Sunday 16 June 2013
Roland was an intrepid traveller in search of news. He was rarely in the office and when he was he would be writing two or three stories at breakneck speed and then rush off, not to be seen for hours, days or even a week. He was my bureau chief in Mexico City.
One day he came back from Haiti, completely baffled. The story he told me I have used in my book Times of Terror - Notebooks of a Foreign Correspondent.
When he arrived in Haiti after the death of dictator Papa Doc Duvalier Roland naturally tried to locate the Reuters stringer, a man named Le Petit who had been filing for the agency for years. Roland jumped into a cab and gave the driver the address to which Reuters had dutifully sent the man’s monthly retainer.
The driver took Roland to the outskirts of the capital and then uphill to a remote shack on high ground above the city. On the porch an old lady sat in a rocking chair, blowing smoke from a long-stemmed pipe.
“Excuse me, Madam,” Roland said. “I am looking for M. Le Petit, the Reuter correspondent.” After a few more puffs she replied “Le Petit has been dead for three years.”
Roland always wondered who had been filing the dead man’s stories, which stopped after his visit. Being Haiti, land of mysteries and the living dead, he never did solve that riddle. ■