No name. No past. No identity.
Christa Anderson never expected to lose her heart to a man whose real name she doesn't even know. But ever since John Riddle showed up at Camp Hope with no memory of how he got there, Christa's life has changed . . . for the better. While she was once lost in the devastation of a pool accident that left her paralyzed, she now embraces life—and the mysterious man who understands her better than anyone ever has.
But when someone begins threatening Christa and Camp Hope, John suspects that perhaps his past holds dangerous secrets. Secrets that could hurt the woman he has grown to love.
Now Christa and John must work together to battle an unknown enemy. An enemy who holds the key to John's identity. And who could destroy them all.
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By LOIS RICHER
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Lois Richer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNorthern Canadian Woods September 1
They're not coming."
Despair reached down and blew out the last flicker of hope in Christa Anderson's heart. Drawing upon her newly found courage, she fought past the black cloud and infused her voice with an upbeat tone.
"You might as well take that gorgeous tray of goodies back and share them with Fred. It's almost his coffee time anyway." Christa swallowed the lump in her throat. "I don't think I'll be needing them."
"Try calling again, honey. Maybe there's a problem." Ever the optimist, Ralna Jones believed in giving second, third, even fourth chances.
Christa slid the cell phone from the side pocket of her wheelchair, dialed, and waited. On the ninth ring she accepted defeat. "No answer. Which is really a very clear answer." She tucked the phone away, then forced a smile. "Let's forget I ever thought of this, okay? But thanks for helping me."
"Anytime. You know that." Ralna hugged her tightly, like a grandmother trying to ease the hurt. She gathered up the picnic things, stuffed them into the basket, and left in the direction of the dining hall.
Only when Ralna's bustling figure disappeared did Christa finally accept what her head had already admitted. The six former high school friends she'd invited out here to Camp Hope for the afternoon had silently but effectively declined her invitation to forgive the past and move on.
Well, she deserved it. They'd come after the accident-the first day Christa had come home from the hospital-with books, flowers, cards, and tentative smiles, olive branches outstretched. But she'd pushed it all in their faces and demanded they leave her alone. So they had.
I'm sorry. Regret for what could have been overflowed. I didn't realize how much I'd lost. Forgiveness-easily asked for, warily given.
Though the empty afternoon loomed before her, Christa couldn't concentrate on camp crafts now. So she steered her chair inside the craft shack and slowly packed her dreams into a small wooden box, excitement leeched away by dashed hope. When everything was squashed inside the box, she pushed it under a stack of donated odds and ends. Maybe tomorrow she'd have the heart to turn them into a project for next summer's junior camp.
A noise outside drew her attention. "Kent, is that you?"
No one answered.
Christa moved to the door, expecting her brother's goofy grin. It wasn't there.
But someone had been. A muddy footprint in the center of the path hadn't been there when she'd arrived.
She urged her wheelchair outside, glanced both ways. To the south, the covered pool looked desolate without a squealing mass of excited kids cavorting in it. Nearby the camp horses placidly grazed, munching on whatever green sprouts they could find in the pasture. To the north, no familiar figure walked around the silent dining hall or camp office. In front of her the playground swings remained still. At the moment, the usually bustling campgrounds looked entirely deserted.
That's weird. She shrugged, turned her chair, prepared to close up the craft shack. I'm sure I heard something.
It took only a few moments to snap the padlock shut. She forced her wheelchair to turn in the clinging sand and headed for Camp Hope's main office. Her fingers eased off the control knob when she spied a wisp of smoke in a cavern of cleared forest behind the cluster of girls' cabins. Someone was burning something.
Hopefully the fire was under control and whoever was responsible for it would make sure it was out before leaving. The last thing anyone wanted in these dry conditions was a forest fire. The thick woodland blanket of spruce and pine needles provided perfect tinder for a blaze that would be hard to extinguish. She'd mention it at dinner. Someone would check.
That decided, she pressed the button that sent the motor whirring into action, carrying her chair to the office. Would the letter be there yet? Her dreams would live or die by that letter.
But what if-?
Lately whenever she got stuck on what-ifs, Christa sought out her friend John Riddle, Camp Hope's computer guru. He'd arrived a couple of months before via the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who'd found him beaten, lying by the roadside. Aptly named by the RCMP, John Riddle was a complete enigma. He didn't know his name or where he came from. He had stayed because no one else could find out either.
The first time they'd met, John found Christa lying face-first in the dust, unable to get back into her wheelchair. From that moment on, John ignored her demands to be left alone. Eventually Christa found herself looking forward to their verbal duels. After a while, she'd simply accepted his friendship.
