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should do the trick :)
What do you mean by "the code gets pretty sloppy" and "Is there any way to just set a depth?"
You can use mcTransitionImage.swapdepths(100000) or some such. Doesn't look too sloppy to me and it seems to pretty much just set it to a depth. Have you read the help files? I'm pretty sure this is explained there.
However, how do you have the clip at a negative depth? Generally that would be because it was created in the authoring environment. But removeMovieClip is not for those. From the help files:
Method; removes a movie clip instance created with duplicateMovieClip(), MovieClip.duplicateMovieClip(), or MovieClip.attachMovie().
But you can pop things to a positive depth and then use it, but you may get unpredictable results if the timeline loops. I find it a good idea to keep my timeline stuff and my AS stuff separate. Good luck!
depths from -16383 to -1 are reserved for author-time content.
depth -16384 is reserved for dynamic content that appers beneath all author-time content.
Can be useful in some cases.