The Gaetjens clan has sifted endlessly through the teledjòl, Creole for rumors, of what became of Joe: that within a few days of his arrest he had been lined up with other prisoners and shot. That he had languished in Fort Dimanche for months, ultimately dying from diarrhea. That Duvalier had shown up one day and, hearing Joe ask him why he was incarcerated, shot Joe himself. Indeed, Mireille says that Elois Maître, the notorious head of the Macoutes, told her husband that Joe had died one night after Duvalier, learning of another plot, stormed into Fort Dimanche in a rage. "He went into the jail saying, 'Open this cell! Open that cell!' and took the men from several different cells and killed them," Mireille says. "It's another story I don't know is true."
In 1972, after returning to Haiti, Gérard's son, James, was summoned to a meeting with Léon Baptiste, a former senator who had worked on the Déjoie campaign. "He said he had spent a night at Fort Dimanche with Joe," James says. "Léon was released the following day, and the guy who released him said later, 'You're lucky, the night after you left Duvalier came personally to kill everyone at Fort Dimanche.'
"Now, Léon Baptiste had paid that guy to release him. So did the guy tell Léon this because he wants Léon to be more indebted to him? Or because it's true? We'll never know. There's a lot of hearsay." Teledjòl. "Half of my family believes one thing, half the other," James continues. "Myself? I'm an engineer by trade, and I cannot tell you what happened to Joe."
In the early '70s, after Beauvoir had fled upon learning that he was on Papa Doc's hit list, Gérard Gaetjens confronted him in New York City. "I couldn't do anything," Beauvoir insisted. "Duvalier was waiting for me to make a move so he could kill me. He was after me. He wasn't after Joe."
That explanation didn't sit well with most of the Gaetjens family, least of all Jean-Pierre, whose son Jean recalls joining his father at a soccer match in San Juan between Haiti and Puerto Rico almost four decades ago. Spotting Beauvoir in the crowd, Jean-Pierre picked up a two-by-four, went over and began to beat him. This man did nothing to keep my brother from being killed, he told the police. That seemed to have been good enough for the cops, who sent Beauvoir to the hospital and let Jean-Pierre go.
Word would reach the Gaetjens family that Papa Doc had learned of that incident, and that it had pleased him. Over the years Joe's cousin Guy Laraque heard further teledjòl: that Duvalier had targeted Joe not so much because of his Gaetjens family connections but as a means of torturing Beauvoir. Laraque finds the story plausible. If it's true, he says, "there was nothing Daniel could have ever really done for Ti Joe."
The 1972 confirmation of Joe's death at least resolved for Lyliane the question of whether she was a widow. By the end of 1965 she had brought her boys to join Mireille in exile in Puerto Rico. She eventually remarried and divorced, and today lives in Florida.
Jean-Pierre Gaetjens continued to devote himself to liberating Haiti from the Duvaliers. Standing trial in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1973 on a charge of conspiracy to harm foreign property, he admitted to hiring three individuals to invade Haiti and foment an uprising by blowing up a power plant, contaminating the water supply and seizing a radio station. The court must have been sympathetic, for he received only a three-year suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine.
When Gérard Gaetjens was murdered in 1990, soon after returning to Haiti to work on a presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre took over the Joe Gaetjens Foundation, which he ran until his death from cancer in December 2008. "Somebody politically active watches his apolitical brother get arrested," says Jean-Pierre's son, Jean. "Then that brother is never seen again. You can see how Joe's disappearance sent [Jean-Pierre] over the edge. It's my layman's psychology, but I think my father felt a lot of guilt. Joe was his symbol, his martyr."
Today the remnants of Fort Dimanche lie abandoned on the mudflats that fringe the slums called La Saline and Cité Soleil. Pigs troll through the garbage and feces that stew in the sun. The scrawlings of former inmates are still visible on the walls, though Gaetjens's name can no longer be found.