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"Now, you've got a corpse in a car, minus a head, in a garage. Take me to it."

A character or team, usually affiliated to The Mafia, The Men in Black, or The Masquerade, who specialize in crime-scene cleanup and/or body disposal.

Not to be confused with legitimate crime scene cleaners, who only work to make a place livable after the police have already collected evidence; this trope is about covering up the evidence of what's happened.

These are the guys behind It Was Here, I Swear. They'll frequently refer to themselves as "The Cleaner(s)". Not, however, to be confused with The Fixer, which is something entirely different.

Compare and contrast Almighty Janitor.

Examples of Cleanup Crew include:


Anime and Manga

  • Sawyer the Cleaner from Black Lagoon is a cleaner who moonlights as an assassin when she needs to. Not nearly as subtle as most Cleaners on this page, particularly given her weapon of choice; but then again, Roanapur doesn't really care that people die.
    • It seems to be more a case of 'don't leave bodies lying around, its bad form to not clean up after yourself.'. The police chief seems more bothered about the commotion that criminals cause than the crimes themselves.
  • Though, given it was a civil war where both sides felt the other were illegitimate and his side won and wrote history, it is slightly debatable as 'crime scene,' Iizuka was this for Kenshin for pretty much his whole assassin career. (Roughly ages fourteen to sixteen.) Once he switched to 'free swordsman and general rearguard' he didn't need one anymore, which is good, because...
  • Gunslinger Girl - Bruno, a Punch Clock Villain with a loving family whose job it is to dispose of the victims and stolen cars of the Pandina terrorist organisation. Captain Raballo makes a call for a "garbage truck" to dispose of the bodies of two subway hooligans killed by his cyborg in a training exercise.
  • Naruto
    • One of the tasks for the ANBU, sorta a special ops sect of ninja making them Elite Mooks amongst Elite Mooks, is properly disposing of their clans corpses, since if dead ninja were to be studied by enemy clans their special clan specific justu's might be turned against their home land.
    • Hunter ninja of the Hidden Mist village.
    • Zetsu of the Akatsuki


Comic Books

  • Butcher Joyce from The Darkness.
  • One-shot Batman villain the Eraser, who specialised in making the evidence of others' crime disappear.
  • An especially disturbing version turned up in the MAX version of The Punisher comic, with plenty of Gorn-y detail on what goes into dismembering a corpse for disposal.
  • Marvel's various Damage Control limited series were about the wacky misadventures of a Cleanup Crew. Their job was to clean up the aftermath of the various (and numerous) super-battles in the Marvel Universe; Hilarity Ensues when abandoned bits of Applied Phlebotinum are picked up, superweapons are accidentally activated, and super-villains won't pay their bills. Averts this trope throughout, despite being (at various times) co-owned by The Kingpin and a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Jimmy Natale, the sixth Vulture from Spider-Man, used be a villainous example, but got tired of cleaning up sloppy mistakes. He found someone with the technology to manufacture supervillains and approached his bosses with the idea of creating someone to "thin the herd" a bit. Unfortunately, he failed to notice that he himself had all the qualities he suggested they look for. Next thing you know, he's a flying, acid-spitting monster.
  • The first Sin City story actual depicts corrupt cops and federal agents as clean up crews. They pop up in two scenes and are promptly beaten down by the protagonist.


Literature

  • Duumvirate, by necessity, is chock-full of these. There is always a cleanup crew. Always.
  • In the Mercy Thompson novels by Patricia Briggs, most werewolf packs retain the services of a witch to clean up their messes.
  • In the Stephen King novel Firestarter the hero muses that these people must have showed up at his home shortly after he found the dead body of his wife (murdered by a sinister Government Agency of Fiction) and then left his home forever to chase after his powerfully pyrokinetic daughter (kidnapped by the aforementioned sinister Government Agency of Fiction).
  • The Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter; if there's a break in the Masquerade they'll swoop in to hide all evidence and wipe the memories of any muggles. A anecdote in the tie-in novel 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' also shows that civilians will get in on the act, and did so when a dragon attacked a muggle beach.


Fan Fic

  • The forensics department of The Company in The Return which exists to maintain The Masquerade and clean up leftover demon parts and patch up the landscapes.
  • Batman expects a cleanup crew when he discoveres the bodies of John Hartigan and the Yelow Bastard in A Dark Knight Over Sin City. They arrive a few moments later, interrupting his fight with Kevin.


Film

  • Nikita is the Trope Codifier, with Jean Reno playing Victor the cleaner -- a ruthless Implacable Man feared even by the trained killers of the agency. He not only disposes of the bodies in the bathtub with acid (while they're still alive, much to his annoyance) but forces Nikita to carry out the original mission.
  • Harvey Keitel plays "Victor" in Point of No Return, the English-language remake of La Femme Nikita.
  • Harvey Keitel plays the much more genteel Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction. Wolf takes charge and "solves problems," including corpse disposal.
  • Three Days of the Condor. After the protagonist reports a CIA station has been attacked and his friends murdered, a CIA team (driving a cleaning truck, and carrying buckets and mops) turns up to investigate and presumably dispose of the evidence.
  • The Godfather has a possible variation where Michael and co "offer" to clean up after their own frame job on a politician, who was drugged and left in a hotel room with a Disposable Sex Worker. The idea is that he'll owe them a favour, and thus be in their pocket.
  • The Boondock Saints kill a villain who was broadly similar, in that he was a hit man but did his own, highly clinical clean up as he went along. Rocco, who dealt with the guy before, calls him a "sick fuck" with good reason.