It was because of John that Christa had decided to initiate her plan. She wouldn't leave until after Kent was married, but she could take the first step by figuring out how to get the house in shape. Unfortunately housekeeping had never been Christa's strength. She preferred not to ask Ralna to help, especially after the busy summer Camp Hope had enjoyed. With a new grandchild, Ralna's spare moments were devoted to her family, which was as it should be.
Maybe if I hire someone ... The motor on Christa's wheelchair matched the whir of her brain as she mulled over a solution. She could ask the Murdock sisters, members of the small church in the nearby community. Those two gentle souls had their fingers on the pulse of the community so they would know of someone suitable.
Solving that dilemma seemed doable. Now if only the letter was there. This waiting is killing me. She nudged the knob, upping her speed. Patience was an attribute she still needed to work on. If the letter had arrived, Christa didn't want anyone to see it before she knew its contents. The project was her secret, and for now she intended to keep it that way.
She paused in front of the office, savoring the freshness of the air. Even the giant sunflowers nodding their heads beside the dining hall seemed to perk up with the cooler days that signaled autumn's arrival at Camp Hope.
Autumn, her favorite season. A time to relax and regroup. A time to harvest what had been sown.
To her utter delight and nervous trepidation, she spotted an envelope on the corner of Ralna's desk as soon as she entered the office. Plain. Ordinary. Except for the logo in the top left-hand corner. An answer.
Christa snatched the envelope up, slipped it under her left thigh, and arranged her sweater to cover it. Guilt kicked her heartbeat into high. That was the problem with secrets; you had to keep covering your tracks.
Glancing around to see if anyone had noticed, Christa saw the man she sought sitting silently before the camp's computer screen across the room. She approached him. "John?"
He seemed not to hear. His chest expanded as he took a deep breath before opening his eyes. He began typing in rapid sequences. Mere seconds elapsed before a Web page burst upon the screen, a page whose words filled her with apprehension, and yet she couldn't look away from it.
John, too, seemed mesmerized. "There's something I was supposed to do. Something that means life or death to someone. But I can't remember what it was."
She reached out to touch his shoulder, to offer a scrap of comfort that might relieve that tortured note in his voice. But before her fingers made contact, a deep sense of foreboding filled the room. Christa froze, her arm hanging in midair while a voice inside her head warned her to wait and watch what happened next.
John stabbed at the bottom of the screen with one finger. "Look."
"Today's the first of September. That means it's almost two months away." He grated the words out. "Two months until the deadline."
"What deadline?" Christa huddled in her chair, a tickle of fear enhancing her already active sense of dread. Though the office was stuffy, she shivered as if winter had moved into the room. A prayer for protection trembled on her lips as she surveyed the man before her.
"I don't know," John whispered in a ragged voice, his navy eyes wide with confusion. "I have no idea how to stop it."
"Stop what? John, what are you talking about?"
"I only know that it will happen," he repeated, his voice one notch above a whisper. "On October 29 it will happen."
"Unless you stop it?"
Her eyes tracked his, focused on the screen. "But what is it, and how can you stop it?"
"I don't know," he groaned. His tormented gaze held hers. "I can't remember."
Excerpted from Forgotten Justice by LOIS RICHER Copyright © 2004 by Lois Richer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police found John in at a roadside badly beaten up. He has no memory who he is or anything else about himself. Since he is not injured besides some bruises and amnesia, the cops take him to Camp Hope where he can recuperate. At the camp, John Riddle as he is now called displays incredible computer skills. He is also attracted to wheelchair bound Christa Anderson, sister of the owner of the camp....................... Christa announces to John she will be leaving the camp to end her years of dependency since her teenage accident left her a paraplegic; he is stunned by her determination and courage, but also hurt because she is his hope for the future. Still he encourages her to go. John looks at a hateful Internet site the Society for Order and thinks something bad will happen on October 29 less than two months away. John would rather die than bring anything dangerous from his past on his beloved Christa and her family, but he may be too late............................... FORGOTTEN JUSTICE is an engaging romantic suspense in which the danger subplot comes in late, but readers will not care as the romance between the two lead protagonists is brilliantly and simmering established so that the audience cares about this likable pair. They and her brother and his wife are a fine group that deserve the best out of life, but will soon find out the menace that a despaired John fears he brought to Camp Hope. Lois Richer provides a delightful contemporary tale starring two intrepid walking wounded refusing to allow anything to interfere with their love for one another.................... Harriet Klausner