DuQuesne tightened the control of the attractors, which had never been entirely released from their prisoner, thus again pinning the Fenachrone helplessly against the wall.
"Just to be sure you don't try to start something," he explained coldly. "You have done well so far, but I'll run things myself from now on, so that you can't steer us into a trap. Now tell me exactly how to go about getting one of your vessels. After we get it, I'll see about letting you go."
"Fools, you are too late! You would have been too late, even had you killed me out there in space and had fled at your utmost acceleration. Did you but know it, you are as dead, even now—our patrol is upon you!
"DuQuesne whirled, snarling, and his automatic and that of Loring were leaping out when an awful acceleration threw them flat upon the floor, a magnetic force snatched away their weapons and a heat-beam reduced them to two small piles of gray ash.
(Skylark Three, Chapter 13)
Among the times when I most feel old is when I think about the movies I used to watch on Saturday afternoon television as a kid. Among the cheesy Westerns and (now embarrassingly racist) Tarzan features, as often as not those innocent days’ fare would include a silent movie or two. My own daughters were at first incredulous when I told them this, but just think about it. In the late 1950s, the last days of the Silent Era was were not more than 20 years ago. It would be like watching Independence Day or Jerry Maguire today – not so remarkable. Top Gun and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were further in the future than Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights were in the past to that young Bobby Prokop watching poor Nell being tied to railroad tracks by the mustachioed villain, with an onrushing train in the distance and our dashing hero nowhere in sight.
Another bit of standard fare in those simpler times was the serial. Every week we’d be treated to our heroes ending up in some improbable fix with no apparent way to escape. A common “cheat” was to actually show their catastrophic demise, such as the airplane they’re in crashing into a mountainside in the last seconds of one episode, only for the next episode to reveal them safely bailing out just before the fiery explosion.
Which is exactly how Smith handles his villain, “Blackie” DuQuesne, near the end of Skylark Three. Anxious to wrap up the story (which was apparently approaching the word limit dictated by his publishers) and nowhere close to resolving the many and intricate plot threads surrounding DuQuesne’s epic space voyage, Smith simply kills him off in four short sentences. Done. In fact, it happens so fast that I can easily imagine someone skimming the October 1930 issue of Amazing Stories and missing his demise altogether.
(This, by the way, would by no means be the last time Smith would use such a plot device. The endings to Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, and Second Stage Lensmen all end with the “bad guys” all-too-abruptly being defeated… only to reappear in the next novel with ever greater powers and more threatening than ever.)
But just like in those old time serials, we learn in the opening pages of Skylark of Valeron that DuQuesne and Loring were not killed at all, no matter what was printed in the preceding novel. Smith spends no less than four full chapters of Skylark of Valeron in rewinding the reel and showing the reader what really happened during those four deceptive sentences quoted above, before proceeding with the story. Suffice to say for our purposes here that Duquesne remains alive and a potent threat to the safety, and indeed the lives, of Seaton and company.