 Rocco: This guy takes out a whole family -- wife, kids, everyone -- like he's ordering a fucking pizza.

  • The Men in Black have "Special Services", members of the MIB organization who clean up evidence of aliens to prevent the general public from learning about their existence. They appear after (a) Mikey is killed, (b) J and K examine the dead alien in the morgue and (c) the Bug escapes from the jewelry store.
  • Munich. Carl, the most experienced member of the group, works as "sweeper" -- his job is to remove any evidence (such as cartridge cases, though not bodies because the hits are made publicly) left behind by the Mossad hit team. "The Group" also carries out this function, usually by paying a lot more money to someone already in that profession, e.g. a gravedigger would be paid to dig a hole, put a body in it and keep his mouth shut.
  • Aliens carrying out an Infiltration-style invasion find these people very useful. Check out the garbagemen in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and the gardeners in The Arrival (1996); the latter also double as a hit squad who either Make It Look Like an Accident or 'vanish' the evidence with Applied Phlebotinum.


Live Action TV

  • Mike, the Bald of Awesome associate of Gus in Breaking Bad often serves practical purposes such as this, but it's Walter himself who knows the proper chemistry to completely dissolve a human body. When Mike learns that Walter is capable of this, he starts bringing bodies back to Walt's lab for disposal.
  • Moonlight had a character like this for the vampires to help maintain the Masquerade.
  • Eliot pretends to be this twice in Leverage, both times to scare a mark into panicking and doing something stupid.
  • The Centre in The Pretender had "Cleaners" and "Sweepers": Sweepers seemed to be low-level Mooks who cleared the bodies out after a shootout. Cleaners seemed to be active assassins who were sent in to eliminate threats. Interestingly enough, two of the main females on the show - Miss Parker and Brigitte - were at one time Cleaners.
  • Nikita, like its predecessor has Cleaners, who kill and dispose of bodies on Division's orders, but it also has Reapers, Cleaners meant to deal with Division personnel. In episode 6, we learn that Owen was once a Reaper, and one of his assignments was the murder of Nikita's fiance.
  • Charmed had the supernatural Cleaners who were powered by holy & evil together to keep magic a secret.
  • The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement apparently had insurance to cover any collateral damage done in the course of an 'Affair'. In one novelization Napoleon offers a dismayed homeowner a card for UNCLE's special insurance adjusters.
  • Stephen King played one in a guest spot on Sons of Anarchy.
  • Chuck has CIA cleanup teams, posing as firemen, clearing up the aftermath of firefights and the like.
  • In one of the third season episodes of Burn Notice, Michael was tasked with following a cleaner for a group thieves. Said cleaner used explosives to clean the crime scene.


Tabletop Games

  • Somewhere in the Conspiracy X game's supplements there's a mention of cleaners that Aegis PC's can summon to cover up a mess they've left behind.
  • Dungeons and Dragons supplement Den of Thieves. Thieves Guild enforcers sometimes act as "cleaners", removing evidence and bodies from a crime scene.


Theater


Video Games

  • The cleaners in Max Payne 2 (Mafia-type cleaners who masquerade as janitor-type cleaners -- somebody high up has a sense of humor).

 Cleaner: Kaufman's waiting in the van. The hardware's been bagged. Soon as the guys get Jackie Brown in there taken care of, we're done.

Cleaner 2: Okay, I'll round up the crew, make sure the clean-up's done: bodies, blood, prints, hair, mags, empty brass... When we're out of here, there won't be a shred of evidence for the cops to find. Just a ghost story.

  • Killer 7: Garcian Smith calls himself a cleaner. Indeed, his job, when one of the personae has been killed in game, is to "clean" up their remains by retrieving what is essentially their head wrapped up in a brown paper bag...then he can resurrect them with the use of a TV in Harman's Room.
  • No More Heroes: At the end of every Assassin Session, men appear and start spraying a dissolving foam that scrubs the blood and bits of whatever's left of Travis Touchdown's carnage completely away.
  • One of the three paths available to anyone unfortunate enough to play Resident Evil: Survivor involves taking on an army of pseudo-human soldiers dispatched by Umbrella to destroy all evidence of the game's events. Tragically they fail to expunge the game itself from everyone's collective memory.
    • They even evaporate on death, equipment and all. Very convenient for an army whose every action must be deniable.
    • Operation: Raccoon City introduces the Wolfpack, another Umbrella-sponsored group of mercs who's primary mission in said game is to destroy any and all evidence that could expose Umbrella's instigating of the Raccoon City viral outbreak. It also means killing any and all witnesses they find, up to and including police officers and even series main characters if the player so chooses.


Western Animation

 Big Daddy's card: Garbage Incorporated. We make your trash and your problems disappear, if you know what I mean.

  • The Plumbers in Ben 10 were essentially the frontline equivalent of The Men in Black. Same suppressing function, a lot more wet work.


Web Original

  • "The service" in Interviewing Leather took care of this kind of thing for villains such as Leather.
  • Often mentioned offhandedly or indirectly in the SCP Foundation.
  • Red vs. Blue has Recovery Agents, they go after dead Freelancers, take their equipment and blow the body up.
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