WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass. Mindy Kavanaugh is a housewife who supplements her husband’s outsize income as a bond trader by working as a “home organizer,” but she’s been pleasantly surprised at how well her little business has done over the past twenty-four months. “I’ll actually make six figures this year,” she says modestly as she looks at the bottom line in the bookkeeping software on her computer screen. “Of course, two of those are to the right of a decimal point, but they still count, don’t they?”
Kavanaugh’s business has been propelled to profitability by COVID-driven lockdowns, which have forced many professionals to work from home, producing chaos in formerly-orderly dens and dining rooms. “I feel sorry for the hundreds of thousands of people who have died,” she says sorrowfully, “but my Lexus was coming to the end of its lease so this has been good timing for me.”
As with any upturn in a particular corner of the economy, success has brought competition to the quiet suburb where the Kavanaughs and other upper-middle-class families live. “Chloe Fernald had business cards printed up saying she’s in the business now, and that’s fine,” Kavanaugh says. “She’s a great gal, very nice, I know her from the Country Club.” Her visage darkens and her brow furrows as this reporter asks her if there are any other new local members of her profession, which is still unregulated in this state. “I’d rather not talk about it,” she says cryptically. “You may be wearing a wire.”
Kavanaugh is alluding to the sudden if explicable entrance of organized crime into the home organizing business, exemplified in the New England region by the Scalzo Crime Family. “With gambling and marijuana legalized, the Mafia has seen two of its biggest moneymakers disappear,” says retired U.S. Attorney Gerry Moevens, who sent a dozen career criminals to jail for loan sharking, money laundering and extortion over his 24-year career. “Home organizing is a fragmented local industry so Fortune 500 companies aren’t interested, and it’s a cash business, so it fits the Mafia model,” he says as he looks at a spreadsheet showing sales of desks and chairs at local office supply superstores. “There was no way the honeymoon was going to last for these stay-at-home moms trying to squeeze out a few extra bucks to blow at Talbot’s.”
At Moevens’ suggestion, I join him and one of his former colleagues on a “stakeout” of a modest but tasteful residence on Oakridge Road here, where electronic surveillance has indicated a possible attempt tonight by the Mob to “muscle in” on Ed Beltran, a client of Kavanaugh’s who has signed up for a $500 home office “makeover.”
“Excuse me,” Tony “Pockets” Scalzo says as Beltran answers his front door.
“We wuz wonderin’ if you’re finding your den a little messier than it used to be now that you got to work from home.”
“Yes, and I’ve already hired a friend to help me out, thank you.”
“Would that ‘friend’–be Mindy Kavanaugh?”
Taken aback by the mobster’s intimate knowledge of his private communications, Beltran stumbles over his words. “Well, yes. I mean, I play golf with her husband, and my wife’s in bridge club with . . .”
“Not sayin’ that’s a problem, although it could be.”
“What kind of . . . problem?”
“Lotta folks complainin’ about back pain from the cheap desk chairs she picks out of the ‘take it or leave it’ section of the Town Dump.”
“Not to mention the bugs in the padded seat cushions.”
“I hadn’t heard about that.”
“Would you be interested in a complimentary analysis of your home office needs?”
“Who are you talking to?” Beltran’s wife calls out to him from the kitchen, where she is preparing a dinner of stuffed peppers and quinoa.
“Uh, a fellow from . . . who did you say you were with?”
“The Scalzo Crime Family. Over fifty years in business, with convenient locations throughout New England, including Seekonk and Swansea, Mass. and Misquamicut, Rhode Island.”
“Well, I’m about to put dinner on the table,” his wife says.
“This won’t take long,” Scalzo says as he steps into the foyer and peeks into the Beltran’s den, which is furnished with a mixture of Scandinavian pine furniture and standard-issue file cabinets and bookshelves.
“That’s a nice armoire you got there,” Scalzo says. “Be a shame if anything was to happen to it.”