P. O. W.

PRISONERS
OF
THE NVA

“Come on, Colonel! You’re the leader… are you going to let your soldier die?” Van Pao demanded.

Colonel Garibaldi’s lower lip trembled. He was ashamed, but he didn’t have the courage to take Spencer Barnett’s place.

Spencer saw what the female NVA lieutenant was doing—she was going to kill him, but at the same time she was going to totally
break the colonel.

“Hey! Sweet Bitch! I won’t let him take my place!” Barnett screamed. “Damn you, sir! Don’t you fall for this shit! You know
the game she’s playing!”

One of the guards kicked Spencer in the side to shut him up and he yelled all the louder.

“Colonel! You’ve got to live for both of us!”

Lieutenant Van Pao barked orders to the guards, and they picked Spencer up and placed him directly over the sharpened bamboo
stake…

Also by Donald E. Zlotnik

Survivor of Nam: Baptism

Survivor of Nam: Black Market*

Survivor of Nam: Court-Martial*

Published by

POPULAR LIBRARY
*
forthcoming

Copyright

POPULAR LIBRARY EDITION

Copyright © 1988 by Warner Books, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Popular Library® and the fanciful P design are registered trademarks of Warner Books, Inc.

Popular Library books are published by

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

First eBook Edition: September 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-56681-0

Contents

Prisoners Of The NVA

Also by Donald E. Zlotnik

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE: A Rum

CHAPTER TWO: Project Cherry

CHAPTER THREE: Black Cong

CHAPTER FOUR: Da Nang

CHAPTER FIVE: Run! Run!

CHAPTER SIX: Fool’s Gold Escape

CHAPTER SEVEN: Philippine Mock-up

CHAPTER EIGHT: Hero, Traitor, Deathmaker

CHAPTER NINE: Gray Justice

Epilogue

Dear Mom and Dad,

Things have been quiet for a while and I’ve actually gotten some time to catch up on my letter writing—not that there is anything
really new. In fact, after a while being a soldier is just like any other job, except maybe that you carry a gun… and you
don’t get to go home at five o’clock.

Reggie said to say thanks for the clothes for the kids. He’s almost finished making arrangements to send them home to his
folks. Both of them are so cute, you almost would believe that they didn’t know there was a war going on, but they do. Kids
are kids.

Love
,

CHAPTER ONE
A Rum

She flicked out her tongue and instantly sensed the change of temperature between the air and the warm rock she was lying
on and moved her coils so that the bottom of her long body could enjoy the heat coming from the sun-warmed surface. A flash
of light from the side of the mountain on the opposite side of the river registered in her slow-to-function brain as something
different, but not threatening to her safety. It had been ten years since anything had even tried bothering her. There was
no way for her to know that she was the largest living reticulated python in the world. She was a little over thirty-six feet
long and had a girth of thirty-nine inches.

Lieutenant Van Pao held her field glasses up to her eyes and watched the iridescent skin of the large python flash in a beautiful
rainbow of colors. The snake had just come out of the water and contrasted with the sand-colored flat rock she had crawled
on. Lieutenant Van Pao looked at her watch; this was the fifth morning in a row that the python had come out of the river
onto the rock. The North Vietnamese lieutenant was sure that it had a burrow near the basking place and used the sun-heated
rock to raise her body temperature before going hunting along the fast-flowing mountain river.

*   *   *

The area around the prison compound had been cleared of underbrush, and a twenty-foot circle of pungi stakes separated the
camp from the Bru Montagnard village of A Rum in Laos. The pungi stakes weren’t very effective as a fence, but they issued
a clear warning to the villagers and to the prisoners of war that any attempt to cross the open ground would result in their
being shot by one of the NVA guards.

Corporal Barnett carried the bundles of freshly cut bamboo poles over each one of his shoulders. He dropped the load off his
right shoulder first and then leaned to his left side so that the bundle could roll off his collarbone to the ground.

“What do you think they’re building?”

The Air Force colonel looked up from tying two of the poles together with a long piece of split bamboo. “You’ve got me, Spencer.
It could be another POW cage….”

“Naw, I don’t think so, they’re building it too low for that.”

“Maybe it’s for
short
Vietnamese?” The colonel joked but Barnett was concentrating too hard on the purpose of the new cage to catch the pun.

“They’ve always kept the South Vietnamese prisoners separate from us Americans.”

“Well then, the only thing we can do is wait and see!” The colonel reached over for another one of the long poles Barnett
had just delivered and spaced it with the others that had already been tied to the frame of the cage. “It is a little unusual
to have the bamboo spaced so close together, and putting the gate on
top
of the cage doesn’t make any sense at all.”

