The High Road, Excerpt One: The Wind Farm

Aidan gently closed the rear door of the stolen car, trying to avoid any noise that could give them away. Mark was less careful with the front passenger door.

'Come on, Aidan. No time to lose. And for God’s sake, stop fretting. The nearest house is half a mile away.'

'What if someone comes along the road?'

'This road? At this time in the morning? No chance. As I said earlier if there are any problems, Barry takes off in the car, then comes back to pick us up where the track to the north-east meets the road. Now get a move on!'

Mark hefted the dark green rucksack he'd removed from the boot onto his shoulder, and Aiden picked up the second. He noted that despite his uncle's words, Mark closed the boot very quietly. After a whispered 'Good luck' from Barry through the driver's open window, they turned and walked together towards the gate at the end of the broad stub of tarmac access road.

The early hours of the morning it may have been, but the sky to the north-east was already turning a slightly lighter blue as the first suggestion of dawn made itself felt. With additional illumination from the full moon low in the cloudless sky to their left, it was light enough to see their way without any need for torches.

Mark spoke as they walked up the gravel track beyond the gateway. 'Steer clear of the building.' Aidan could see a dark oblong shape off to the right of the track. 'There's a motion-sensitive light over the first of the doors and a camera with a sensor at the far end that usually points along the frontage. We need to stay away from both. The balaclavas we're wearing are in case the camera activates.'

The lights intended to warn aircraft of their presence made them more obvious, but the dark shapes of the wind turbines spread out across the bleak scrubby moorland had been visible when the men pulled up in the car and were even clearer as the two men drew closer. Aidan could hear a background noise, a soporific hum, which he took to be the working of the generators at the top of the towers. He stopped walking when he saw a dark shape on the ground some distance ahead of them. 'What's that over there, Mark? I thought you said no one lived nearby?'

'Come on, Aidan, keep moving. This isn't the time or the place to mess about. That's just the entrance to an old colliery. It's been closed for decades. When it shut down, they planted a forest. And now they've cleared the forest to make way for a wind farm. I suppose that's what they call progress. We need to follow the track that leads round to the right, beyond the building.'

Aidan sensed movement above his head. Looking up, he could make out the rotating blades, though the effect of doing so while walking was dizzying.

'Watch your step, Aidan. We don't want any accidents.'

The two men approached the circular base of the turbine tower.

'As I said, it's number 7.' Mark briefly shone his torch at a number that was just about visible above the access door, which stood at the top of a flight of metal steps. 'Right, let's get the stuff unpacked.'

Aidan provided illumination with his torch while Mark worked. He saw Mark fumble slightly in his yellow kitchen gloves as he attached a dark webbing strap around the circumference of the turbine tower, a foot or so above its base. On the side nearest the building they had passed, he attached four packages to the strap, two taken from each of the rucksacks.

'Do you think we're going to get it to fall onto the building, uncle?' asked Aidan.

'We'll just have to see. Let's just call it a bonus if we get the building and the turbine. The charges will weaken this side of the tower but the wind's pushing it the opposite way right now, so it's unlikely. They reckon the height of the tip of the blades is 107 metres above the ground. When I came to recce the place I thought it might be a bit obvious if I paced it out to see exactly how far away the building is. Judging it by eye, I wasn't sure.'

Aidan stood off to one side and watched Mark wire the four packages together. He hoped the flicker of their torches wouldn't attract attention.

Mark turned to him. 'I want you to head back to the car, Aidan. I'll give you a five-minute start, then set the timer for 45 minutes. Have Barry start the car but keep the lights switched off. I want you to be ready to go as soon as I join you.'


Barry was standing beside the car when Aidan reached it.

'Mark wants us to be ready for the off,' said Aidan.

He'd just opened the car door, still wearing his yellow gloves, when there was a concussive 'thud' that left his ears ringing and his chest reverberating. He'd been looking away from the turbine but had seen the flash reflected off the car and the trees ahead of him. As he turned, Aidan could see the faint silhouette of the wind turbine starting to lean to the left. Then it lurched and collapsed, apparently falling away from the building.

'What's happened?' Aidan could see the shock on Barry's face even in the pre-dawn darkness.

'Mark!' Aidan took off at a run back towards the building and the now collapsed turbine beyond it.

'Wait Aidan! Come back! We need to leave! The police are going to be crawling all over this place in no time.'

Aidan ignored Barry's warning and as he ran he heard the car drive off without him.

The turbine had crumpled as it landed, the blades splintering as they struck the ground. The dust that had been kicked up by the explosion and collapse hung heavily in the air, and Aidan coughed. Then he saw the twisted remains of the metal steps that had led up to the access door.

'Mark! Where are you!' he called.

Mark was nowhere to be seen. By now Aidan was coughing badly. In the light from his torch, he saw a trainer on its side a few yards away. Had Mark been wearing trainers? Aidan thought so. He walked over and was about to pick it up when something made him hold back. He instead nudged it with his toe and as it turned over he could see that the trainer still had a foot in it, with part of an ankle attached.

Aidan stepped back in horror and turned away, managing to subdue the urgent need to vomit. This wouldn't be a good place to leave his DNA.