteen, fifteen of us. I’ve got to make something happen.”
The catch is, the lawsuit hangs over everything. Signing a movie or book deal now could mean Mark and Diane would get half of the proceeds. Any lawsuit takes time, but now Mark and Diane are at cross-purposes, making everything, including a possible settlement, that much more complicated. “You got to have lawyers to watch the lawyers,” Wesley says (he says he’s happy with his new lawyers, who were recommended by his union). “Once the papers were signed, Mark and Diane just wanted to knock my family out. Everybody that me and Linda were on good terms with, they didn’t like. That didn’t seem ethical. And I didn’t feel good about them wanting to keep that 50 percent. To me, that’s greed. They were too greedy.”
About the best Wesley can do for now is keep his name out there for as long as he can. The family is appearing soon on Deal or No Deal. The producer of Heroes is talking about a walk-on. Subway is interested in the hero thing, too. Maybe he’ll be their next pitchman. Oprah still wants him—and has asked him to contact the Hollopeter family to see if Cameron is ready for a tearful reunion. No dice, yet. Wesley has visited Hollopeter in the hospital twice and has stayed in touch with his family on the phone, but Hollopeter has shown no appetite for being in the public eye.
I ask Wesley if he ever wishes he could have somehow saved Hollopeter but still remained anonymous himself. Which life does he prefer, the life of Wesley Autrey or the life of the Subway Superhero?
He’s silent for a long moment, then laughs. “That’s a Catch-22,” he says. Then he settles on an answer. “This is better. Now I’ve got a chance, you know?”
Wesley didn’t save a life to become famous, of course. It’s just that now, what’s the use of pretending none of this happened? “I feel like the black prince of America,” he had told me earlier. “I just don’t have the money yet.”
Recently, Wesley had business cards printed up. He hands them out everywhere he goes now. They read WESLEY AUTREY SR., “SUBWAY HERO.”