Boneyard Ramble

Crushed in a garbage truck, poisoned by a landlady, crapped out-literally--during a dice game. These and more are buried in this county's cemetaries, and come Halloween night, they'll be dying to get out

At Our Lady of Mercy, the dead are taken seriously. Unlike at any other Dade cemetery, a computer is used to keep track of the location, name, date of death, and type of burial each person has received. And near the entrance of this vast and elegant graveyard, a bronze placard reminds the guest that "indulgences applicable to the dead may be gained by the faithful who visit this cemetery in a spirit of piety and devotion and pray even mentally for the dead." Extraordinary indulgences may be gained on All Souls' Day, a time of special services and prayer for the dead, observed the day after Halloween in many churches.

On leaving Our Lady and ending your tour of Dade's cemeteries, say a prayer for Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, the Satanist from Miami who in 1989 took fifteen people with him to the grave in Mexico. He is not buried at Our Lady. No matter. Any prayer for the dead carries with it a subtle plea for protection.

Survivors of Constanzo's cult, like the minions of Vlad the Impaler five centuries ago, expressed doubt that their former leader was capable of dying. In life, they said, he had already achieved a dark immortality. They might be right.

In a tiny research room at the Dade County medical examiner's office, I read about Constanzo's life and death. Something distracted me, and I set the file aside and moved on to a stack of others. Later, when I looked for the notes on Constanzo, they had vanished. They were not on or under the table. They were not in the trash can. They were not in my briefcase or next to the photocopy machine. I was alone in the room.

That night at home I went for a swim. In midstroke I noticed a cat sitting at the edge of the pool in the moonlight, staring at me. A black cat.

Later, while working at home, writing about Constanzo, a crash came from the bathroom. On the floor, a small mirror lay in pieces.

The remains of Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo lie somewhere in Dade County, but I'm not telling where. When someone has been warned, especially at Halloween time, they should listen.

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