PROLOGUE—Enter Jason Beretto

1999

Francis International Airport

Liberty City, New York

Jason Beretto stepped off his plane, filling his lungs with chilly air. The five hour flight from Florida had linked him directly with Liberty City, New York. Jason had slept most of the way, but just before landing, the captain had come on and alerted everyone to the fact that they were landing soon. Jason had stayed awake for the last fifteen minutes of flight, and was one of the first passengers off the plane from the first class section.

His employer, a man named Salvatore Leone of the Leone Mafia, had ordered him to be called in right away. Jason had been friends with Salvatore's boy, Joey, since childhood. Jason could remember running up yards and playing war when they were young. As they got older, their games began to mature. Eventually, Jason got into driving for thugs, while Joey went into mechanics. They still talked, but hardly at all. Jason eventually moved to Vice City, which he heard had good opportunities. He had worked for some time under a man named Tommy Vercetti, a powerful businessman, and made tons of cash. He had never met the man, however—all his orders came by phone and his payment by mail.

In coming back to Liberty where he had grown up, Jason used up a vast amount from his savings, since the ticket was somewhat expensive.

Jason placed opaque shades on his face, pushed them up onto his nose, hefted his twin beige bags, and stepped down off the stairs. The descent to the ground was only a few meters, but the walk down the stairs seemed to take forever, as Jason reminisced about their childhood. Unlike some of the other flights, Jason was taken off his plane outside the airport itself in Liberty, and he was sort of sorry, because all he was wearing in the bitter cold New York weather was a pair of jeans, and a black T-shirt. His leather jacket was still packed with his other clothes, since he had come from Florida, and completely forgot about such a cold welcome after so much time in paradise.

His hair was a light brown, blonding at the sides, and he wore a silver watch on his wrist, with a shiny necklace about his neck. His face was clean-shaven, as he always kept it, and his shirt was neatly pressed, along with his blue jeans. The air seemed bitter cold to him compared to Florida, and as his foot hit the bottom stair, he noticed passengers getting into their rides and taking off. Several limos were parked in the area, and random people were being checked for guns. Jason hadn't bothered to bring his own Colt Python revolver, because he figured airport security was too tight nowadays to make an easy inspection. He would have to show ID multiple times, and he figured it would simply be easier to leave the gun behind, so he left it under his pillow back in his apartment in Vice City. No one could get to it there.

Jason had actually been called in to help with the increasing Triad problem. Ever since this ghostlike man had destroyed their fish factory front, the Triads have had it out for the Mafia. Also, the Diablos, the gang run by a large man named El Burro, were becoming somewhat of an annoyance. Although the Diablos didn't directly hate the Mafia, they were somewhat more on the Triad's side than the Mafia's. This spelled out trouble for the Leones. After recent Triad events, Salvatore Leone was scheduled to do some dealings with a man named Luigi Gotorelli, a big man in the Mafia who worked closely with Mr. Leone. They were going to sit down in Luigi's club and discuss possible solutions to their...problems. These problems were becoming increasingly annoying, such as Triad dealings on Mafia ground. If the Triads wanted to step their boundaries out of Chinatown, which was their territory, they could try and come into Saint Mark's, which was Mafia territory, but the Leones would have something to say about it.

Another big player in the Mafia was a man named Toni Cipriani, who, although being somewhat of a mama's boy, lent his fair share of dealings with the Triads. He had given work to the man everyone referred to as 'the Shadow'. This man had started working with Luigi, and had eventually ended up with Salvatore. No one had heard from him in some time, after he'd turned renegade and left Portland to flee to Staunton Island and begin working with the Yakuza. Shadow had never spoken once anytime his bosses had talked to him, and he also never gave out a name. Some Mafia bosses thought Shadow was planning on coming back sometime, but since no one had seen neither sight nor sound of the man, they figured he might have been killed, or even captured by the police. One could only hope, as he would probably try a hit against a Mafia man. That's the way the Yakuza operated—kill the boss and leave the gang with no one to run it.

