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A Day in the Life

Monaghan lives in a renovated cottage on a hidden street alongside Stony Run Park in the prestigious Roland Park neighborhood. Thats how she puts it, her voice curlicued with sarcasm: Welcome to the prestigious Roland Park neighborhood. The house continues the rather whimsical decorating themes of her office, with a large neon sign that reads Human Hair. What is it with Monaghan and hair?

Youre a little overanalytical, she counters. One of the liabilities of modern times is that everyone thinks theyre fluent in Freudian theory, and they throw the terms around so casually. I dont have much use for psychiatry.

Has she ever been in therapy?

Once, she admits promptly. Court ordered. You know what, though? Id like to reverse myself. In general, I dont have much use for psychiatry and I thought it was bulls-t when they put me in anger management. But it did help, just not in the way it was intended.

How so?

Its not important, she says, reaching for her right knee, a strange nervous tic that has popped up before. Lets just say that it doesnt hurt sometimes to be a little angry.

Monaghan is speaking in low tones, trying not to awaken her boyfriend. Six years her junior, Ransome works for Monaghans father, scouting the musical acts that appear at his bar. Ransomes workday ended a mere four hours ago, at four a.m., while Monaghans day began at six a.m. with a workout at the local boathouse.

Monaghan and Ransome have been a couple, on and off, for more than four years. Do they plan to marry?

You know what? You and my mom should get together. Youd really hit it off. She asks me that every day. Ready to experience the exciting life of a private detective? She draws out the syllables in exciting with the same sarcasm she used for prestigious.

Whats her destination this morning?

The most wonderful place on earth-the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

And, truth be told, the courthouse does seem to be a veritable fairyland to Monaghan, who stalks its halls and disappears into various records rooms, greeting many clerks by name. But wouldnt it be more efficient to work from her office? Isnt most of the information online?

Some, says Monaghan, who also relies on an online network of female investigators from across the country. Not all. And theres a serendipity to real life that the Internet cant duplicate. Do you use the library? For anything? Well, sometimes you end up picking up the book next to the book you were looking for, and its that book that changes your life. Googles great, but its no substitute for getting out and talking to people. Plus, the courthouse is only a block from Cypriana. So whenever I come here, I can reward myself with a celebratory chicken pita with extra feta cheese.

Isnt 11:30 a little early for lunch?

Ive been up since six! Besides, you want to get there before the judges release the various juries for their lunch break.

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