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“What’s The Vulture?” Agent Kells asked.

“It’s a dive bar. A total dive.”

“What do the green, yellow and red points represent on the screen?”

Padoi hesitated before answering. He looked sidelong at Kells’ sidearm visible as he leaned into Padoi’s computer monitor. “Those represent probable sobriety levels of the patrons, sir. Green represents sober, yellow inebriated, red dead drunk.”

Agent Kells stepped back from Padoi’s desk and assessed the young man. “Based on what information?”

Padoi swallowed. “I use whatever metrics are available.”

“You mean hackable.”

“It is not hard, sir.”

“Nobody in our office can do this, Mr. Noriege. And we have much more legal access to computer systems and raw data than you do.”

“But maybe not the motivation. I’m trying to prevent needless injury or death. I do not want any of those yellow or red dots to get in their cars and endanger others.”

“Why?” Kells pressed. “What’s it to you?”

Turning away, Padoi’s voice wavered. “My brother was killed by a drunk driver. Last year. A man who drank two times the legal limit at The Vulture.”

After a few moments of silence, Agent Kells asked, “Okay. I get the why. How are you doing this? Where are you getting the metrics? How do your algorithms work? How are you stopping these guys?”

A certain pride in his accomplishment, perked Padoi up. “My systems can track time at a bar based on GPS movements, number of drinks purchased via credit card transactions, posts made on social media, video surveillance systems. My algorithms assess probable levels of inebriation from those metrics. Depending on those alerts, I can take further action depending on the make and model of cars. I can deny entry into their vehicles or prevent the car from starting. Through proxy 911 devices I can alert police to a suspected car as it leaves the establishment. I have a host of methods.”

“Yes, you do, Mr. Noriege. Which is why the FBI took considerable pains to track down an increasing number of reports of citizens being denied their rights to enter and drive their cars after leaving restaurants or bars in this particular section of the city. An area, by the way, that keeps expanding.”

“I believe the law holds that citizens forfeit their right to drive when they are incapacitated in such a way that they may endanger themselves and others,” Padoi respectfully submitted.

“That is not for you to judge.”

“I do not judge, sir. The data does. And it is very effective. Has there not been a dramatic decline in the number of DUI cases in this locale? I track that as well. DUI-related accidents and injuries are down nearly 70%.”

“True. And irate calls to car dealers are up the same amount. People don’t appreciate not being able to drive their cars.”

“I have begun to send messages through proxy systems to these people as to why they were “inconvenienced” so that they can learn to associate their excessive drinking behaviors with the cause of not being allowed to drive. I monitor and learn from their responses and make improvements to my system. I think the good of this far outweighs the inconvenience of people who drink too much and then break the law by driving. My system prevents them from breaking the law. The way it is now, law enforcement has to wait until an inebriated driver breaks the law—and potentially harms himself or others—to arrest him. Which system makes more sense to you, Agent Kells?”

“Yours. Hands down. But what you are doing is not legal. You are invading the privacy of others. Collecting and using data you have no right to in order to pre-empt a possible violation. That is a crime.”

“Which is a greater crime?”

“This is the slipperiest of slopes, Mr. Noriege. You are very well intentioned, but your system. This use of data could be used in all sorts of nefarious ways.”

“Not an answer.”

“There is not a good answer.”

“Then let me be and save some lives, Agent Kells.”

“I would not be doing my job. Upholding my duty.”

Padoi let those hollow words sink in. “My system is my own, but I have made provisions that it be released to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the event I am arrested. Agent Kells, I am not a bad guy. I am not a caped crusader or a crank. I believe in justice. Do you?”

Agent Kells suppressed a sigh. “I believe in the law, even if it doesn’t always do justice to justice.”

Padoi held up his arms as if to be cuffed. “So, how will this end?”

After a few seconds, Agent Kells waved him off. “Not simply. Never simply.”

“Then we have an agreement?”

“We have a moment. Time for a breath.”

“That is all I could ever want—a breath for my brother.”

“Okay, Mr. Noriege, a breath for your brother while I wrestle with Big Brother.”

“You are a singular man, Agent Kells.”

“I…i…i…,” the FBI agent trailed off looking at Padoi’s blinking screen.

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