Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr

“Hey, Hickie!” I called, seeing his head bobbing up from under the surface. “You wanna die of pneumonia, you found the right way to do it!” He gave me a grin, showing a big gap in his front teeth what had been left by two cops. “What’re ya thayin’, Thtevie?” he answered, his s’s getting lost in the gap. “Ith a perfeck day for a thwim!”

“Come on out,” I answered. “I got a business proposition for you!” Whipping his black hair back on his head, he began to swim expertly, over to where I was sitting. “there’th thwimmin’, and then there’th buthineth,” he said, shooting up out of the water in a pale white flash and running over to his little pile of clothes. He dried himself off with a rag that might’ve been a towel once, then got dressed in a hurry.

"How’ve you been, Thtevie? I ain’t theed you around for a bit.”

“Ain’t been around,” I said, noticing that hickie’s voice had gotten lower. He was probably a year or two older than me, but small for his age. "Workin’. The legitimate life, you know, it tends to keep you busy.”

“And becauth of that, I thtay away from it,” Hickie said, now covered up in an old shirt, wool trousers, and suspenders. He pulled on a beat-up pair of shoes and shook hands with me, then slipped a miner’s cap onto his head so that it slouched over one eye. “If I couldn’t walk away for a thwim whenever I felt the urge, I wouldn’t thee the thenth in life. Whath on your mind, old thon?”

If you haven't read it, Angel of Darkness is set in NYC and upstate NY in the 1890's. The two boys are tough street kids who've become quite savvy at fending for themselves at a tough time and place. Stevie is black and Hickie is white. I'll let you take it from there.