Last week Col. Henry Breckinridge, friend and legal adviser of Col. Charles Augustus Lindbergh, left his client's side for the first time in more than two months, flew to the Kentucky Derby. John Hughes Curtis, Norfolk, Va. boat builder, vanished on another of his mysterious yacht cruises.
Other agents and agencies in the search for Col. Lindbergh's kidnapped child seemed no closer to success than they were on the windy night of March 1, when the baby was snatched from his New Jersey nursery. But in Washington last week another fantastic sideshow in the case was revealed. Principal in this show was a bad actor who first came to fame in the Harding era Gaston Bullock Means.
Bad Actor Means, 53, a thick-necked, slackjawed, dimpled-cheeked Southerner, is the author of The Strange Death of President Harding in which it is intimated that Mrs. Harding poisoned her husband (TIME, March 31, 1930). The book was written after Means had served three years (1925-28) in Atlanta Penitentiary for bribery and violation of the Prohibition laws. Before that he had turned on his employer, onetime Attorney General Harry Micajah Daugherty, with tall tales before a Senate Committee about the "Ohio Gang's" activities. Before the U. S. entered the War, he says, he served with the German spy system in the U. S., once received $1,000,000 from a German agent at a midnight rendezvous in Trinity Churchyard, Manhattan. Further in his past lies an astounding record of crime and near-crime. At one time or another, Gaston Means, a sleuth by profession, has been indicted for breach of promise, impersonating an officer, fraud, bribery, forgery, murder. He once told a Senate committee that ''being indicted" was his business. Last November he was arrested for beating his wife.
It was no great surprise to Gaston Means when a U. S. deputy marshal and a special Department of Justice agent stopped his expensive, chauffeured car on Washington's Massachusetts Avenue one day last week and took him into custody.
The charge on which he was apprehended was, however, startling : that he had bilked affluent Mrs. Evelyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond, estranged wife of the publisher of the Washington Post and Cincinnati Enquirer, out of $106,000 on the pretext that he could help her find the Lindbergh baby.
Rich Mrs. McLean, a mining tycoon's daughter much in the Washington lime light, interested herself in the Lindbergh kidnapping as early as March 4. In 1919 she, too, had lost her firstborn; 9-year-old Vinson, the "Hundred-Million-Dollar Baby" who slept in a crib decorated with gold, gift of Leopold, King of the Belgians. In an unguarded moment her child was ground to death under an automobile's wheels. Mrs. McLean remembered Gaston Means from the good old Harding days when her husband played poker with the Ohio Gang, decided to hire him to trace the Lindbergh baby. A conference was arranged attended by Captain Emory S. Land, U. S. N., Col. Lindbergh's cousin, and Rev. Francis J. Hurney, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Means said that the presence of a cleric in the negotiations would cement the kidnappers' confidence.