J.M.J.

A/N: Hello, everybody! Thanks for reading this story and thank you in advance for any reviews you leave and/or for following or favoriting it. This story follows a little over a year after the main events of my last story, Black Rose, and is in the Chapters universe. If you haven't read any other stories in this arc of mine, that's okay! You should be able to follow along just fine. Here are a few highlights that will be helpful for you:

Frank and Callie are 25 and have been married for a little less than a year. Callie was awarded a scholarship to an art school in Rome, and so she and Frank have spent their first year of marriage in Rome. While Callie is at school, Frank has been working on cases for Fenton that have a European angle.

Joe is 24. He's been adjusting to being single, and also to having his brother half a world away in Rome.

Nancy and Ned are 25 and 26, respectively, and have been married for four years. As of the end of Black Rose, they were expecting their first child, so we'll see where that has gone. They are both private detectives and own a business called Nickerson & Nickerson, Private Investigators.

The Beretta family are distant relatives of Tony's and were introduced in Black Rose, just so you're not wondering who this prologue is supposed to be about.

I hope you enjoy!

All Roads Lead to Rome

Prologue

November 23 – New York City

The heavy metal door swung closed behind Mario Beretta with an ominous clang. He shuddered in spite of himself.

This is ridiculous, he told himself. He's not going to do anything to me.

He did his best to swallow his fears, but the surroundings were no help whatsoever. An abandoned apartment building in the inner city was hardly a comforting place to meet. The broken windows did nothing to keep the sound of the traffic out, which was still steady even now at the dead of night. Someone had graffitied the word peace across the faded wallpaper, but their choice of bright red paint which had dripped down from the letters gave it sinister look. Mario shivered again and turned his flashlight aside.

"Do you have it?"

The sudden question coming from behind and without Mario having seen the speaker before it was asked made him jump and whirl around. His flashlight beam caught the face of a young man with dark hair and a scowl across his face. Mario let out a long breath, but he didn't allow himself to relax completely.

"No."

"What?" Mario thought the other young man was going to burst with his fury. He didn't, but he did let out a long string of expletives. "Do you think I asked for it just so you could not bring it? What were you thinking, you little son of a –"

"I wouldn't say that if I were you, Angelo," Mario interrupted him. "There's no need to drag our mother into this."

Angelo nearly snarled, and it took all Mario's willpower not to flinch. "Where is it?"

"I don't have it," Mario told him. "Even if I did, I wouldn't give it to you. Any money I have was a gift to help me with my expenses. I don't think bailing you out of trouble is one of the expenses they were thinking of."

The muscles in Angelo's face twitched. "They'll kill me I don't pay them."

Mario let out a long breath. "It can't be that bad. If you would just go to –"

"Who?" Angelo broke in. He waved his arm in the air wildly and began to pace in a small circle around the room. "Uncle Giovanni? You think he cares about us?" He spat on the floor. "He'd just as soon see me dead."

"That's not true." Mario clenched his free fist as he let the flashlight beam drop. "You know it's not."

"I don't care whether it is or not." Angelo halted abruptly and stared at Mario with an intensity that made him squirm. "I need that money. It's the only way. I don't care how I get it."

Mario took a step back, all his fears rushing back upon him. "All I've got with me is a twenty and my credit cards. You're not going to get too far with either of those. I mean, these people aren't going to take credit."

"You're forgetting the ring."

"You wouldn't." Mario's hand instinctively covered his pocket. He had been an idiot to bring the ring with him, but he didn't like to leave it behind, either. He would have never dreamed Angelo would try to take it.

A humorless smile twisted Angelo's lips. "So you do have it with you then. That should take care of everything."

Mario stepped backward again, scrambling for the door that he had entered through, but it was still too far away. "Ange, listen to me. I know you've made mistakes, but you don't need to do this. We'll all help you. Even the cops –"

"You're an idiot, Mario," Angelo hissed. He whipped something out of his pocket. There was a loud zap, and Mario collapsed to the floor.