"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.
open/close all folders
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 seems to have an unofficial policy of 'do what you want just 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.
- She does however also do regular proper cleanup work together with some other cleaners. However mistakes, like leaving the mattress a decomposing bodies has been lying on, can still occur.
- Rurouni Kenshin: 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.
- In A Certain Scientific Accelerator, Scavenger is a gang employed by Academy City's Board of Directors to swoop in after battles to terminate stragglers and witnesses.
- Mei Company is a team of retired magical girl warriors who run a cleaning service, and often clean up after battles with monsters. Spoofed slightly in that the current generation of magical girls is completely unaware of Mei Company's existence, leading them to assume that just like how monsters disappear when destroyed, the surroundings magically fix themselves. Mei Company is left with extra work after the magical girls decide this means they don't have to hold back in battle.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Underworld: Alexander Corvinus leads a group of men, appropriately called The Cleaners, who cover up the evidence of lycans and vampires. They collect bodies, destroy evidence, and bribe eyewitnesses into staying silent. It's explicitly mentioned that they don't kill to cover it up. They are all killed by Marcus in Evolution, which is what probably led to humans learning of the existence of lycans and vampires in Awakening. The novelization explains that all of them come from special forces all over the world.
- Desert Heat has a one-man Cleanup Crew to dispose of bodies by encasing them in Saran Wrap and then dumping them into a canyon.
- The Shadow Conspiracy (1997). A household cleaning crew for a company called A Tidy Job turn up to dispose of the bodies left by a killer who murders several people in the opening scene.
- The reason the police never get involved in the events of Burn After Reading is that the CIA are observing everything from afar, confused as to what's happening but worried that it might be a matter of national security. They're repeatedly forced to dispose of bodies before the police can find them and make everything uncomfortably public.
- In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Ryan has a close-call with an assassin in his hotel room after arriving in Moscow, which results in quite a bit of damage. He calls the CIA team monitoring him, who instruct him to leave for a few hours. Once Ryan returns, he finds the body has been removed and everything in the room has been restored, even the bullet holes in the door and the smashed bidet.
- In John Wick, after dealing with some thugs sent to his house John calls up a special "Waste Disposal Department" and asks for "a dinner reservation for 12". The crew later show up to clean up Ms. Perkins.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, after Captain Needa has failed him, Darth Vader chokes him to death using the Force. He then signals to some Navy troopers (the ubiquitous black-clad Imperial guards) who promptly drag the body away.
- 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".
- Played for Black Comedy in Dora Wilk short story Clean Job After Dirty Job, where werewolf alpha kills a wannabe-leader when the latter tries to assassinate him and he has to clean up the mess before his wife shows up. The cleanup crew turns out to be Cool Old Lady called Grandma, and she leaves the place in better state than it was before the attack.
- 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.
- In the Greenverse of the Nightside and Secret Histories series, ghouls sometimes hire out for this purpose, while the Ghost Finders have crews of human technicians to clean up evidence and spiritually detoxify "bad places" after an investigation.
- Mentioned briefly in Guards! Guards!, when Lord Vetinari orders his secretary to have someone paint over the disturbing Hiroshima-esque shadows on a wall where some bandits got obliterated, so as to quell rumours of Ankh-Morpork being attacked by a dragon. His secretary points out that fresh paint in The Shades would just make it obvious that someone had something to hide, so the Patrician amends it to having the wall demolished. If his secretary ever ends up getting around to doing this it really doesn't help.
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 examples are The Stewmaker, who acts as one of these for criminals, using chemicals to dissolve and dispose of bodies; and Mr. Kaplan, who is Red's own personal Cleanup Crew. And also not a mister
- Olivia Pope and Associates have acted as one of these in at least one instance on Scandal.
- Person of Interest. In "Control-Alt-Delete", Finch expresses disbelief that Control (in charge of the nation's black ops anti-terrorism unit) hasn't heard a thing about their shoot-out with Samaritan agents beneath the New York Stock Exchange, deriding her efforts as "just a clean-up crew" for Samaritan. At the end of the episode Control goes to look for herself and finds the whole place spic-and-span. Except when she runs her finger along the wall, fresh paint comes off.
- The existence of CORE, and the supernatural in general, is kept secret thanks the hard work of the Cleaners in A Geeks Guide Corporation Of Occult Research And Extermination.
- 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".
- In Martin McDonagh's play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Padraic and Mairead force Donny and Davey (his father and her brother, respectively) to "get chopping" on the three people they've just killed— or else the Cleanup Crew will be the next to die. Oh, and it's a comedy.
- In Harold Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter, two hitmen discuss what happens after they have done their work and left the scene. They come to the conclusion that their organization must have a Cleanup Crew that they have never seen.
- 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.
- FEAR: Armacham Technology Corporation's security guards engage in an effort to cover up their illegal experiments, which are directly responsible for the strange ghostly phenomenon in Fairport. And in case their standard guards can't do the job, they have an army of hired mercenaries who will destroy all the research facilities and kill all witnesses, including Armacham's own president, whom the board of directors blames for the mess as she stirred up the paranormal activity to begin with against their warnings. However, Armacham's cover up efforts were likely dealt a blow when their clean up crews attacked U.S. Military personnel. Now the government's on to them.
- 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.
- Half-Life: The Hazardous Environment Combat Unit or H.E.C.U. is sent by the government after the Resonance Cascade (the accident that unleashes the aliens from another universe) to fight off the invasion, but also to silence anyone who worked on the project. Most of them are not happy about it. And when they can't do the job, the government sends in Black Ops units who begin killing all the remaining H.E.C.U. forces as well.
- 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.
- Team Fortress 2's Miss Pauling is the mercs' cleaner. She's much more level headed than the mercs, but still crazy enough to shoot incapacitated survivors, witnesses, and giant monsters made of bread tentacles. It's pretty justified; her boss rules the planet, her co-workers are violent psychopaths who kill each other and come back to life, and she only gets one day off a year.
- In Mama & Son: Clean House, Really Shooter's mother cleans up behind him and recycles it all for more ammunition.
- In ATOM GRRRL!!, Jessica calls her uncle to help with the corpse of the cop Big E killed. Wisely so, as he straight-up teaches them how to dissolve the guy.
- The Venture Bros. Season 3 Episode 13 features The Cleaner who looks like Mr. Clean.
- The Fairly OddParents has "Big Daddy", who handles the junk biz in fairyland. He even boasts about it in his card:
- The Plumbers in Ben 10 were essentially the frontline equivalent of The Men in Black. Same suppressing function, a lot more wet work.
- Archer's Dr. Krieger is very good at disposing of bodies, and it's implied he likes it a little too much.
Lana: Is Krieger hard at work?Lana: Ew.
- One episode reveals that Malory has used ISIS this way after killing the Italian prime minister.
- Operative QUICK from The Last Stage by Nat One Productions acts as a one-man Cleanup Crew. His main function on the team is to dispose of paranormal artifacts, or the mangled bodies those artifacts affect.
- "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.