When someone doesn’t answer a question directly, but replies with this question in return, the game is afoot.
For those who ask questions backed by real authority – the policeman, magistrate, military officer, etc. – receiving a defensive question is as good as hearing an admission of guilt. It just remains to see what sort. They have the power to get the answer. Woe betide the prevaricator.
For the rest of us, we can start to play ourselves. Try some of these replies:
a. Why do I ask? Because I want to the truth.
b. Why do I ask? Because I want to know the truth and I want to hear you say it.
c. Why do I ask? Because I want to hear the truth. I have a bet on about how long it will take for you to start telling it.
As you can see, the three answers have different intensities – rather like those numbers they put on the packages of espresso coffee pods. All three let the other person know that the ports are up and the guns run out on the trucks. And that you are upwind of them.
You can be more subtle.
d. Why do I ask? Well, I heard…Well, I guess you have enemies these days. Perhaps it’s better if we drop the subject…
It will not be dropped. If it was a white-hot ingot of steel it would not be dropped. Watch for cold sweat.
e. Why do I ask? Just checking on your side of the story before we put in the report.
Lots of cold sweat. Fetch a fluffy towel.