The time was late August some eleven years ago. The place that part of central California where, on one side, the plain unrolls in golden levels, and on the other swells upward toward the rounded undulations of the foothills. It was very hot; the sky a fathomless blue vault, the land dreaming in the afternoon glare, its brightness blurred here and there by shimmering heat veils. Checkered by green and yellow patches, dotted with the black domes of oaks, it brooded sleepily, showing few signs of life. At long intervals ranch houses rose above embowering foliage, a green core in the midst of fields where the brown earth was striped with lines of fruit trees or hidden under carpets of alfalfa.