The Bad Beat is the third Burn Notice novel by Tod Goldberg.
- Clients: Brent Grayson, Sugar
- Bad Guys: Yuri Drubitch, Big Lumpy
A small favor by Sam for Sugar drags Michael into a case to help a naive college kid who has unwittingly defrauded the Russian Mafia for thousands of dollars to pay off his mentally unhinged father's gambling debts.
Sam Axe drops by Michael's loft and asks to borrow a submachine gun - which is also his not-so-subtle way of asking Michael to come along and help him with a small "favor" he has promised to Sugar. Against his better judgment, Michael comes along to satisfy his curiosity and make sure Sam doesn't get killed.
The favor - helping Sugar to convince some "collection agents" for a local bookie to stop hassling Sugar's friend - turns deadly when an SUV full of heavily-armed Russian mob soldiers pulls up in front of the notary office they are staking out. Sam calls Sugar to run out the back door immediately, abandoning his car. With a sigh, Michael collects Sugar and asks what is going on.
Sugar frequently deals to students at the University of Miami, and one of his "clients," Brent Grayson, said his father, Henry, was having trouble paying off some gambling debts. Sugar swears he has no idea what this has to do with the Russian Mafia, and Michael believes him.
After seeing in the paper that the notary's office was blown up by a rocket launcher, Michael and Sugar go to the University dorms to collect Brent, who is huddled in a ball on the floor of his dorm room. Michael takes him back to the loft and asks him to explain. Brent is too scared to talk until Fiona gives him a gentle, motherly caress - and a threat to snap his neck if he doesn't stop crying and man up.
Brent says that he is a computer science major specializing in game design; as part of their final project, his class were assigned to create mock websites for the fictitious companies marketing their games (something Michael is familiar with, since many government agencies create such websites as part of an operative's cover identity). Brent created a fictional technology company researching "Kineoptic Transference," an imaginary means of transmitting broadband data at a much more efficient rate. It was completely fake, but Brent's website was so well-crafted, and his junk science so convincing, that people began contacting the website, offering to invest. At first, Brent put them off, but then his father's gambling debts mounted up, and Brent saw a way to pay them off. One of the most interested investors is a man named Yuri Drubitch, one of Russia's biggest importers and exporters of new technologies.
Michael knows enough to see what Brent doesn't: Brent's junk science may be fake, but broadband technology outside the United States is such an undeveloped gold mine that many of the wealthiest businessmen in the world are hungry for any opportunity to exploit it - and most or all of the wealthiest businessmen in Russia have ties to organized crime. Brent, without entirely realizing it, has scammed Russian gangsters out of at least $100,000.00. The blowing up of Henry Grayson's notary office suggests that the gangsters have just awoken to the fact that they won't be getting a return on their investment.
As if that weren't enough, Brent confides that his father has disappeared. Michael decides to address Brent's problems in order: find Henry Grayson, convince "Big Lumpy" (the bookie to whom Henry owes the largest debt) to stay his hand, and then find some way of extricating Brent from the mess with the Russian mob.
Michael and Sam's meeting with Big Lumpy is a bit of a surprise: Big Lumpy is not a typical bookie; born Mark MacGregor, he is a former National Security Agency "think-tank" operative with a 200 I.Q. - he graduated from M.I.T. at age 18, and beat the house in Vegas at age 19. Having been banned from casinos all over the world, he decided to go into business as a bookie and make his own odds. He is also dying from terminal skin cancer and has perhaps three months to live.
Michael and Sam explain the situation to Big Lumpy and ask him to cancel Henry's debts. Big Lumpy is ruthless, but he is also intrigued by Brent's story. He says that Henry came by his debts fairly, and can't be excused, but agrees not to pursue Brent for the time being.
At the same time, Fiona has afternoon tea at a small restaurant owned by Yuri Drubitch, and has a chance to meet the man himself. When the subject of Brent comes up, he reacts more violently than she expected, and she is forced to leave him thrashing on the floor of the restaurant with a snapped wrist. When she and Michael compare notes, she grimly reports that while Big Lumpy might have been open to reason, Yuri is hell-bent on "collecting his debt."
Fi remarks that, even though Russian gangsters are notoriously violent, Yuri is also a businessman, and $100,000.00 doesn't seem large enough a debt to justify the amount of man- and firepower Yuri has deployed to capture Brent. Michael theorizes that Yuri has already promised the profits from Brent's technology to some even nastier people back in Russia, and needs Brent alive, to produce as a scapegoat and minimize his own culpability.
- Yuri Drubitch
- Big Lumpy
Memorable Quotes Edit
- Brent: You ever play any games?
Brent: Not even first-person shooter games?
Fiona: Not for sport, no.
- Michael: You're wrong.
Big Lumpy: I'm never wrong. I'm just not right yet.