Chapter 26 (John Flowers)

“…y en diecinueve catorce Pancho Villa derrotó los federales en El Toma de Zacatecas.”

Peoria and Rafael were standing at the other side of the room, reading from one of a dozen spiral bound notebooks piled up on a chair. I looked up at them through hazy, half awake eyes.

“What are you reading?” I asked.

“Police reports. Rafael has friends in the Federale,” said Peoria.

She walked over to the bed and handed me a water stained spiral notebook that was folded open. She pointed to a section on the page that had been circled furiously in red.

“There are records here that go back a hundred years.”

I stared blankly at the page. My Spanish had gotten weak since my mother passed away. I tried to make sense of the words in front of me.

(translated from Spanish into English)

February 6th, 1951: John Flowers, 38, from Detroit Michigan, arrives in Zacatecas. He rents a room at Meson de Jobito and is seen drinking at Los Olvidados.

February 12th, 1951: John Flowers meets Rafael Ortiz, 27, grandson of Ricardo Ortiz, 88, one time leader of the Chichimera.

February 16th, 1951:Rafael Ortiz and John Flowers are seen regularly together at Los Olvidados.

March 2nd, 1951: John Flowers and Rafael Ortiz are thrown in jail for breaking into Zacatecas Cathedral after regular church hours. Ortiz gives this statement:

“I only wanted to visit my grandfather. I did not realize how late it was.”

(Rafael Ortiz’s grandfather, Ricardo, who retired from the Chichimera in 1929, works as the groundskeeper of Zacatecas Cathedral. He also curates the cathedral’s collection of antiques.)

March 3rd, 1951: John Flowers and Rafael Ortiz are released from Zacatecas county jail.

March 5th, 1951: Ricardo Ortiz is found dead in his room in the basement of Zacatecas Cathedral. Rafael Ortiz is found badly beaten.

March 6th, 1951: Rafael Ortiz gives authorities this statement from his hospital bed:

“John Flowers had been to Zacatecas Cathedral several times and was fascinated with my grandfather’s collection of antiques. He was particularly fond of a small metal fish, an item that had been passed down through my family. Flowers offered to buy it for 5,000 pesos, but my grandfather refused to sell it. Flowers said he would give me the money if I helped him steal the fish. His plan was to take it back to Detroit with him and donate it to a museum.

Last night we broke into the back of the cathedral using a crowbar. Our plan was to steal the fish. When my grandfather woke up, he tried to stop us. Flowers hit him over the head with the crowbar until he stopped moving. Then he attacked me.”

March 8th, 1951: John Flowers is seen crossing the desert on a stole horse. It is believed he is headed to the town of Saltillo.

When I finished reading, Rafael walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.

“It is my greatest regret,” he said in broken English. “I was young…stupid. I will never forgive myself.”

John Flowers, where had I seen that name before? I paced back and forth across the room with my eyes. Then it hit me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out me wallet. I took out my mother’s parchment and opened it carefully. At the bottom of the page on the right hand side was a list of names. The second to last name was John Flowers.

“Peoria! Come and look at this,” I said.

I pointed to the list of names on the parchment.

“What is this?” she said. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s this thing I have..My mother gave it to me.”

I hesitated telling her the full story behind how I got it.

“I have seen this before,” said Rafael, “It was once with my grandfather’s fish.”

Peoria turned to me.

“Lewis why have you not told us you have this?” she asked angrily.

“I, I don’t…” I stopped myself, trying to decide what to say. “ I don’t know why I never told you. I don’t know what this means.”