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I am a nice guy. Just a different kind of nice guy.
Wade and his partners, Terry and Frank, were armed robbers who were making it across the river with the stolen loot from a cattle auction-an event that resulted in Frank getting shot because Terry didn't search one of the guards. The guard was then killed by Wade. According to Terry, the three met in prison. Whether they escaped or were released on parole remains unknown.
Frank was going to guide them across but he was still recovering from his bullet wound from the robbery. Wade made Terry kill him when he realized he couldn't sail due to that wound. He then decides to use Gale Hartman to get them across the river. He quickly wins her and her son over but her husband, Tom is suspicious due to him trying to drown him at one point when he fell in the water and he was trying to save him. Gale seems to like Wade, but grows suspicious of him once he watches her as she's skinny dipping.
They attempt to escape, but Wade catches them before they can and threatens the entire family, even trying to kill their dog. One night when Tom tries to steal the gun and escape Wade and Terry catch him in the act and Wade chases him, down and shoots at him. Believing he had killed him due to Tom faking his death, Wade proceeds to use Gail and her son to go further down the river. At one point, a ranger, Johnny (whom Gail once used to babysit), refuses to let them go any further without a helicopter. Not wanting to get caught, Wade shoots him in the chest and throws him into the river, killing him.
Once they get further down the river to where they need to go, they take a break where Tom sets a trap for them. Gail gains the upper hand by getting a hold of their gun and threatens Wade, who begs for his life. Out of mercy, Gale shoots the gun in the air, however it doesn't fire. Thinking she has nothing to threaten him with, Wade proceeds to try and kill them all, until Gail realizes she just needs to turn the revolver. Wade attempts to attack her one last time but Gail manages to shoot him dead before he can do anymore damage. They call for the rangers and they are rescued while Terry is arrested.
On the surface, Wade seems like a calm, friendly individual. But this was only a facade to hide his cold nature underneath. A greedy robber, Wade displayed all the characteristics of a psychopath: he was charming, manipulative, and treacherous. He seemed bent on psychological abuse given he gave his best to try and turn Gale and Roarke against Tom, a method which included giving Roarke $200 for his birthday, which Tom refused. It's even possible Wade may have known Tom would have, which was why he gave the money to Roarke to begin with. In the first half of the film, Wade seemed dead set on winning Roarke over with his trust-which is shown when he showed the young boy his gun and asked if he would keep it a secret form his parents.
Wade also displayed unstable behavior throughout the film. He beat Tom when the later tried to escape with his family, tried to shoot their dog due to seeing her as expendable, and slapped Roarke for breaking his promise in regards to telling his parents about the gun. He even slapped Terry when the later fell asleep one night which gave Tom the chance to escape. He also saw nothing wrong with spying on Gale when she was skinny dipping, despite the fact that this would risk blowing his cover. He didn't show much concern for the lives of others, including his own-given he ignored Gale's warning about the Gauntlet, and according to Terry, didn't seem to mind jail back when he was imprisoned. Although despite this, he did display signs of cowardice by begging Gale to spare his life when she had control of their gun.
Overall Wade was a very petty criminal. For no reason at all, he forced Terry to kill Frank when he proved usless in guiding them across the gauntlet due to his bullet wound, and was even perfectly willing to kill Gale and her family when she spared his life towards the end of the film. This makes it possible that perhaps Wade never intended on letting them go when he and Terry would make it across. He also displayed some racist behavior, given he questioned park ranger Johnny on whether or not he belonged in america due to being mexican.