It’s a sultry June in New York, the year is 1920.
On the 5th June Juliawrites to Alessandro, Chesterand Solomon, after several months of increasingly infrequent meetings. She suggests a meal for Chester’s birthday and informs the other two that she will organise a surprise party for him.
On the evening of the 19th Alessandro walks into Delmonicos, where he is informed that Miss Somersby will not be joining their celebration due to illness. He informs the others as they arrive, and after some discussion, a sumptuous meal and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the restaurant staff, where Chester is given an enormous cake, they decide to leave.
Chester, not content to leave a stone unturned, asks the staff about the phone call informing the restaurant of Julia’s non-appearance. He calls the Somersby household and is greeted by the butler, after a little insistence he is on the line to Earl Somersby, Julia’s father.
Not willing to discuss the nature of Julia’s malady Mr Somersby politely bids Professor Allen good night, informing him that a house visit would be inadvisable. He is resigned and a little sad in his otherwise stern tone.
Not satisfied with the information gleaned from the conversation, Chester resolves to look into the Somerby family doctor’s background the following day to see what can be found about Julia. Solomon and Al gently persuade him to go back to his bachelor pad for a celebratory round of medicinal liquor.
After a cab ride to Greenwich Village Chester hears whispers as he approaches his previously-thought empty and dark apartment. When the lights switch on he is greeted by a crowd of party guests in fancy dress. The three of them are handed glasses of illegally spiked punch and Chester is acquainted with Theodora StJohn-Osgood, Julia’s best friend and party-organiser stand-in (Theo to her friends), whilst Solomon reacquaints himself with Alice Albert. It becomes clear quite quickly that the party has already been going for some time, and that the majority of the guests are Julia’s circle of friends – mostly children of rich businessmen, and struggling artists & writers.
Halfway through the hard partying there is a brisk rap on the door and Mrs. Peterson, Chester’s landlady enters the flat. She complains about the noise and hands Chester a parcel that she helpfully took in from the mail box to prevent it getting rained on (even though nobody has seen a drop of rain in weeks). With Mrs. Peterson placated and escorted back to her apartment Chester glances briefly at the parcel, recognising but being unable to pinpoint the handwriting.
Back in his front room Theo grabs Chester by the hand and leads him to a pile of gifts. When these are all opened all that remains is the parcel brought in by his neighbour. Carefully snipping the string Chester removes the plain manila to reveal a used, worn diary. On the flyleaf is the signature of his Uncle Frederick Short, an historian of comparative religions at Miskatonic University.
Several onlookers remark at the strange gift. One of whom, a man in a Venetian mask and long robes, asks if there is anything further inside the parcel. Chester looks, finds nothing, and realises that the man has an accent.
Resolving to read it in privacy Chester rejoins the party and at around 11pm starts to try and encourage the guests to leave.