A guard noticed Barnett and the colonel talking and yelled over to the prisoners to get back to work.

Barnett went back to the edge of the camp, where an NVA soldier was using a machete to cut and trim the bamboo poles. The
NVA soldier was sweating and angry; he had been detailed for the hard labor because he had been caught sleeping on guard the
night before. Barnett felt the flat side of the wide knife-blade against his shoulder and jerked away instinctively. The guard
curled his upper lip and pointed to the pile of bamboo. Barnett looked down at the ground and then went over to assemble another
load. The week before, he would have glared at the young NVA guard and been beaten for his insolence. The Air Force colonel
was teaching him how to survive in the NVA prisoner-of-war compound, but it was against everything Barnett believed in to
subjugate himself to other humans, especially the young guard who had just hit him with the machete.

The sound of soft laughter floated across the narrow clearing to where Barnett was working with the bamboo. He snuck a look
out of the corner of his eye and saw Mohammed James sitting on the shaded porch of the Montagnard house. The sound of laughter
increased when James saw Barnett sneak a look in his direction. He pulled the fifteen-year-old Montagnard girl closer to him
and put her hand on his crotch. She giggled when she felt the bulge, and he laughed louder.


Hey! Barnett!
Do you want to fuck my woman?” James yelled across the pungi-staked barrier. He had been drinking
num-pah
, a rice wine fermented in large, ten-gallon earthenware crocks and drunk directly from the crock with a bamboo straw.

Barnett ignored James’s comment, picked up another load of bamboo poles, and started walking back toward the new cage.

“Hey, you motherfucker!”
James stood up and screamed at Barnett, who had turned his back to him.
“Who the fuck do you think you are! Huh?”

Barnett continued walking away.

“I’m going to smoke your white ass!
Do you hear me
?” James heard the girl giggle and grabbed her by the arm.
“You
respect
me! You hear?”
He staggered into the dark longhouse the NVA had forced the Montagnards to build for him and pulled the girl behind him.

The Air Force colonel had heard James screaming over at Barnett and was smiling when the young soldier returned with his load.
“That was smart, Spencer.”

Barnett dropped his load and glared over at the colonel. “I’m going to kill that motherfucking traitor before I leave here!”

“He’ll get his; you just stay calm and
survive
.”

“It’s hard…” said Barnett, whispering under his breath.

“I know… I know, Spencer, but you’ve got to tune him out.” The colonel fitted a piece of bamboo against the frame. “They’re
looking for any excuse to make an example out of you…
anything!
There’s something they want from you, or they would have executed you the first time you tried to punch out a guard.” The
colonel lowered his voice, speaking without moving his lips. “Do you know what they’re after?”

Barnett kept busy stacking the poles near the colonel. “I guess it has to do with the seismic-intrusion detectors my recon
team had planted right before we were ambushed.”

“But you said that James’s team had planted six of them also… it doesn’t make sense.” The colonel stopped talking when the
roving guard neared their workplace, waiting until the NVA soldier wandered on before continuing. “There has to be something
else.”

Barnett shrugged his shoulders. “Every time Sweet Bitch calls me in for interrogation, she asks about the green boxes we planted
and where they’re located…. ‘I’ve told you everything that I know about those boxes, Colonel Garibaldi.…’”

“I believe you, Spencer…. When I was working in the Pentagon, there were rumors that we had special seismic devices that could
be air dropped. They were about two feet long and had antennae that looked like young saplings… that could easily have been
changed to bamboo.” The colonel frowned, trying to recall something else from the top-secret briefing. There was something
else about the detectors that he knew was very important, but he couldn’t remember what it was.

Barnett left and went back for another load of bamboo. The colonel spent the rest of the afternoon trying to recall every
detail from the briefing that had taken place years earlier.

Lieutenant Van Pao returned to her office in the village right before noon. She was well pleased with the results of her engineers.
The village of A Rum looked exactly like it had before they moved the POW camp and her headquarters into it. A great deal
of care had been taken to blend the new longhouses and storage areas with the existing village. Aerial photographs would reveal
only a slightly larger village, something that was common in the war-torn countryside where the Montagnards had gathered together
for protection against bombings. The Americans refused to bomb the settlements as long as they remained Montagnard and there
was no sign of NVA activity near them.

The field telephone in her small office emitted a loud buzzing sound that startled her. She reached for the black handset
and answered the direct line to division headquarters.

“Lieutenant Van Pao speaking, sir!”

There was a short pause filled with static, and then a deep voice spoke. “Lieutenant, when are we going to get some information
on those sensors the Americans have placed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail?”

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