Standoff by Sandra Brown
By Sandra Brown
Published by Warner Books (2001)
Believe it or not, more than ninety percent of this novel took place within the span of less than 24 hours. Only the final chapter contained a scene from a later time. And even more remarkable was the fact that I could not stop turning the pages because that one-night incident was too captivating to save for reading at another time!
Broadcast journalist Tiel McCoy was a workaholic who would still think about work even during vacation. She was on the way to holiday at New Mexico when she heard big news on the radio bulletin: millionaire Russell Dandy’s teenaged daughter had been kidnapped by a fellow high school student!
Tiel immediately made a stop at a convenience store in a small town to phone her editor Gully for more information on the case. Her workaholic self badly wanted to work on the story, for it will surely earn her all the glory she had always craved for, as well as a spot as the host for a new TV program to be produced soon. Anything involving Russell Dandy will, after all, become a high profile case and a trending news. Tiel was ready to abandon her vacation plans for this job.
According to Gully, based on a statement from Sabra Dendy’s friend, she was not kidnapped, but rather had ran away with her boyfriend Ronald “Ronnie” Davison. The insufferable Russell had been objecting to his daughter’s relationship to Ronnie for the past year, and the love-struck teenagers would not yield to the tyrannical tycoon. Sabra was said to be heavily pregnant with Ronnie’s child, and Russell had gone into a rage after learning about it. Thus the couple’s runaway feat, reportedly on their way to Mexico to start a new life far from Russell’s iron-fisted control.
And now Tiel was all hyped up to find more information regarding the Dendy drama to feed to her TV station. However, before she could even start on anything, Tiel had unexpectedly plunged into the drama herself after the said couple arrived at the same convenience store, took everyone inside the store hostage, and committed armed robbery!
As Ronnie and Sabra were about to leave the store with their ill-gotten gains, Sabra’s water broke and the couple had no choice but to remain at the store while Sabra went through a difficult labour.
There were seven hostages inside the store in total: apart from Tiel and the store assistant, there were two Mexican men, an elderly couple and a middle-aged man. It turned out the middle-aged man, only wanted to be known as Doc, used to be a doctor but had stopped practising for some personal reasons. He had offered to help in Sabra’s delivery, and Tiel had also volunteered to assist in the birthing process.
While they were trying to help Sabra, all the hostages (except the two Mexicans – who apparently did not speak English) began to understand the motives behind Sabra’s and Ronnie’s actions. It was all because of Russell Dendy. Russell had failed to see how much his daughter and Ronnie were in love with one another. As a tyrannical man, he wanted to control what Sabra can and cannot do with her life – including whom to love. When he learnt that Sabra was pregnant with Ronnie’s child, Russell had threatened to either put up the baby for adoption or simply kill it off. Sabra knew her father - who was used to get what he wants and do what he finds fit - would make good of what he said. So she eventually decided to run away with Ronnie. The couple was on their way to Mexico when they stopped at the convenience store to conduct the armed robbery, which was actually a desperate attempt to get money to start a new life. Ronnie had never meant to kill any one of the hostages, and he didn’t even know how to use the gun he was carrying during the heist.
Naturally, Tiel felt giddy with excitement to report what she was facing and what she knew of Sabra and Ronnie’s motives – for it was certain that the story will be an exclusive one, in which she was the only person who had the insight. Tiel had also been exhilarated after discovering that the man called Doc was actually Dr Bradley Stanwick, who was embroiled in controversy a few years back and had hidden himself from the public eyes. She could not wait to practically push Dr Bradley back into the limelight by interviewing him on the case that had made him shied away from the public eyes in the first place – the death of his wife due to cancer while he himself was, ironically, a doctor who specialized in treating cancer. In fact, Tiel had quietly recorded the whole ordeal using a hidden video camera and voice recorder so she could use it for her reporting later.
Nevertheless, after seeing Sabra going through a hard labour and almost lost her life in the process – and understanding the lover’s heart-rending situation, Tiel began to feel an attachment towards them and suddenly she began to question her actions, which seemed to exploit their situation rather than helping the desperate young lovers. Tiel’s conscience eventually won over and she decided to prioritize helping Sabra and Ronnie get out of the trouble they were in rather than getting a juicy news out of their situation.
Meanwhile, the authorities had phoned into the convenience store to check on the situation, and Tiel had volunteered to be a mediator to find a peaceful solution to the situation they were in. Sabra needed immediate medical attention after giving birth and losing too much blood in the process. But at the same time, the couple were afraid to go out of the convenience store for they knew what Russell Dendy can do to them as a punishment. Sabra and Ronnie were willing to die together before Russell Dendy can get his hands on them and the newborn baby.
Sabra and Ronnie had asked for a guarantee of total freedom from Russell Dendy as an exchange for them to end the standoff and release all hostages. If Russell could not guarantee that, they have decided to end their lives together inside the store. Russell Dendy, who had arrived at the scene after learning about the standoff involving his daughter, had tearfully agreed, saying that the life of his daughter was more important than anything else.
And so Ronnie released all hostages and Sabra was quickly brought to the hospital for immediate medical attention. Ronnie was the last person to leave the store, and it turned out that Russell had not been sincere in his agreement to end the standoff. As soon as Ronnie emerged from the store, Russell had taken aim at Ronnie and shoot him with a gun. Fortunately, one of the Mexican hostage managed to neutralize Russell before the latter can shoot more bullets towards Ronnie.
Ronnie was given immediate emergency treatment and Russell was arrested on the spot. Although Ronnie lived, Russell would apparently still be jailed for murder attempt.
Following the emotionally exhausting event, something had shifted inside Tiel that made her rethink her previous journalistic views which was always on the lookout for chances to do a news story from every situation. Despite getting all the publicity she had previously craved from the incident, Tiel had, for the first time, found herself not happy with the attention and limelight. As one of the victims of the incident, Tiel had unexpectedly formed an attachment with the other hostages and had even found herself falling in love with Dr Bradley Stanwick. Although Tiel still maintained her job as a broadcaster after the incident, she had eventually learnt to take a break from her job and also respect people’s requests for privacy.
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