Vasquez has timed the abduction perfectly, as the attention of all of the guests -- as well as of the host and hostess -- is focused elsewhere at the moment of his curios act.
After a few minutes Diego has the grill crisis under control and automatically glances toward the children.
His eyes widen as he takes in the open gate and simultaneously registers the fact that the infant seat is missing. Pushing his way through the crowd, he falls to his knees before his eldest child.
"Margarita! Where ees the baby???"
"The man took her, Daddy!"
"What man? Margarita, what man???"
"The man with the funny pictures on his skin. Why did he take Baby, Daddy?"
Diego jumps up and darts through the open gate, but there is no sight of Vasquez or the missing child.
He crashes through the woods in panic for several minutes, frantically calling his brother's name, before he realizes that it is hopeless. He returns to the part to see if anyone might be able to tell him in what direction Vasquez went.
Having noted Diego's abrupt departure and hearing his frantic cries, the party guests have already been alerted to the fact that something is very wrong. Everyone's eyes are focused on him in concern as he dashes back through the gate, looking frantically for Jes.
"Stop it, Darryl! Something's going on! This is important!
"Jes!" he calls, desperately searching the faces in the crowd for his wife's cousin.
Margarita tugs on his pant leg. "Auntie Jes went with the man, Daddy. She's not here."
Diego looks at his daughter in stunned amazement. "Not . . . she . . .left? Weeth heem??" He pauses, as the implication sinks in. "Madre de Dios!" He drops his head into his hands and draws a shuddering breath just as Colette returns to the patio from inside.
Colette instantly recognizes that something is very wrong. "Diego!" she calls from across the patio.
Her heart sinks as he raises his head and she sees the stricken look on his face.
She runs to her husband.
"Oh my God, Diego, what is it? What . . ." her eyes jerk toward the children and she gasps as she notes the missing infant seat. "Baby! Diego, where is Baby?"
Diego grasps his panicked wife's shoulders. "He took her. Vasquez. My brother. And Jes ees weeth heem!"
Colette looks at him uncomprehendingly. "He . . . he took her? Jes . . . what??!"
Gannon steps in, Francisco approaching from the other side.
"OK. Diego, who is this 'Vasquez'? And why did he take the baby?"
Francisco speaks up.
"Vasquez ees Diego's brother. I do not know why he would take thee child . . . but I am beginning to have my suspicions."
Gannon looks sharply at Cisco, but lets his last statement pass without comment.
"OK, do we know where the brother is staying? Where he hangs out? Whether he has any friends here in town?"
A voice speaks up from the gate, where Harley and his date have just arrived, fashionably late.
"He hangs out at the pool hall a lot. He doesn't have 'friends', exactly, but some of the guys and I know him fairly well." Harley looks puzzled. "Don't know why he'd want to snatch the kid, though."
Gannon seeks out Giselle in the crowd. "Does Jes come home to sleep every night?"
Giselle looks troubled, but answers hesitantly. "Yeees . . . eventually. Wherever he's been staying she isn't living with him, if that's what you're getting at."
Gannon continues to look at Giselle expectantly, willing her brain to start functioning.
She stares back in confusion, but suddenly realizes what he's waiting for.
"Oh! Cell phone! I'll call her!"
Giselle reaches for her purse and digs out her cell phone, hitting the speed dial number for Jes.
She listens hopefully while the crowd holds its collective breath.
Finally her face falls as she snaps the phone shut. "Voice mail," she says, her hopes dashed.
Gannon takes charge once more. "OK, she can't or won't answer. Before they have a chance to get much farther, we need to spread out and look for them. If they're moving quickly, they're not moving carefully, so we should be able to find traces of their passing."
"Darryl! Go! Help them look!"
"Take this. It's not a hammer, but it's something."
Gannon gathers the men together at the gate and directs them to scour the area for traces of trampled undergrowth and flowers.
They all set off into the woods to search while the ladies are left behind, wide-eyed.
Colette suddenly collapses, clutching the baby's bonnet and sobbing, and her cousins and friends rush to support her.
Kenzie also sobs, believing herself to be responsible for diverting her attention from the children momentarily.
And Kenzie is not the only one plagued with feelings of guilt . . .
Nor is Colette the only one suffering grief . . .
Margarita clutches her little sister's hand, suddenly frightened by all of the yelling and chaos. Colleen turns her attention from her weeping cousin and realizes that the children are near the panic stage.
She leaves Colette to the others and drops to her knees to comfort the girls.
To be continued . . .