Taz Stuart is alive and well and living in Winnipeg -- but unwilling to utter a peep about why he left the city last summer.
The former city entomologist, easily one of Manitoba's most recognizable public servants, suddenly stopped calling the shots for the City of Winnipeg's insect control branch in July.
By the beginning of September, the Saskatchewan native was out of a job. But he stuck around his adopted home of Winnipeg, where he was spotted attending Bomber games, hanging out with friends at a pub and otherwise not at all behaving like a person who was trying to hide from public view.
"Winnipeg will always be my home," the man with the Weird Al Yankovic locks said this week during a brief telephone interview that found him as amiable as ever -- but awkwardly unable to say anything of substance surrounding his departure from his old gig, lest he violate the terms of a non-disclosure agreement.
Since leaving the city, Stuart says he's kept busy spending time with his family and chasing down job leads.
"Currently, I'm just enjoying Winnipeg, as I should," he said.
The bug man is working with an illustrator on a series of children's books about -- you guessed it -- insects. He's looking for a publisher to help develop the series, whose tentative titles include Bugs In The Day, Bugs At Night and Bugs That Don't Belong.
In other words, a man who has spent two decades engaging in chemical and biological warfare against invertebrates now wants to be a children's author.
In the grand scheme of Winnipeg weirdness, this ranks somewhere between Thomas Steen becoming a city councillor and Obby Khan opening a shwarma shop.
Stuart also took time this fall to travel to Regina to watch his beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup. So for many Bomber fans, "Winnipeg will always be my home" may ring sort of hollow.
So does Stuart's explanation for leaving the City of Winnipeg after nine years.
"It was time for a change, simple as that," he said.
With all due respect to the bug man, that just isn't the entire story. He was last seen on the job in July but was invisible throughout August, unusual for a city bug-fighter at the height of mosquito-control season.
During the first week of September, the city confirmed he was no longer an employee but wouldn't disclose the circumstances of his departure.
A number of sources in the city allege Stuart's absence followed a single complaint about a voice message he left in July.
One source alleged the message consisted of six words.
The same sources claimed there was a strained relationship between the entomologist and his superiors in the public service -- as well as between Stuart and at least one member of Mayor Sam Katz's staff.
As any longtime city hall observer will tell you, members of this city council don't like to be overshadowed by public servants.
As one of the most recognizable faces of the City of Winnipeg -- a man whose profile rivalled that of Katz himself -- it's quite possible Stuart's enormous profile was a point of contention at times.
But there's no way to test that theory when neither he nor the city will discuss the circumstances of a departure they mutually agreed to keep secret.
A month after Stuart left, former fire-paramedic chief Reid Douglas was canned, also for reasons the city refused to disclose.
Weeks later, former chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl resigned, also under circumstances that were less than entirely clear at the time.
The three absent officials are all wandering in a special wilderness reserved for high-profile public servants who vanish in a haze of mystery and intrigue.
Sheegl and Douglas may continue to make news, as their departures were tied to very serious events. Stuart may never be heard from again, as his parting does not seem as momentous.
But that doesn't mean Winnipeggers should be deprived of a full explanation for the fall of the bug man, whose presence mattered to a lot of people.