On weeks the twins would visit Stu and Heather, it seemed like Stu always spoiled Heather and her sons. Whatever Heather asked for, be it brand name clothing, expensive jewelry, the latest smart device, she would always get. Her sons would get the same sort of treatment, but they weren't as noticeably demanding. Now you may be thinking that Tommy and Dill drew the short end of the stick in this scenario. Why weren't they getting the same privileges that their new family members received? Tommy and Dill honestly didn't want any of it. They turned down the expensive cell phones, the luxury watches, and whatever else Stu constantly offered. As corny as it sounded, reconnecting with their dad and expanding their family was the greatest gift either boy had ever received.
Life seemed to settle into a new routine for the blended family over the next six years. Towards the end of this period, Tommy became a poor sleeper. He would wake up periodically throughout the night, whether it was due to a bad dream or his bladder showing him who was in charge. On such a night, he got up to use the bathroom, which was just past Stu and Heather's bedroom. While in the bathroom, he began to hear shouting from the other room. He washed his hands and cupped his ear to the wall. Specifically, it was Heather berating Stu, calling him names and screaming profanities at him. Occasionally he heard Stu utter a meek response, but it would only exacerbate the barrage of insults. Tommy couldn't believe his brothers were sleeping through all of this!
What could Tommy do? It was 2 in the morning, and he worried that his interference would make it worse for Stu. He went back to bed in a conflicted state. When the entire family woke up the next morning, it became apparent how awful the situation really was. Tommy and Dill noticed the series of scratch marks and bruises up along Stu's arms. Stu hastily rolled down his sleeves and mumbled something about shooing away a stray cat from his trash bin last night. The poor guy. There was no way his excuse convinced the twins.
Tommy and Dill shared a dark look. Dill hadn't heard all the commotion, but he understood that something was amiss. But neither of the two boys felt comfortable enough to bring the topic up with each other, let alone with Stu. All of that changed on the night of the twins' 25th birthday. Their oldest step-brother, Matt, tagged along with the twins two their favorite nightclub. Thankfully Tommy volunteered to be the designated driver, as several rounds of shots and dancing had rendered Dill and Matt incapable of most human function. Tommy successfully got both of the boys into his worn down Camry and revved the engine. As Tommy drove home, the car was mostly quiet, save for Matt's occasional ramblings.
Tommy voiced how, "Matt smiled at me with his stupid giddy face and slurred some stuff about how lucky we were to have such a caring father and how much his younger brothers loved us."
Tommy smiled wistfully at the steadfast camaraderie he had built with these boys over the past few years. But what Matt uttered next wiped the smile clean off of Tommy's face.
“Our mom always talks bad about our Dad and your Mom to us. Our mom hits him too,” Matt slurred from the backseat.
Tommy felt a sharp chill run down his spine. His worst fear, the one he refused to even admit to himself that he harbored, was stated right out in the open in the cramped car. There was nowhere for him to escape from the thought. It remained there, pervading the interior with a palpable dread. Matt's sentence played over and over again in Tommy's mind, even during an especially restless night. The next morning, Tommy had to confide in someone, he had to release the tension building up in his system. He met with Diane and a much more sober Dill. Both of them were shocked that Heather's seemingly perfect facade obscured something much more violent. They couldn't come up with any solution, allowing the dread to wash over themselves.
It took a couple weeks for Tommy and Dill to muster the courage to ask Matt about what he said that fateful night. Tommy wrote how, "Matt's biological father was angry with Heather and divorced her after she had cheated with his slightly more wealthy friend. Heather would scratch, throw stuff, threaten and belittle Matt's father whenever she didn't get what her or any of her children wanted immediately. Stu would tolerate it and give her anything she pleased with a reluctant smile. Matt would be forced to stop her before anything worse could happen."
Tommy thought back to the argument he overheard several weeks ago and how soundly Matt had slept. How many brutal fights had Matt completely missed? They felt terrified at the thought of confronting such an intense step-mom. The thought of waiting for another round of abuse to happen made the boys feel
There had to be something the three boys could do, but they faced such a daunting task. The thought of waiting for another round of abuse left a horrible taste in their mouths. It took several long brainstorming sessions, but the three boys worked out a feasible solution. It was risky, and quite expensive, but Tommy, Dill, and Matt would do whatever it took to save Stu. Tommy and Dill already saved $2800 in order to surprise Diane with a down payment on a much better house for her. But this money would first have to be used as the bait.
It took many hours of planning, but the boys had thought out every worst-case scenario that they could. This was the plan that held up to their intense scrutiny. The time for speculation was firmly over, and the boys needed to take immediate action.
END OF PART 2