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Once inside the capitol, Ford recovered his aplomb so quickly that he went right on to his meeting with Governor Brown without making any mention of the incident. In fact, Brown did not learn what had happened right outside his office until a Ford aide brought up the matter after half an hour. Later, Ford insisted upon addressing the California legislature as planned, without mentioning what had occurred earlier. He looked wan and was unusually serious. Ironically, his topic was crime. Ford told the lawmakers that he was especially concerned about "the truly alarming increase in violent crime throughout this country" and advocated mandatory sentences "for persons found guilty of crimes involving the use of a dangerous weapon."

Bear Hug. Back in Washington, Betty Ford got the news of the assassination attempt while sitting at the desk in her study, a small, cozy room with a sweeping view of the monuments to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Mrs. Ford had just begun a phone conversation when the call was interrupted: on the line was Richard Keiser, the head of the President's Secret Service detail. Right off, knowing how she would react to his abrupt intrusion, Keiser assured Betty Ford that her husband was all right. Then he told her what had happened. Since moving into the White House, she had accepted almost fatalistically the danger to her husband−the price that goes with a place in history. But this was the first time that she had had to face the stark reality. Outwardly at least, she was calm. "It is something you have to live with," she said. "I'm very grateful to the Secret Service and the great job they do."

Later in the day, Betty and the Fords' sons, Jack, 23, and Steve, 19−tall blond boys in blue jeans and T shirts−walked out on the White House lawn to greet the big helicopter carrying the President home on the last hop of his trip from Sacramento. Betty greeted her husband with a bear hug, and his sons affectionately draped their arms around his shoulders. The President's reaction to his day was casual and characteristic: "Gee, it's nice to be home." Then he said: "We had a great trip−just a fraction of a second or two kind of distorted things. Everything else was superb." Indeed, Ford went out of his way to reassure Californians that he did not hold the Fromme episode against them. "I wouldn't under any circumstances let one individual's effort undercut the warmth of what we felt in California."

On the West Coast and in Washington, the Secret Service, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies worked frantically to learn what motivated the attempted assassination and whether or not Squeaky Fromme had acted alone. Arraigned in Sacramento on a federal charge of attempting to murder the President, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, she sat listlessly through the proceedings, making no statement and showing no reaction when her bail was set at $1 million.

Hunting for clues, Sacramento police went to her attic apartment above a boarding house and took her two roommates, Sandra Good and Susan Murphy, into custody for questioning. Like Good, Murphy was a member of the Manson family. After two hours of interrogation, the two were released without being charged.

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