"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 Memory Wiping Crew
, who do similar things for evidence that is psychological rather than physical.
Not related to the Almighty Janitor
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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 organization. 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.
- One of the tasks for the ANBU, sort of a special ops sect of ninja making them Elite Mooks amongst Elite Mooks, is properly disposing of their clan's corpses, since if dead ninja were to be studied by enemy clans their special clan specific jutsu might be turned against their homeland.
- Hunter ninja of the Hidden Mist village. The first we meet is aged about twelve, and his introduction shows him pulling out his knives, seemingly in order to dismantle a Mist ninja.
- Zetsu of the Akatsuki, who is sent to eat the bodies of fallen Akatsuki.
- 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 Punisher MAX 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 one of these, 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 their own Vulture to "thin the herd" and discourage screw-ups. Unfortunately, he failed to notice that he 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.
- 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 discovers 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.
- Who Needs Obliviators? , a oneshot, addresses one of the various possible ways to "clean up" a scene of magic in the Harry Potter universe.
- 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. An 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.
- In Mark Gatiss' Lucifer Box novels, The RA continues the theme of janitorial euphemisms by calling its cleanup crews "Domestics".
- To protect The Masquerade, characters in the Young Wizards series have been known to patch up disaster areas by using timeslides, at least once replacing an entire town with a version from an alternate reality where the damage never happened.
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. After The Masquerade was instated after the Salem Witch Trials the Charmed ones caused so many breaches they had to be created.
- 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.
- Near the end of Season 2 of The Wire there's a scene that cuts between a cleanup crew working for The Greek furiously cleaning up a location, (washing heroin and coke down a drainage system with a hose, shredding documents and then taking big bags full of those shreds to dispose of elsewhere, etc.) and cops furiously typing up warrants to search that location. By the time the cops get there, everything is gone.
- Season 2 of Haven introduces Dwight Hendrickson, a Cleaner who tidies up Trouble related crimes and disasters to keep The Masquerade.
- In Helix this is Implied in "274", when CDC veterinary pathologist Doreen and her army liaison Major Balleseros are convinced that one of these has made off with Doreen's dissected monkey corpse, which she's been using to determine the nature of The Virus outbreak in the private research facility they've been sent to. They suspect the facility's lead scientist, Dr. Hatake, sent a crew to prevent her from discerning the Synthetic Plague's nature, particularly since her necropsy lab appears to have been scrubbed with formaldehyde.
- These have shown up in The Blacklist on at least one occasion. The most notable example being The Stewmaker.
- Olivia Pope and Associates have acted as one of these in at least one instance on Scandal.
- 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 & Dragons supplement Den of Thieves. Thieves Guild enforcers sometimes act as "cleaners", removing evidence and bodies from a crime scene.
- The New World of Darkness tends to have one or two groups per species of supernatural with the job description "Protect The Masquerade".
- 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.
- Killer7: 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.
- You play as these guys in Viscera Cleanup Detail, the space station janitor simulator. (Oddly enough, only one of the levels is clearly on a space station, the rest are the aftermath of scenes from a generic scifi-horror games/movies). Your job includes cleaning up bodies, gibs, bloodstains, shell casings, and fixing bullet holes in the walls. Essentially make the place look like a massive mutant-on-marine fight didn't occur, and ready for reopening for operation.
- There's also released DLC that places you in the cleanup detail for a temple in the new Shadow Warrior and the workshop from Santa's Rampage.
- "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.