The Signal and the Noise 

Part 12 of the Netcromancer by M.J.Miello


“So when am I going to meet her?” Alanna asked.

“Meet who?”

“Your girlfriend. Billy said she’s gorgeous.”

Fucking Billy. What a mistake I had made ever bringing him out to meet my friends and Rally. Of course, this was before the coming of Alanna.

“I don’t know. She is very busy. She makes me book our dates three weeks in advance.”

“Oh, she does not. You see her all the time. So how did you meet her?”

The very last thing I wanted in all the world was to talk about Rally with Alanna. When I was with Alanna I wished I never met Rally. I had been keeping a quarter in my pocket to remind me that all it would take would be one phone call—one message on her dorm-room answering machine, and I could end my relationship with Rally.

‘You might want to stop sleeping with her too then.’ the moral voice reminded me, but I was getting very good at ignoring this distraction.

“We met at a pool hall. She had hustled a bunch of men and taken all their money. They were going to kill her. I stepped in and put a stop to it. She told me I was her hero and that we should go on a date. But then she stole my wallet. I’ve really just been trying to get my driver’s license back this whole time.”

“So she is a hustler and a thief.”

“Absolutely. A con-artist. The only reason I keep seeing her is that she knows where my family lives. Oh, did I mention she likes to start fires?” This, of course, was not entirely true. Well, the part about the pool hall was true. The rest was an utter fabrication.

Alanna laughed at this. Laughter was in no short supply when she and I worked the lab together—which, thanks to a bit of bribery, occurred much more often than it should have.

“Why do you have such terrible taste in women?”

“I don’t! I have excellent taste in women! I’m just stuck in a relationship with a car thief.”

“She steals cars now?”

“Only Lexuses. She sells them for drugs.”

“Now I have to meet her!”



“Sure. Let’s set it up. We’ll get dinner—just the three of us. How’s Saturday night? I’ll make a reservation. Do you like Italian?”

She smiled at me. Shaking her head slightly.

“Why do I have the feeling she is not going to show up?”

“She’ll come if I invite her.”


“Well, I can’t absolutely guarantee that she’ll come. Sometimes she has trouble traveling—I mean there is a warrant out for her arrest and all.”

“You have a very strange way of asking a girl out.”

“Hey, this was your idea!”

“Oh and now you want to back out of it!”

“I never said that!”

“Billy!” She all but cheered when she saw him walk into the lab.

“Hello-hello!” Billy said with a mechanical wave.

“Christopher invited me out to dinner to meet his girlfriend.”

“Did he now?” Billy’s eyebrows knitted together as if he was trying to decipher what this meant. Billy was every bit as enamored with Alanna as I was. Probably more so since he otherwise seemed to be hopelessly frustrated in love.

“Hey, Billy, why don’t you come too?”

Great now it’s a double date. Fucking Billy.

“OK!” Billy agreed, his pale face starting to glow with excitement.

“Yeah. That’s a great idea!” I said. “You know what? We should invite the whole BAC. Let’s all go to dinner!” Then I yelled invitations to two nearby members. Billy’s smile flickered out like a fluorescent bulb.

The infuriating thing was that she liked me. I know she liked me! I made her laugh. She brightened up when I came into the room. She rejected almost every other guy who flirted with her. But yet, I wasn’t sure. And even though she was, as far as I could tell, the most amazing girl I would ever meet, I couldn’t ask her out. I was waiting for some clear signal—some strong indication that she wanted to date me. Then I would gladly have broken up with Rally. But I was having a hard time distinguishing the signal from the noise. And I certainly wasn’t going to part with Rally and not wind up with Alanna. This was a delicate operation and I needed a level of certainty.



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