Shadow had probably gone to work with Asuka Kasen, a woman that was a big player with the Yakuza, and her brother Kenji, for they could provide the man with jobs and money. He'd originally helped them settle a score with the Triads, but Maria, Leone's daughter, turned traitor and ratted out the Leones' plan to kill Shadow before he did them in himself. Again, no one had heard from him or Maria since they fled Portland.

Watches were being kept on Shadow's old hideout 8-Ball had given him down in the Red Light District, but he still hadn't returned to his old pad. Only time would tell if he ever would return. Mafia men were watching the whole alley, and keeping tabs on the garage he used to park cars in. They were perched on surrounding roofs, keeping their binoculars trained on the alley should any stranger wander in.

Also, some sites Shadow was known to visit—Portland Harbor, Luigi's Sex Club 7, the Callahan Bridge leading to and from Staunton, subways coming from Staunton and Shoreside Vale, the third island in the trio that made up Liberty City, as well as the El Train Tracks. Shadow was known to use the tracks for transportation. All these were monitored day and night, with Mafia men switching their posts off and on, and this was why Jason Beretto had been called in—his job was to find Shadow, and kill him.

As he walked several feet from the bottom of the plane, two Mafia Sentinels (black cars with bullet guards on the rear windows) came driving down a main street leading from the runway where passengers were let off. The cars came to a halt, and two men whom Jason had never met before stepped out.

"You Jason Beretto?" one of the men asked. He didn't sound American, but not Italian either, such as one would expect.

"Yeah, who wants to know?" Jason responded coolly.

"My boss, Mr. Leone. Wants you up at the mansion immediately. Get in the car and let's go, Mr. Beretto."

Jason ducked his head down and got in the rear back seat. One of the men loaded Jason's bags into the trunk, while the second man plopped into the driver's seat. A glint of metal reflected off the sun as he sat, and Jason noticed this in the rear-view mirror. This is when he began to become suspicious of the men picking him up.

As the cars were about to pull away, the man that loaded Jason's bags up pulled out a switchblade and the razor-sharp weapon clicked into place like a rifle bolt being engaged. "Enjoy the ride, Mr. Beretto," one of the men said as the driver locked the door. "You're in for a hell of a time!"

The man swung his weapon, but Jason ducked back, and the blade jammed into the seat. Jason used his foot to kick at the man holding the blade, and the driver swung a large baseball bat. Jason ducked under it, and the wooden bat smashed into the first man's face. The knife dropped to the floor, and Jason picked it up. As the driver swung again, Jason sliced through the skin, penetrated his jugular vein, and watched the man gurgle and sink to the floor.

The car came to an immediate halt after the parking brake was jerked into place, and Jason opened the door. He stepped out, and the first Mafia Sentinel made to ram him. Jason dodged in time, sliding over the hood of the parked car and crouching on the other side. The driver swerved, and slammed into a tree. Jason pocketed the knife, and reached into the first car, jerking the baseball bat from the driver's dead hands.

Three men jumped from the car. One of them threw his knife like a projectile, but Jason ducked left, and swung his baseball bat at the man's face. These men were obviously not the Mafia men sent to get them. They were probably Triads in disguise.

The bat connected, bone audibly crunched in the man's face, and the first guy crashed to the ground, bleeding. Two batswipes later, along with more bone-crunching, and both remaining men were on the ground, dead or unconscious. Jason searched all the bodies, and uncovered a small handgun which could be bought at the Ammu-Nation. This gun only had four shots left in it, regardless, he put the gun in his coat pocket on the inside, and put his knife in his breast pocket.

A crowd had begun to develop at the scene, so Jason pulled his bags out of the Sentinel, put the baseball bat into one of cases, and hailed a taxi. It was actually a long drive to Luigi's club over in Portland (he was far away, over in Shoreside Vale) even if you took the tunnels that run underground, and he wanted to get there and report what had happened to him before it was too late. Some Triad heads were going to roll for this.