Mrs. Marva Munson, a strict, religious and elderly widow, meets "Professor" Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, a southern classicist and Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast who expresses interest in the room she has for rent and asks to use her root cellar for rehearsals of an early music ensemble he directs, to which she agrees. The fellow musicians in the pretend ensemble are actually a gang of criminals. The band are composed of a dim football player named Lump as the "muscle", the overconfident movie effects technician Garth Pancake as the "jack of all trades" (who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome), the crass and sloppy Gawain McSam as their "inside man", and the Vietnamese, tough-as-nails General as their "tunneling expert" (who hides his chain smoking from the disapproving Mrs. Munson by concealing his cigarette in his mouth). The group of criminals plan to dig a tunnel through the exposed wall in the cellar in order to break into the underground vault for a nearby riverboat casino. The dirt they remove is taken out at night and tossed off a bridge onto a garbage barge as it passes below.